English Plus+ News, February 1999
The requests usually sound something like this:
That may work with some common words we spell, but do not expect a grammar program to make editorial decisions.
With my tongue in my cheek, I might answer, First they must develop software that reads your mind!
The concept is fairly simple, but the execution is anything but simple. We will not use the word impossible, but it is not going to be easy.
There are regional variations as well. In most areas, for example, people say, "I am waiting for you." However, in the southern United States, and among many African-Americans (whose roots are in the southern U.S.) people say, "I am waiting on you." Popular novelist John Grisham is from Mississippi, and that is the way he writes. In other regions, to wait on means "to attend to, to serve," hence the words waiterand waitress.
There are also very subtle shades of meaning with compound words.
That is not all.
In the first, I is the subject and think is the verb. It is a straightforward declaration of the speaker's belief. Most women would consider that a compliment.
In the second, I think is a qualifying parenthetical expression showing some hesitation or doubt about the main clause, You are beautiful. One female student said to me, "I'd rather he lie than say that."
How is an automatic grammar checker going to be able to tell the difference?
Here is another example. Again, both sentences could be punctuated correctly, but they mean two different things.
The first one can be helpful if you have several aunts and the person you are writing knows her as the one from New York. The second one suggests either that you only have one aunt, or that you have already established who it is you are writing about.
In fact, even that automatic spell checking feature is hardly foolproof. Yes, I appreciate the spell checker when it changes teh to the. But I am an English teacher, so sometimes I type out passages in older English which use the word thee. It gets annoying to have the automatic checker change thee to the! In that case, it is not being helpful!
There are many other difficulties as well, but this gives you an idea of some of the challenges of creating a computerized proofreader. Sure, spell checkers and grammar checkers make the job easier, but good publishers and printing companies still hire human proofreaders to complete the job.
Take a look at the latest Grammar Slammer demo at http://englishplus.com/pub/grmslm20.zip. This is not artificial intelligence, but a handy pop-up Help file reference for English Grammar. Until there's a mind-reading proofreader, Grammar Slammer plus your grammar checker is the best thing going. Registered users can get Grammar Slammer Deluxe which includes a spelling reference as well.
If you can read the character after the colon in the last sentence and it looks like that oversticken C, then the font you are using for reading this web page is current. If not, you may want to update it, especially if you do business in Europe of have other reasons for wanting to keep current.
Not all fonts are available with this latest character. It will not be part of the 0 to 255 character ASCII character set. However, Windows and newer Mac OS's have a number of characters beyond the 255 characters in ASCII or ANSI.
By the way, to make, the Euro symbol, hold the Alt Key and then press the zero, one, two, and eight keys of the numeric keypad. Or as some might put it, "Alt + 0128." It does not make any difference whether the Number Lock is on or off.
For a listing of the ASCII characters in Windows, see XASCII online or download our free XASCII Help File.
The Grammar Slammer version 2.0 has been officially released. The demo is available as noted above from http://englishplus.com/pub/grmslm20.zip. Those of you with registered versions of Grammar Slammer or Grammar Slammer Deluxe, if you have received your program since June of 1998, your copy is current. If you are registered user and your copy is older than July of 1998, we will be happy to send you an upgrade patch. E-mail is quickest, but we can also postal mail it to you.
May all your anguish be vanquished,
Your friends at English Plus+
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