Can a grammar checker really help improve your writing? While they may sound like a wonderful idea, grammar checking programs have several limitations.
In theory, a computer-based grammar checker should work like a spell checker. It should identify errors and suggest alternatives for corrected text. However, spelling is fairly straightforward. In comparison, grammar is more much interpretive.
Despite recent advances in computer technology, it is very difficult for a machine to learn to properly understand the English language. In written English, there are a number of expressions that have multiple meanings and the context of a word's usage can directly affect the tone of a sentence. These subtleties are simply impossible for a machine to fully comprehend, thus leaving grammar checkers with three main flaws:
There are many common grammar errors that computer software struggles to find. For example, one recent study comparing the effectiveness of common grammar checkers found that these programs will typically miss the following errors:
If you're truly interested in learning to improve your grammar, it's best not to rely on software to catch your errors. Instead, brush up on basic grammar rules by visiting the grammar rules section here on Your Dictionary as well as the following websites:
While it's true that grammar checking software has many limitations, using a free online grammar checker can be useful in certain circumstances. For example, students who are learning English as a second language may find that online grammar checkers help them learn to more easily spot errors in their writing.
If you are looking for free online grammar checkers, consider one of the following resources:
If you're looking for an online grammar checker, you may be surprised to learn that Microsoft Word's spell checker can also be used to find common grammatical mistakes. If you have this popular word processing program on your computer, check out the following links to learn how to take advantage of the grammar check feature:
Remember, a grammar checker is not a substitute for learning good grammar...it is only a double check that you followed the correct grammar rules.