Pursuant to a discussion with Google+ user Fiber Babble about proofreaders and grammar checkers, I looked into Ginger Page, a free grammar and spelling checker (and supposedly much more) that I heard about on Twitter.
What follows is an edited version of a series of posts I made at G+ earlier this morning. You can read the original here.
This sounded awfully promising, from what I read about it on Derek Haines’s blog (which you can read here).
First, I noticed that the sample text on their grammar-checker landing page didn’t show me any grammar checking. All it did was correct mechanics (capitalization and spelling). I realized a little bit later on that they use the same sample text on every landing page. Easy for their programmers, not nearly as helpful as specialized sample text would be.
Next, I entered a sentence using a variation of the epicene “they” to see what would happen. I also began that sentence with a typically wordy introductory phrase, to see if their program would suggest the usual change I’d expect to see.
“In the event of an emergency, everyone should take their laptops to the stairwell.”
It liked the singular “their.” It didn’t suggest any changes for the phrase “In the event of an emergency,” though. I expected to see “In an emergency” as a suggestion. Nope. No dice.
“How many people had he stripped bare with his words?”
“How many people had him stripped bare with his words?”
WRONG ANSWER. There’s nothing wrong with that original. The parser failed. That result is problematic on a couple of points. The parser thinks “people” is the subject of the sentence, which it isn’t. (“He” is the subject.) It also thinks that the object of “stripped” is “he,” which it says should be “him” (which is, indeed, the objective pronoun — but it’s a wrong change). This is why I say the only thing that can work as well as a human is an AI that can parse syntax as well as grammar.
On the other hand, Word’s “grammar and spelling check” feature wanted me to change that to “stripped bear.”
Which is worse? ::shrugs::
Then, this happened.
On their home page, if you scroll down to the text “Always by your side,” you’ll see this:
“Use Ginger Page to help with your mobile writing, or whole you’re browsing the web and writing docs.”
It’s spelled correctly, so of course the spell checker wouldn’t flag it, but it’s TOTALLY the wrong word here. So much for that grammar checker.
Unless, of course, they didn’t use their own product on their own site . . .
::goes to enter that sentence in the grammar checker to see what happens next::
Here’s the result of entering their own text with an incorrect word into their grammar checker.
Ready? This is BETTER, remember.
“Use Ginger Page to help with your mobile writing, or wholly you’re browsing the web and writing docs.”
WTAF. What is that? WHOLLY?
You need a PERSON to get the most accurate results. A PERSON.
“Avoid embarrassing mistakes with the world’s #1 grammar checker!”
Yeah, no one would EVER laugh at “or wholly you’re browsing the web,” would they. That’s not embarrassing at all.
You must verify every result from ANY checker. I don’t care whose it is. If you blindly accept that the checker is correct, you’ll regret it.
I sent them a message via their contact form, letting them know about that glaring typo AND telling them that their checker failed to correct it as promised. It clearly does NOT find every instance of a wrong word and correct it. Perhaps it worked for “wandering” and “wondering,” which is the example they give on the site, but it sure as hell didn’t for “whole” and “while.”
Yes, it’s free, but I’m insufficiently impressed to bother downloading it.