Courtesy Style for Students Online

When asked about grammar checkers, some teachers of English will immediately darken their eyes and pronounce them evil. No, this is not because they worry about losing their jobs to computers (English teachers will always be needed, certainly), but because they recognize the limitations of grammar checkers and fear that they make writers lazy or unthinking. Because my paper passed the grammar checker’s test, some think, it must be fine.
   
A simple demonstration will prove otherwise. Consider the following nonsense sentence:

Grammar checker tell this sentence just fine, even when longer made, even made more nonsense, full of grommets, so trust grammar checker little, worked harder instead, with eye for errors open, until grammar understood better, by you, who more politic than checker, which allow manifold mistake, all over place, indeed.

My grammar checker has no problem with this silly sentence; though any thinking reader would, and even assigns it a 12th grade reading level. Conversely, when I test sentences from one of our most lyrical works on science and nature, Loren Eiseley’s The Immense Journey  the grammar checker frequently wags its finger unhappily at the author, befuddled by his comma use, syntax, and sentence length. To put it plainly then, “Grammar checkers is stupid”—another sentence my checker accepts readily. This should be no surprise of course, in that grammar checkers merely match patterns derived from mechanical computations and offer suggestions with no understanding of context. In other words, they do not think. Since we do, we must and can learn to outperform them.

With these concerns in mind, I certainly do use and recommend grammar checkers to thinking writers, following these guidelines: