Saturday, February 14, 2009

Software for writers

Way back in 1985, I got a copy of the CP/M version of Grammatik for my Osborne 1 computer. Grammatik scanned documents for obvious grammatical errors (which I almost never made), homonym confusion ("weight" instead of "wait"), wordiness, and so on. For a year or two, I ran it on every article I wrote (back then, my writing business was mostly magazine articles), and I actually found it useful. I was already a good writer selling a lot of work, but I've never been one to turn down help. In particular, it showed me that I was using many unnecessarily wordy phrases (such as "at this time" instead of "now").

Later on, I got a copy of Correct Grammar for DOS, which was a similar package. I wrote macros for WordStar (which I still use) to let me check blocks of text through either Grammatik or Correct Grammar, and I do sometimes still use them when I have to bang out something for publication and the deadline is so tight I won't have time to proofread in hardcopy.

Of course, these days, Microsoft Word comes with a style checker. What's amazing is how little advanced such software is in 2009 over what was available a quarter of a century ago. Here's a great interview from the New York Times with Bruce Wampler, principal architect of Grammatik, on that topic.

Anyway, an ad showed up in my inbox this week for a standalone package that tries to be a more-modern version of Grammatik. Looking around, I found there are several such programs on the market. I haven't tried any of them, but here are the ones that turned up in my search:
The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site



At February 14, 2009 9:20 AM , OpenID rvitelli said...

There are online versions as well but I haven't looked into them that much. They're handing for web writing when you don't have access of MS word or other tools.

At February 14, 2009 10:13 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Romeo. Thanks for that link! That's a cool site. :)

At February 16, 2009 1:31 AM , Blogger Ron Friedman said...

The link to the N.Y times article is just too true.

To this day, I could find no software that can detect most grammar and style errors.

In addition to MS-Word, I'm using WhitSmoke. They're great in marketing, but practically, it's no more than a minor supplement to MS-Word.

Another Open Source tool that can be added to your list is LagnuageTool. It's a free add-on to OpenOffice.

At February 16, 2009 9:59 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Thanks for the link, Ron. I actually dislike a lot of White Smoke's examples on their website. It struck me as a program designed to make one's writing more pompous rather than clearer.

At August 14, 2009 2:41 AM , Blogger Mary Fannington said...

I recently bought the grammar software at and am quite happy with it.
It detects run-on sentences and structuring mistakes which is great. Couldn't test all the features though.



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