RayK

Grammar check

29 posts in this topic

I was wondering after re-reading my last post, 24 hours later, and doing a terrible job of editing, whether or not this is a workable idea. Although the spell check is very good, it can not correct properly spelled words, that are grammatically incorrect.

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If what I mentioned in my earlier post can not or does not want to be done, I have a solution. Become a better editor, or just use MS Word and then check it before posting.

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Although the spell check is very good, it can not correct properly spelled words, that are grammatically incorrect.

[bold added for emphasis.]

Your suggestion, later, to first write and grammar-check the text offline is the right approach, I think. For the very long-term, I can offer three more suggestions:

1. Leonard Peikoff's Principles of Grammar audiotaped course (now on CD perhaps?) covers a lot of ground and is very clear. It is a big course, however: 16 cassettes in my very old version. The proper way to study it would be a section at a time, perhaps one cassette or even one side of a cassette per week.

2. Perhaps Betsy and Stephen would be interested in setting up a subforum (either in the Sciences forum, the Arts forum, or elsewhere) for discussion of grammar: what is proper grammar in writing, and why is it "proper"? Forum members could bring particular questions or short examples of text and ask for comments.

3. After doing a grammar-check on your own and after running a software grammar-checker, you might include a note at the end of all your posts (in your signature?), a note inviting (in PMs, private mail, only) concise and respectful comments on the grammar of the post. You will probably find, as most writers do, that after awhile the comments will drop off. Most writers, even those who have little training in writing, tend to make the same mistakes over and over again.

P. S. -- English, for some reason not clear to me, usually combines "can not" into a new, single word, "cannot." That is the general rule, but there are apparent exceptions. English is very confusing sometimes, although I know now that it makes more sense than what I was taught in school.

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I was wondering after re-reading my last post, 24 hours later, and doing a terrible job of editing, whether or not this is a workable idea.  Although the spell check is very good, it can not correct properly spelled words, that are grammatically incorrect.

I am not aware of any grammar checkers that can plug directly into THE FORUM. A quick double-check did not reveal any, but I will look more thoroughly and speak up if I find one. There exist, however, many grammar checkers that can be run locally on your own machine. I'm sure an online search will reveal a few.

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1. Leonard Peikoff's Principles of Grammar audiotaped course (now on CD perhaps?) covers a lot of ground and is very clear. It is a big course, however: 16 cassettes in my very old version. The proper way to study it would be a section at a time, perhaps one cassette or even one side of a cassette per week.

I would also suggest looking into the two classic grammar works that were reprinted by Fred Weiss' company, The Paper Tiger, Inc.: Phyllis Davenport's Rex Barks: Diagramming Sentences Made Easy and Foerster and Steadman's Writing and Thinking. Scroll down a little from here.

2. Perhaps Betsy and Stephen would be interested in setting up a subforum (either in the Sciences forum, the Arts forum, or elsewhere) for discussion of grammar: what is proper grammar in writing, and why is it "proper"? Forum members could bring particular questions or short examples of text and ask for comments.

An interesting idea. If we were to create it, would you, Burgess, be interested in overseeing such a forum?

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I should say that from a computer programming perspective, a grammar check is a complete nightmare to implement, simply because it's a lot less rigid than syntax, and requires a lot more than simple pattern matching as with the Spell Checker. The MS Word Grammar checker (the industry leader?) is itself quite shaky at best, and I would not expect a realiable online program for doing this, for quite some time.

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If we were to create it, would you, Burgess, be interested in overseeing such a forum?

That depends on what you mean by "overseeing." If you mean ...

- setting it up conceptually,

- giving it direction,

- lightly monitoring and participating (not as an expert, because I am not),

- and being the participant/reader most likely to press the REPORT button when someone's behavior violates the etiquette of debate and discussion,

... then, yes, I would be interested.

Is that what you mean by "overseeing"?

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If we were to create it, would you, Burgess, be interested in overseeing such a forum?

That depends on what you mean by "overseeing." If you mean ...

- setting it up conceptually,

- giving it direction,

- lightly monitoring and participating (not as an expert, because I am not),

- and being the participant/reader most likely to press the REPORT button when someone's behavior violates the etiquette of debate and discussion,

... then, yes, I would be interested.

Is that what you mean by "overseeing"?

That, and perhaps periodically initiating tutorial posts illustrating some particular aspect of grammar. You need not act as an expert, but you certainly are an excellent writer with a far above average grasp of the subject.

If this is amenable to you, then I can set up a subforum under CAREERS, WORK, & SCHOOL, and name it "Grammar School." A place to ask questions about grammatical usage as well as a repository for occasional postings illustrating some aspect of grammar.

p.s. Are you familiar with the two books from The Paper Tiger that I referenced in an earlier post? Perhaps these, in addition to Peikoff's course, can serve as "official" reference for the grammar forum.

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Burgess and Stephen,

I have all three of the items that the two of you recommend. I am also trying to enhance my writing skills, so I appreciate any criticism.

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Echoing what Free Capitalist said, I also would not expect that grammar checking programs would today be very reliable.

There are so many rules (and exceptions to rules) in the grammar of natural languages that it would be hard to codify them all. Add to this all of the homonyms in English, and the fact that the syntax can itself be ambiguous at times, and I conclude that it is perhaps a problem that will never be completely solved.

(When I use MS Word, I normally turn grammar checking off. Some of the "errors" it flags are not errors at all, and I've seen it miss some bad mistakes.)

I'd be afraid that a grammar checker would give people a false sense of security. That is, one might be inclined to run one's writing through the checker and if it didn't find any errors, go ahead and post it. In other words, it would lead to less-readable postings, because people would do less checking themselves. But in this case, there really isn't any substitute for checking it yourself.

I also think that using good grammar is an aid to clear thinking. It's worth learning about. (And I need to learn more, so I'm looking forward to participating in the upcoming "sub-forum" for discussion of this subject!) I often find that if I write a sentence with incorrect, unclear or ambiguous grammar, it's really the case that I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say. So, rather than asking a machine to clean it up, I need to go back and re-think my writing.

So.... my vote is to not install a grammar checker.

.....

(Sometimes, computers can produce strange or humorous results when given natural-language-related tasks. I remember a story about an English/Russian, Russian/English translator program. Of course, the easiest way to check it would be to have it translate some English text into Russian, and then translate that result back into English. The final result should be the same as the original text, right? Well, in one case, the phrase "hydraulic ram" in the original ended up being changed to "water goat" after the two translations. B) )

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All good suggestions.

However, don't trust computerized grammar checkers too far. All they do is check for violations of rules; and some of their rules are quite arbitrary.

For instance: "Don't start a sentence with the word 'And'" (a rule I violate frequently, because I like the effect it produces, if not overused).

Didn't they ever hear of:

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."

(By the way, Ayn Rand, in a radio talk, once referred to the Declaration of Independence as, literarily, the greatest thing ever written, quite apart from its philosophic content.)

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I've just copied the Declaration of Independence, from

http://www.constitution.org/usdeclar.htm

into MS Word 97, and instructed it to check for both spelling and grammar. Here's what it says:

1st sentence: Long sentence (no suggestions)

2nd sentence: it doesn't like passive voice (13% of the sentences); it wants to replace "endowed by their Creator" with "their Creator endows them".

The idiocy is soon compounded; in the next sentence, it wants to change to: "That to secure these rights, governments is"

"That whenever any form of government becomes destructive etc.": Long sentence (no suggestions)

It has never heard of the words:

usurpations, or dissolutions

and wants to replace "their acts of pretended legislation" with "there acts"

"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled ..." it says is too long (no suggestions).

Well, I have a suggestion for the grammar checker. But if I included it in this post, Stephen would surely have to send me a Warning! B)

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Well, I have a suggestion for the grammar checker. But if I included it in this post, Stephen would surely have to send me a Warning!  B)

I'm surprised grammar checkers are as good as they are. Grammar is more conceptual than spelling, which makes a program (an automated sequence of concrete actions) harder to write. The rules of grammar are not inviolable, as the rules of mathematics are. No program can know when an author decides to violate the rules of grammar for aesthetic reasons.

BTW, even spelling is too conceptual for a program to handle, which is why spell checkers offer suggestions based on programmed-in likelihoods of intended words. Ever put "Roark" into a spellchecker?

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Why not just install a "reason check", to check your posts for fallacies before others see them?

Grammar is tied too closely to thinking method. People should be responsible for their own grammar.

Slips and mistakes that happen to everyone are not a significant problem, and everything beyond that is a skill that has to be acquired.

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Hello all.

I, as the person probaly most in need of this "Grammar School" ,am very excited to see the possibility of a sub-forum that addresses grammar mistakes with an idea towards improved reasoning skills, also.

May I also suggest it address writing customs online and on this forum.I am very new to forums in general and have already racked up more than my share of horrible and probaly amusing ( to everyone else ) mistakes.

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[...] I can set up a subforum under CAREERS, WORK, & SCHOOL, and name it "Grammar School." A place to ask questions about grammatical usage as well as a repository for occasional postings illustrating some aspect of grammar.

p.s. Are you familiar with the two books from The Paper Tiger that I referenced in an earlier post? Perhaps these, in addition to Peikoff's course, can serve as "official" reference for the grammar forum.

Combining your suggestions and mine, here are the tasks of the "principal" of the Grammar School subforum (which you will set up if we agree to this project):

- Setting it up conceptually.

- Giving it direction.

- Lightly monitoring and participating.

- Being the participant/reader most likely to press the REPORT button when someone's behavior violates the etiquette of debate and discussion.

- Becoming familiar enough with Rex Barks, Writing and Thinking, and Dr. Peikoff's Principles of Grammar to cite them as standards and guides.

- Periodically initiating tutorial posts illustrating some particular aspect of grammar.

One more point I would like to make is that I am interested only if the primary focus is on explaining rules and principles to novice writers. Some of the posts in this thread already show a big split: Those who are eager to learn basic rules of grammar -- versus those who have mastered those rules and are playing around stylistically with violating those rules. The latter is much too confusing for beginners. I take "Grammar School" literally, and I would focus only on the novice questions and problems.

I do not own and am not familiar with either of the books, and I have not reviewed Principles of Grammar for more than a decade. To become familiar enough with all those pieces to be able to cite them will require thorough study. Given that this project is low in the queue and I am a slow reader, I will need 3 to 6 months to prepare. I can make a commitment to being ready by the end of the year.

In the meantime, simply opening the subforum might be enough to meet most needs. No "principal" may be needed. If courageous novices will ask one question at a time and if grammatically knowledgeable people respond appropriately to that level, then we have a solution to the main problem. Others, who are more knowledgeable and want to debate fine points or even the philosophy of grammar, can start their own threads in the same subforum. No novice should have to wade through vast debates about advanced points.

In summary, I see two alternatives (not mutually exclusive):

1. Immediately set up "Grammar School" as a "community" school open to everyone with questions or answers, but without a designated supervisor.

2. Have a "principal" who will conceptually set up and guide a "Grammar School," beginning in January of 2006.

I am willing to invest the money and time (several hundred hours of preparation) if step 2 is really necessary. I doubt that step 2 is necessary, but one way to find out is to do step 1 now and see what happens.

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I, as the person probaly most in need of this "Grammar School" ,am very excited to see the possibility of a sub-forum that addresses grammar mistakes with an idea towards improved reasoning skills, also.

  May I also suggest it address writing customs online and on this forum.I am very new to forums in general and have already racked up more than my share of horrible and probaly amusing ( to everyone else ) mistakes.

It is to your credit that you are willing to learn and you will probably get a lot out of Grammar School.

I wrote "How to Write Letters to the Editor" in the Intellectual Activist in the 1980's and have given writing classes to Objectivists at conferences and at community clubs. In those classes I have found that everyone can become a good writer with the mastery of a few simple skills that I can usually teach in an hour or so.

Many people can become great writers by doing two additional things that will, incidentally, make improving one's grammar very easy. Those two things are (1) read as much well-written writing as possible and (2) carefully and ruthlessly edit your own writing.

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My grade school decided to skip grammar. I have managed to get by somehow, but I would be very enthusiastic about receiving help in this regard from those more knowledgable.

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I wrote "How to Write Letters to the Editor" in the Intellectual Activist in the 1980's and have given writing classes to Objectivists at conferences and at community clubs.

Would anyone be interested in a online version of my writing workshops here on THE FORUM?

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Would anyone be interested in a online version of my writing workshops here on THE FORUM?

Yes, please.

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Would anyone be interested in a online version of my writing workshops here on THE FORUM?

Sure. I'm always willing to learn how to improve my writing.

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Would anyone be interested in a online version of my writing workshops here on THE FORUM?

I've never been to a workshop, how does it work? Sounds fun, but, at the moment, I really don't know what I'd be getting into. B)

~Aurelia

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I've never been to a workshop, how does it work? Sounds fun, but, at the moment, I really don't know what I'd be getting into.  B)

~Aurelia

My live workshops are 90 minute classes in which students practice the techniques I teach. I have structured the writing exercises so that there is no homework and all work is done in class. An online format would probably be even more flexible in terms of participation time.

The Letters to the Editor class, covering preparation for writing and the first draft, is one 90 minute class. The Essay Writing is two classes that teach research, organizing ideas, and editing. Each class introduces specific techniques and gives the students a chance to practice them, discuss them, and get some feedback.

After that, it is just a matter of each student applying what I teach on their own and improving with practice. I am often delighted when my students, years later, proudly send me copies of their published letters and essays.

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I'd be really interested in that. I've taken a few advanced writing courses; so, I know a some basics. But, I'm not confident enough in my writing to be comfortable sending out persuasive letters.

Would it be easier to do the workshop live or along the format of the philosophical olympics? I was thinking that this might be a good opportunity for Stephen to try out the live chat feature that he and GMartin were discussing.

Best regards,

~Aurelia

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