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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Minding Your Ps and Qs and Then Some

Historic Software Dept.: Here’s another dose of the stuff I churned out twenty years ago when writing for computer magazines. This appeared in the long-defunct PC/Computing; what I can say in its favor is that I was well paid for the piece. Correct Grammar's parent company, Writing Tools Group, was a division of WordStar, none of which exists today.


CORRECT GRAMMAR and WordPerfect are old DOS friends, so it’s no surprise that version 2.0 of Correct Grammar for Windows should have a hook into WordPerfect for Windows as a major selling point. The two work together so well, in fact, that it seems like the grammar checker is built in – exactly as it looked back in the DOS days.

Writers are rarely perfect, but the same is also true of electronic grammar checkers. Correct Grammar combats that by letting you customize almost every option. Ironically, the better your grasp of grammar, the better you’ll be able to take advantage of the program.

Still, the defaults settings will allow the grammatically disadvantaged to blindly steer by Correct Grammar’s recommendations. In many cases, a suggested substitution can be applied with a single mouse click.

Ten pre-set styles (including “technical,” “academic,” and, comfortingly, “reviewer”) present over 30 options that can be toggled for checking. For example, where “business” checks for 15 of the 16 “usage and style” options (only “cliché” goes unselected), “advertising” looks for but four.

By default, Correct Grammar checks your spelling as it goes along (you also can turn this option off), working with your word processor’s dictionary if you prefer. Words added through Correct Grammar or the word processor will be recognized by both. An exception is PageMaker 4, although Correct Grammar can be used in place of its spell checker.

The program installs as a menu option in Ami Pro, where it can check an entire document or selected portions, as well as in Word for Windows and WordStar for Windows, where only selected text can be examined.

An easy-to-follow program language lets you define rules and give advice about problems that may be unique to a particular project – or simply to fight the sudden stupidities that tend to clog the language. A standalone compiler then adds your rules to Correct Grammar’s own.

At the heart of the program is a sentence parsing technique developed for the CorrecText Grammar Correction System. From its earliest release, Correct Grammar has been the most fastidious of grammar checkers, usually producing fewer hits than its competitors, but each problem it identifies is more worthy of scrutiny.

Careful text analysis, whether performed manually or with electronics, requires time and dedication. Otherwise there’s always the possibility of something like this (taken from Correct Grammar’s “New Features” Manual):

“Each user logs on with their usual ID, then installs the software from the server according to the procedures indicated below. Each user should have his own copy of Correct Grammar . . . ” 

Correct Grammar version 2.0, $119 
Writing Tools Group, Inc.
One Harbor Drive, Suite 111
Sausalito, CA 94965

PC/Computing, July 1992

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