Editing Software Doesn’t Work

Some writers recommend editing software, some even sing its praises. But I’m telling you that it doesn’t work and it probably won’t work for a long while. People don’t always believe me when I say this because, well, I’m an editor and that’s what I’d say to protect my job. So I won’t even bother explaining why it doesn’t work. Instead, I’m going to recommend that you test it instead.

Here’s how you do it. Step 1: Pick up a reliable grammar and style handbook like The Little, Brown Handbook (which you should be using instead of the software, by the way). Then pick out a series of bad sentences from the handbook. Don’t pick variations on the same problem; I mean go through the book and put together a longish piece of text where each sentence has one clear and unique error. Now input that paragraph into the software. You’ll see that it misses all or most of the errors.

Step 2 is the reverse. Take a good passage of text from a great writer (e.g., Hemingway) and plunk it into the software. Now marvel at how many alleged mistakes the great writer made—according to the software—and all the useless recommendations it makes for improving Hemingway’s prose.

So, you see, I’m not appealing to my authority here. I’m not explaining why it’s useless and why you shouldn’t use it. I’m telling you how to test it and see for yourself.


2 thoughts on “Editing Software Doesn’t Work

  1. My father, who was an English professor, once wrote an article entitled, “Does Grammar Checkers Work?”. Of course, he ran it through a grammar checker first, just to prove his point.

    P.S. I like your blog … and your name!

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