Grammar mistakes can be pointed out to you in apps such as TextEdit, Mail, Pages and Microsoft Word. However, grammar checking is very difficult for computers and only some mistakes can be spotted. Use grammar checking as a second level of spell checking and a way to avoid typos. But do not rely on it to actually fix bad grammar.



Video Transcript (Click to Expand)
Hi this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today’s episode let’s look at grammar checking on your Mac.

So here I’ve typed a bunch of sentences which all have grammar mistakes in them. I’ve done them in TextEdit.

Now in TextEdit, as you can in Mail and some other Apps in the Mac, you can go to Edit/Spelling and Grammar and turn on Check Grammar with Spelling and this will add grammar checking to the Spell Checker here. Instead of getting a red underline for a misspelled word you get a green underline for something that it feels is grammatically incorrect. So how well does it work? Well, not too well because most of the mistakes here have been missed.

See there is no magic to this. Spell checking is very easy. It simply looks at a list of words and if it is not in the list of words then it must be a misspelled word.

Grammar checking is very difficult compared to that because it has to look at all the context of the words around it, figure out certain rules and everything like that. So it is very difficult for a computer to actually do accurate grammar checking as we are going to see here. So it will do some simple things basically to have you avoid some mistakes but it is no substitution for knowing the correct grammar yourself.

So let’s take a look at what it did here. It was able to correctly figure out that I used the wrong form of the word its here. If I were actually able to roll over it I can see that it gives me the grammar rule or at least it gives me an idea of a substitution here. I can also Control click or right click on it and I can get the substitution right there. Also I can select Ignore Grammar if I know I’m right. Because just as it won’t get some errors it will show you some that are not really there.

Here it completely missed the fact that I should be using whom here. The rest of these all have various different mistakes in it. Some are really obvious like the wrong form of the word your, it should be you’re, and also like down here I am using the wrong to, it should be too. But it did get the error here and it did figure out here that it should be have. It is interesting if I Control click on been it says it doesn’t really give me substitution but it says it may not agree with what is going on. If I go over of it says consider have and that’s where the real problem is. It should be have instead of of.

So how about Pages. You would think Pages would be able to do better. But Pages, believe it or not, doesn’t have any grammar checking. Well, at least not any obvious grammar checking. You go down to Edit/Spelling it is just missing from there. But you’ve got proofreading.

You can go to the Proof Reader here and it will give you suggestions. So the very first suggestion here has nothing to do with grammar, it is just giving you a notice that nice is a weak modifier. Let’s go to the next and yes it did pick this one up. It should be have instead of of. But that’s it! It really didn’t pick of any of the rest here. So it does do a little bit of grammar but it certainly not enough here.

So you think the best App for this might be Microsoft Word. After all it has been around for so long, so many versions of Microsoft Word. They’ve had plenty of time to improve it. And sure enough when I put the same text here I see it gets a lot more. It gets the its, it gets the who, and it also figures out here like things which, if I Control click on it will say things that. It figures out that it should be nor instead of or here. It misses some of these. You get to this one here and it figures out here it should be have and even figures out that this should be too.

So it is better than the rest but it is still not perfect. Even a web based app that I was able to copy and paste some text into, didn’t catch everything. See it got a few of the things in here and you can see that each one of these, the web site, Word and Pages and just TextEdit, got something different. So you can see that they are all using different ways of checking for grammar.

So the conclusion is that there is no fool proof way to have your Mac check your grammar for you. You have to know the grammar yourself. But you can have these grammar checkers as kind of a backup. Actually they are more useful as spell checkers because when you spell a word incorrectly but you spell it so that it is a different word it won’t catch it because it is a correctly spelled word. But a grammar checker may see that as completely not making any sense because you are using the wrong word there and may give you that green underline so that you can then identify that you put the wrong word there or misspelled a word and make the correction. So grammar checker is actually more useful as a spell checker and also it will help with some general rules.

Keep in mind just because some of the examples I showed didn’t catch common grammar mistakes doesn’t mean that that grammar mistake isn’t in those databases. It is just perhaps that sentence, the way I phrased it, didn’t trigger it. So you might find that for instance too instead of to or vice versa in another circumstance just not in the one I used.

I hope you found this useful. There is certainly no reason not to have this turned on so at least it can catch a few more grammar mistakes than you wouldn’t otherwise. But it is also not a good idea to rely on this at all for actually checking your grammar.

Until next time this is Gary with MacMost Now.


11 Responses to “MacMost Now 817: Checking Grammar On Your Mac”

  1. Buzz says:

    What about the Grammarian software? I know, it is an added expense, and you probably were just reviewing what’s available “as is,” but Grammarian seems to get decent reviews – not the be-all & end-all, but probably catches more than all you showed. And no, I have no experience with it myself.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Hi Gary,
    There is a great grammar checker called Grammarian by Linguisoft. I have been using it for years and it works very well. I know you primarily do bits on Apple stuff , but you might want to check this one out. As a professional Writer/ Author I have found this to be invaluable, and I cannot do without it. Very cool stuff this.
    I have really enjoyed the reports you have done on MacMost Now. I hope you continue to have success and please keep them going.

    All the Best Tom Watson

  3. Fernando says:

    Gary,

    Thanks for the video on “grammar checks”.

    I speak and write 4 languages and I often have portions of my writing in French, Portuguese and/or Spanish. How would I use spell check in Pages for languages other than English?

    Thanks!

  4. Ed Bonsecour says:

    Gary – love your videos – you are correct – it si a computer, not a nun with a ruler in her hand!

    Do you have any tips/suggestions for correcting the miss spellings in the Apple Dictionary? (often offered miss spelled word for replacement words) Where is the Apple dictionary with the miss spellings hidden? Can it be edited? The instructions for unlearning a word do not work on my Retina Pro with Mountain Lion – and work arounds?
    Any assistance would be appreciated, Ed

    • There are misspelled words there? I think they are just using the standard Unix spell check dictionary that has been used for decades. Correcting (ignoring) words you don’t want depends on which app you are using.

  5. Mr Anthony Cotton says:

    Has you know i am from England,and we have a lot of differences to the American speech,especially spelling of different words like,- Colour,Through,and there are quite a lot like that. Red lines appear under words that i know they are right.
    Quite an interesting video Gary.

    • What happens if you go into System Preferences, Language & Text, Region, and change your region to United Kingdom? I wonder if then it will get colour right?

    • Ofay Cat says:

      Tell your program to remember that spelling. I an in Canada with similar spellings as in England. However, that I live in North America, ?i generally use the American spellings. I drive some other Canucks crazy. I think that’s the main reason I do it.

      I think you have the option of selecting which language you prefer … No?

    • Derek N says:

      Gary, I was about the ask exactly the same question as Ed, when I found he had already asked it. I believe I have accidentally added some mis-spelt words to the Apple dictionary in my computer and I would like to erase them or correct them. How can I do that please? Thank you for your invaluable video clips.

      • Go to /Library/Spelling (Hold down the option key and choose Go, Library in the Finder to get to /Library first). Look in there and you should find the text file with the extra dictionary words in them. You should be able to edit it in TextEdit.

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