The myth of machine-based proofreading
Students, professionals and businesses worldwide rely on online or machine-based proofreading services for their papers, communications, emails and various other types of written copy.
They are promised that their grammar will be corrected and that they will be offered better word choice as they write their text.
If you Google online editor or proofreader or simply grammar check online, you will get many results and you will most likely get GrammarCheck (Grammarly) among the top searches, for it is one of the most widely used tools for grammar correction.
What are the promises?
Let’s take a look at what GrammarCheck says:
Press the Free Check button. If you see an underlined spelling error, style suggestion, or grammar suggestion in your text, click on them to see more options. Apply corrections where you need them. Then, the system will automatically check grammar usage and spelling and give you the final verdict. Lastly, make the suggested changes to your text before you send it on its way. Make a final read-through to make sure that you’ve caught everything, and that you agree with the changes.
Meanwhile, the Deep Check button checks your text the same way the “Free Check” button does. The difference is the Deep Check button is capable of detecting even more difficult-to-spot mistakes, such as run-on sentences or dangling modifiers, and up to ten times more mistakes than popular word processors.*
Let’s do an experiment
I have added this text, which had obvious mistakes, to see if this machine-based proofreading tool will spot them.
As you can see, GrammarCheck suggested that there were only two issues related to word choice. This is the result of an online proofreading tool having checked my text.
Let’s see below what I – as a human editor – did.
What can we conclude?
The bottom line after this short and little experiment is that the human mind – when it comes to proofreading and editing – cannot be replaced by a machine which does not get to the heart and soul of the text.
The machine-based proofreading tools may be useful in spotting a grammatical mistake here or there but they are far from replacing a human editor or being reliable enough.
The moral of this article is to not get misled by the gigantic amount of marketing and promises from these online editing tools. An online machine-based editor cannot replace a human editor.
John Stuart is a professional English language editor with over 15 years' experience. John is an editor with the Ultimate Proofreader service.