I've blogged in the past about my experiences test-driving grammar and style software. Through my work in publishing and at the university, I've had the opportunity to test several different systems, and none of them have come close to being satisfactory. Even MSWord's built-in grammar checker -- which is notorious for its inadequacies -- is several generations ahead of most of the other programs available today. I am not, you might guess, a fan of any of them.
I'm not alone. This topic came up on a mailing list for academics recently, and some of my colleagues there shared a couple of links to other test results. I thought I'd link them here for those of you who are toying with investing in some of this software. (Don't bother. They're a waste of money.)
The Economist: Grammarly Revisited
The Chronicle: These Cards Always Lie
Before you dismiss these opinions because they examine academic writing rather than creative writing, let me assure you, this should not be a selling point. The rules of academic grammar are less fluid and less forgiving than the rules of creative writing. It should be easier to apply academic rules, simply because there's less deviation from those rules. Creative writing is full of judgment calls, colloquialisms, and allowable "errors" like fragments and run-ons. If a software program cannot properly identify where a sentence begins and ends, how will it ever distinguish between a good fragment and a bad one? No, this academic/creative distinction doesn't help matters at all.