First Advisor

Marjorie Terdal

Term of Graduation

Summer 1994

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




English language -- Grammar -- Software -- Evaluation, English language -- Study and teaching -- Foreign speakers, Computational linguistics



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, x, 239 pages)


The use of word processors has become common in writing instruction for students of English as a second language (ESL). Recent developments in microcomputer technology have increased the number of "tools" or writing aids that are incorporated into word processing programs. Among these are computer style and grammar checkers, programs that attempt to identify and diagnose stylistic, grammatical, and mechanical problems in writing.

This study examines the suitability of commercial grammar checking programs for use by ESL writers through descriptive analysis of program features and evaluation of accuracy. The programs evaluated are Grammatik 5, Microsoft Word 6.0 and Correct Grammar (both using CorrecText as an underlying system), and Right Writer 6.0.

The principal issues explored in the descriptive analysis are comparative ease-of-use, the nature of diagnostic advice and tutorial information, and modification capabilities of each program. The analysis shows that grammar checking programs that are part of word processing programs (e.g., Word Perfect and Microsoft Word) are easier to use, but lack key components that permit modification of advice messages and tutorial information, or addition of new error patterns.

The evaluation of accuracy examines program performance in terms of error types the programs were designed to identify in relation to errors common in ESL writing. In a test of sample sentences, the overall accuracy rate for the most successful program, Grammatik 5, was only 50%. Microsoft Word and Correct Grammar were second with 42%; Right Writer 6.0 was the weakest, with a score of 25%.

Program accuracy was substantially reduced in analysis of a sample student essay. Microsoft Word and Correct Grammar performed best, but with only 21% accuracy. The score of Grammatik 5 was reduced to 17%, and that of Right Writer 6.0 to 13%. This suggests that student writing contains a larger number of errors the programs cannot identify than do the test sentences. In addition, sentences in the essay contained multiple errors, while most of the test sentences contained only one error. Low accuracy rates might be improved by rule modification features of standalone versions of programs such as Grammatik 5 and Correct Grammar.


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