Spreadsheets and outliners are joining scientific word processors and number crunchers in scientists’ software libraries. While it would be nice to add to the nonscientific shelf a package that cleans up grammatical errors and stylistic blunders as well, I’m still in search of the perfect grammar checker.

Grammar rules are not easy for scientists to learn and remember just consider how hard it is to create a set of simple rules to teach grammar to what is, after all, a dumb computer. Some simple examples show just how difficult the problem is.

The sentence, “Time flies like an arrow,” could be analyzed grammatically three ways. To see the less obvious possibilities, think of “Fruit flies like a banana” and “Time racehorses like a stop-watch.” What’s a computer to make of that?

The point is, anyone in the market for a grammar checker should realize that those currently available programs have...

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