Thursday, October 6, 2011

Help Grammar.net help bloggers

Today's e-mail brought an update from Grammar.net letting me know that the voting deadline for their grammar blog poll is fast approaching:

Today is the halfway of the contest finals!
The most active bloggers are about to outrun you in the Best Grammar Blog of 2011 contest. Their friends and readers are actively voting, so why don’t yours?
Your blog is worth to be number one,* you just need some help from people who already love your blog.
The final round ends October, 17th.

Now, this nitpicking doesn’t mean I scorn the Grammar.net poll; anything that helps spread the word about  language blogs is a Good Thing, and the master list has already prompted me to subscribe to a couple of blogs I had missed.

But the site has problems. Its own software says so: Grammar.net claims its grammar checker will spot your writing flaws, so I fed it the e-mail I quote from above. The analysis -- just a teaser, not the detailed report that paying customers get -- told me that the text had seven “critical writing issues”: one of sentence structure, two of punctuation, and four of “style.” Overall score: 50 percent. “Weak; needs revision.”

Some of the (free) usage advice also needs revision. The “12 Most Misunderstood Words” item, for example, has an outdated hostility to nauseous (meaning nauseated), claims that alternate can only be a verb, and includes a definition of less that made me laugh out loud:
LESS
You think it means: fewer
It means: a smaller amount of uncountable nouns 
So as long as we’re logrolling and backscratching, shouldn’t language bloggers help Grammar.net look more like a club we’d want to belong to? Maybe, when the shouting’s over, the top 10 bloggers should each thank the website with some volunteer help -- 10 corrections, say, or an hour’s worth of editing. The better they look, the better we look. And they can definitely look better.

*Yes, this is a comma fault, but not a bad one, and I’m not a comma-fault fetishist.

11 comments:

tudza said...

What's wrong with "are actively voting, so why don’t"?

Kay L. Davies said...

Okay, but how about this? In the same sentence with the comma-fault, which you marked with an asterisk, it says "Your blog is worth to be" which makes no sense unless it says "worthy" instead of "worth".
They're everywhere, typos and grammatical errors.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

John Cowan said...

The cobbler's children have no shoes.

Jan said...

Kay: Yes, the bold "worth to be" is the mistake I was flagging. Tudza, I would have written "they are actively voting, so why aren't yours." But you're right, it's not actually wrong as it is, at least not grammatically. I would say "he's getting a sundae, so why don't you?" (not why aren't you)... so it's not that the parallelism flaw bothers me. But in the ice cream case, I'd be proposing an action. In the case of "their fans are voting, why don't yours?" I can't answer -- that "why don't" can't really be addressed to me. (Making this up as I go along; comments more than welcome.)

Jonathon said...

tudza: It should be "so why aren't yours?"

I've noticed the same things in Grammar.net's emails to me about the contest. Obviously, winning the contest will be a dubious distinction.

clarebr said...

I'm puzzled by your question/statement about whether less means fewer?" They are different. The definition "a smaller amount of uncountable nouns" is rather awkward, but it seems correct to me.

Jan said...

Clarebr: The author meant to define "less" as something like "a smaller amount of something denoted by a non-count noun." Collapsing it into "a smaller amount of uncountable nouns" is self-contradictory ("noun" is a count noun) and made me picture a puree of nouns served up by the scoopful, like mashed potatoes.

clarebr said...

Ok. I see your point, which is logical. Curiously, though, I rather enjoyed the conflict in the definition that was given!

John L said...

It also bothers me that a spellchecker company is sponsoring a "grammar" contest. Generally speaking, only the most Neanderthal notions of what "grammar" consists of get through to software companies that design spellcheckers and "grammarcheckers". They're the first things I turn off with new software.

Anonymous said...

The site is so amateurishly written that I wouldn't trust anyone there to sharpen my pencil, much less correct my grammar and spelling. Have you looked at their Word of the Day -- which they helpfully note that you can "receive daily Word Of The Day." The words that they list are all treated differently; some with "ORIGIN" and one with "mid 19 century from modern Latin ..."

I haven't explored the site fully (and I have no intention of doing so), but I did find this tidbit under "10 Hyphenation Tips":
"Hyphenation is like kitchen spice: use them correctly, and they can sharpen writing and give it a better texture."

Laura at Terribly Write said...

This "contest" is actually part of a viral marketing scam. Grammar.net sells no product. Its grammar checker is a joke. The writing on the site (done by a woman in the Ukraine whose native language is not English) is wobbly at best. There's no way to contact the "company" except by email. There's no location or phone information. Grammar.net is owned by DomainOptions.net that provides social media marketing. From the company website: "We will create link-baiting content and promote it in social media through viral seeding. Among the methods we use is infographics, a visual representation of information." Every time someone clicked on the site to vote, grammar.net got more traffic for its advertiser. And when the "winners" post the seal that they are one of the top grammar blogs, DomainsOptions.net attracts more clicks.