Why You Need An Editor and Grammar Checkers Lie

When we’re in school, we’re taught over and over about what the rules of grammar are. You learn about spelling what it is supposed to be and how you’re supposed to remember it. And there’s always an exception or seven to every rule you learn. This is part of the bullshit of the English language. Grammatical correctness has many different ways of being defined. Your English teacher may have harped on you about the way that you should say things and the incorrect way that you typically say things.
But that’s not how the English language really works. While we like to think that we have a list of rules, we really just have a list of suggestions that we can follow. An editor isn’t going to just go back to the rules of grammar and judge everything you do based on that. If it was that simple, then your grammar checkers (both in Word or Grammarly) would really be able to help you when you’re editing a paper.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Grammarly. I use it to double check work that I’m doing all the time. But there’s a reason why someone needs me to go through their writing and make sure that everything about it is really correct. Editors aren’t just there to make sure that the plot follows through right. We’re there to make sure that everything follows a style of correctness.
There are style guides out there to create rules that we lack when we’re learning about grammar. The Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press style guides, and the more specific style guides that are produced by all sorts of companies out there are there to guide how writers work and how a company is portrayed. While you could try to program a grammar checker to follow one of these guidelines, it would be nearly impossible. If you’ve never seen the Chicago Manual of Style, then you will be surprised to know that the giant book is hundreds of pages long and full of so many rules that you need to know if you want to be able to follow the style guide.
And because there are so many rules, it’s hard for a robot to know when to apply what. This is why Word’s grammar checker is often wrong and it’s why Grammarly is sometimes wrong as well. There are just too many variables. There are styles that people write in that are also so different from what Grammarly might know. When an editor takes a look at a piece, there are better able to judge what needs to be done.
I’m sure that one day in the far future, the editor might be replaced by a robot, but that day is far, far off. Most writers aren’t going to trust a robot to edit their work when the ones we have still aren’t perfect in any regard and the technology isn’t ready yet. One day, we’ll get the hang of it, but that day isn’t today. Which is good news for me.


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