Me doesn't spel or write two good.
July 25, 2010 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as an "advanced" spelling and grammar program for Microsoft Word or WordPerfect? Bonus points if it is designed for the legal world.

I am a young associate attorney that suffers from an occasional grammar or spelling mistake. Most of these mistakes are the result of trying to work quickly and not proofreading carefully or mistakes that already exist in a document that I do not catch. It is very embarrassing when a document is about to be signed or presented and someone happens to catch one of the errors.

Obviously, more time and careful proofreading is the remedy, but sometimes due to the sheer volume of documents or time considerations, that just isn't practicable.

Are there any programs that more accurately catch misspelled words and grammar mistakes and are compatible with Microsoft Word of WordPerfect?
posted by 2legit2quit to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I don't have an actual program for this, but I've found it helpful to add legal words that aren't in the regular dictionary to my MS Word dictionary. That way it spell checks them, and you don't have a sea of red underlined legal terms that you have to manually check for spelling.
posted by ishotjr at 2:18 PM on July 25, 2010

You didn't mention if you had Word's Grammar Checker turned on. If you don't, do so because it will catch a lot of the basics.
posted by deezil at 2:39 PM on July 25, 2010

Spellex -- may not handle the weirdo legal grammar issues, but has legal dictionary option for Word or WP.
posted by katemonster at 2:40 PM on July 25, 2010

Response by poster: Deezil, I do use the spelling and grammar tools already in the programs, I am looking for additional protection.

Also, I have already found an error in my posting. Further evidence that I need help.
posted by 2legit2quit at 2:42 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use the Word spell checker and add any specialized words to the dictionary. I check spelling as I type. The grammar checker is pretty useless for most of what I do, but if you need to work fast and can't proof-read the grammar checker may help. I don't know of any general grammar checker that is any better for legal writing, but most of what I do is legal drafting and the grammar checker can't cope with a sentence that has paragraph breaks within it.
posted by Logophiliac at 3:06 PM on July 25, 2010

No. This is precisely what kept me employed as a copy editor for many years. And, just to keep you on your toes: Microsoft Word's grammar and spell checks contain mistakes. Not many, but, for example, it occasionally flags that/which constructions that are actually correct.

The above advice to add legal terms to your dictionary is a good one. Otherwise there is little you can do besides read more carefully. Two tricks that help a lot: reading your work aloud, and reading your work backward.

If this is a serious concern for you, Mediabistro offers online copy editing courses that can help you improve your error-spotting skills. They also offer an advanced grammar course.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:23 PM on July 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

And see, there was a subject/verb agreement error in the above post. Thankfully, the internet forgives where man does not.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:24 PM on July 25, 2010

I'm an attorney too, and I share your frustration. I do not think that there is a magic bullet out there. (I'll follow this thread just in case, though, because if there is one, sign me up!)

The one thing I've learned is that you have more time than you think. Your boss would rather have you get it right, so ask if you can have one more chance to read it through before it gets filed/sent.

And I second the suggestion to read your work aloud. You would be surprised how many errors you can catch that way. (And although you may feel dumb, you can always hold up your phone so it looks like you're talking on the phone.) You won't need to do it forever - it's kind of like training wheels. It gets you to the point where you can see your mistakes as you're making them.
posted by slmorri at 5:29 PM on July 25, 2010

Response by poster: What a bummer so far. It seems like there would be a great market for this type of product.
posted by 2legit2quit at 5:29 PM on July 25, 2010

Spelling and grammar are not at all in the same league in terms of difficulty. To check spelling just requires ensuring that letters are in the right order compared to a specified list of correct spellings, but to properly check grammar requires semantic understanding, including inferring the intent of the writer, which is not something that a computer can do until we invent a sentient AI. If we could write a proper grammar checker then we could also translate from one language to another without it sounding like computer-generated nonsense. There's a huge market for that, but there's also a huge market for lots of other impossible things too.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:00 PM on July 25, 2010

Response by poster: Rhomboid,

That's pretty dismissive and I don't think accurate. Especially when you compare the grammar help offered by word processing programs ten years ago to what is offered now. I'm merely asking for the next leap, whatever it is over Microsoft or Corel--not necessarily the moon (although we did get there too when they said it was impossible).

This site appears to offer somewhat what I am looking for, any thoughts?


Thanks for the advice and I think you are correct. In addition to becoming a better writer, I need to get some confidence in my time crunch sensitivity.
posted by 2legit2quit at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2010

"Le Correcteur 101" is a program for grammar checking of French text. Its understanding of French sentences is not perfect, but quite spectacular, considering that some people (like Rhomboid) consider the problem to be AI-complete.

They apparently have a version that processes both English and French now. I have only used the French version, but I can only imagine the English version better, considering how much simple English grammar is compared to French.
posted by gmarceau at 6:48 PM on July 25, 2010

Sorry, all I can suggest is to keep track of the spelling errors that get through and make sure the word is added to the spell check dictionary for next time.

Also, consider deleting from the spell check dictionary (if possible) actual words that slip through spell check. For example, you probably write "statute" more frequently than "statue." Get rid of statue. Same thing for public vs. pubic. Pubic auction? No thank you.
posted by DB Cooper at 7:10 PM on July 25, 2010

Response by poster: DB Cooper, that is inspired thinking.
posted by 2legit2quit at 5:59 PM on July 27, 2010

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