Bitter Grounds Magazine

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Microsoft Editor grammar check extension

Written by catpaw

October 09, 2020

It’s been a while since I looked at browser extensions.  In the past, I’ve been frustrated by the lack of quality and choice. That meant I had little motivation to check the Microsoft store for new or improved extensions. Recently I took another look and found Microsoft’s Editor extension available for Edge.  It’s also available for Chrome users.

Logo for Microsoft's Editor extension

Available for Edge and Chrome – sorry Firefox.

Microsoft Editor for browsers

If you use Microsoft 365 (formerly called Office 365), you may be familiar with Editor. For the past month or so, I’ve been using it in Word. It’s handy at catching the usual spelling and grammar suspects. I don’t rely upon it heavily because the grammar rules used are too rigid for a casual conversational style website. But overall, it’s a sound addon for Word. Before installing the editor, make sure you have a Microsoft account, or it won’t work.  If you want anything beyond barebones features, you’ll also need a Microsoft 365 subscription. A Microsoft account is free but 365 isn’t. One positive aspect of Microsoft Editor is the simplicity of accessing the checker. Red, as expected, signifies typos and blue, grammar issues. No right click is needed. Left click on the underlined word or phrase and suggestions will be offered. I’m not sure why right clicking irritates me when I’m working on a document, but it’s one of those irrational bits of my mind.

Screen capture from Microsoft Editor for browser showing a drop down list of alternative phrases

Pretty helpful now that it works.

The good news is Microsoft Editor supports an extensive list of languages, not just English. You can check out the list here – Microsoft Store.

Fatal flaws in Microsoft Editor?

I’m not sure what happened when I installed the software, but it was … quirky. Very quirky. I have a 365 account so there shouldn’t have been any issues, but there were. So many issues. They ranged from insisting I speak a different language to non-functionality of most features.  When I first tried to use Editor, I almost removed it because of the frustration I felt.

Basic issues with grammar checkers

I dutifully setup the correct language, English (Canada) and tried to use the extension on this article when it was in the initial stages. Basic spell check worked fine, but it didn’t catch any capitalization at the beginning of a sentence. It still ignores the issue. When writing, I tend to type very quickly and often miss upper-case letters at the start of a sentence. Having it flagged makes editing faster. I’ve gone through the meager settings and there is no option to correct this oversite. It’s excellent at catching extra spaces within a sentence and missing commas, not so good at proper nouns and sentence structure.

Another flaw is its failure to be consistent when flagging double spacing between sentences. I learned to type on a manual typewriter. That meant I was taught to add 2 spaces after the period. This has gone the way of the dodo, and one space is all that is required. My brain still inserts double spacing when I’m typing rapidly. MS Editor would flag some but miss the majority.

One other irritant was the pop-up screen offering suggestions. If you’re working on a web address that has been flagged as a typo, you can’t copy/cut the line until you click “ignore”. Not a big issue but was a little aggravating until I figured out what was going on.

Grammar checker is okay, but it works best if you already have a solid grasp on how to construct sentences. It’s helpful, but if you aren’t aware of the pitfalls of conversational vs formal grammar, you may end up with a stilted article. Microsoft Editor is better than the old grammar checker from the early days of word processing which was comical on many levels.

But I don’t speak Welsh

Initially, I experienced a lot of issues with the extension. At first, I couldn’t figure out why everything was underlined. And what Sillafu and wibies were?

Screen capture from Microsoft Editor showing a almost every word as wrong and offering Welsh alternatives

Microsoft Editor looks like it committed suicide on my post

Another question was why synonyms weren’t available. Then a light flashed in my brain. I have a cousin who lives in Wales and thought the Sillafu looked vaguely familiar. Language was still set to English, but the spell checker was stuck on Welsh. No, I don’t have a clue as to why this happened. It is funny, after the fact. To solve this, I used the tried and true trouble shooting technique of “turning it off and on again”. I turned off the extension, closed the browser and then started over. Suddenly, Microsoft Editor was using the correct language.

The issue that hacked me off the most

Spell check worked, except for the previously mentioned issue with capitals at the beginning of a sentence.  The real issue was, and remains, with the synonym finder.  At one point, synonyms began to work but they were in Welsh. Another reboot of the browser and extension sorted that out. Alternate words were now being offered, but only if there was a spelling mistake to correct. Typos allowed me to see different words or phrases. I could correct the initial spelling error, but the synonym was not clickable. I was faced with manually typing in the suggestions. At this point, my frustration became too much, and I put the article away and ignored the extension. When I returned to it 24 hours later, all the issues were gone. Microsoft Editor seemed to work.

A flaw in Microsoft Editor

Editor is handy to have on the browser, but I doubt I’ll rely on it for anything more than catching the most grievous errors. A bigger issue is embedded in the design. Microsoft will flag words or phrases it thinks should be looked at and offer suggestions. But there is no way for the writer to manually trigger off synonym suggestions. It won’t spot multiple uses of a phrase or word nor will it allow writers to change them on the fly, unless flagged by the extension itself. This is significant. There is no sense in having a synonym checker if it depends solely on a piece of code to offer suggestions. Flawed, but useful is my thinking. I’ll keep it installed for quick checks and rely upon my own judgement. There’s always Roget’s Thesaurus and Oxford Concise sitting nearby for a quick consult.

Where to find Microsoft Editor

Microsoft Store here
Chrome store here
Firefox is not compatible, but you can always use the Grammarly extension.

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