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Culture & Religion

Literate PC?

Exam-marking by computers shows that the rules of grammar can hamper good writing – but are machines qualified to make literary assessment?

“Computers have got a lot to learn about grammar,” writes The Independent’s Philip Hensher. “Experiments with using computers to mark exams have been on the rise for some time, and have now reached the point where they are supposed to be able to judge styles of writing. Last week, the Westminster Education Forum amused itself by hooking an exam-marking computer up to various classic works of literature and rhetoric. What mark would Jane Austen, William Golding, Hemingway, Churchill get? The answer was predictable: too much repetition; not proper sentences; even grammatical incorrectness (it thought Churchill’s phrase “the might of the German army” was a misuse of the conditional ‘might’). The conclusion was clear: a computer was at least as likely to make mistakes in marking as a student is in writing.”


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