Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

George Pullman

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Burmester

Third Advisor

Michael Harker


Composition studies lacks a comprehensive theory of error, one which successfully defines error in writing and offers a pedagogical response to ostensible errors that neither ignores nor pathologizes them. Electronic text-critiquing technologies offer some promise of helping writers notice and correct errors, but they are under-researched in composition and rarely well-integrated into pedagogical praxis. This research on the grammar and style checker in Microsoft Word considers the program as an electronic checklist for making decisions about what counts as an error in a given rhetorical situation. This study also offers a theory of error grounded in the idea of attention, or cognitive load, some of which an electronic checker can relieve in its areas of its greatest effectiveness, which this research quantifies. The proposed theory of error forms the basis for a pedagogy of register, understood as typified style, and establishes that error itself can be a strategic style move.