Green Squiggly Lines:
Microsoft Word: Computers as Readers
I would argue that it does make a difference. Not only because MSWord is advocating for an active voice instead of passive voice-the percentage of passive voice to active voice sentences is one of three readability features that MSWord allows you to measure when you conduct an end of document spelling and grammar check-but also because the software-unless it is set otherwise-is intervening in the student's composing and thinking processes. The tools of composition are changing. Do green squiggly lines under long, carefully-or not so carefully-coordinated sentences matter? More important for composition studies and assessment theories: How does this intimate feedback affect students' composing processes and communicative actions?
Straub and Lunsford's comment that "given the power relations that adhere between teachers and students in the classroom, any responses will take on the sense of evaluations and directives" (p. 191) needs to be reformulated to consider the software's response. Is there a "power relation" between students and their word processors? Do students take MSWord's red and green squiggly lines as "evaluations and directives"? If so, any communication-based form of writing assessment-the type of assessment advocated for by proponents of electronic portfolios-must confront the question of what it means to have students writing-not entirely to-but at least partially to the computer.