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Detailed review of Grammar Checkers (Grammatik II, etc.).
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Detailed review of Grammar Checkers (Grammatik II, etc.).
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From: david tomlinson
Date: 06 Feb 89 21:44
Subject: Report on Style Checkers, I



THE STYLE CHECKERS

By Professor David Tomlinson
and
Associate Professor Harriet Bergmann



PART I
Containing
Introduction to Style Checkers
A Letter From Willy: A Sample Used in Testing Style Checkers
As Well As Reviews of
Clearcut
Grammatik II



Part of the Instructional Development Project
A COMPREHENSIVE SURVEY OF SOFTWARE IN ENGLISH
United States Naval Academy
1988



Please distribute and reproduce freely.
This work has been done with public funds and is therefore
not copyrighted.



The line at the beginning of each review contains a left curly bracked ({).
Use the search mechanism of your word processor to take you quickly to the
file you wish to read by having it find the curly bracket.






{
INTRODUCTION TO STYLE CHECKERS




Style checkers are computer programs that tell as much as a computer
can tell about a piece of writing. A style checker reads a piece of prose
and analyzes it in two ways: by counting characters, words or sentences and
by recognizing verbal patterns. Style checkers cannot understand, so they
cannot evaluate prose. They can compare one text with another in terms of
numbers and patterns, and tell a writer about the comparison. When used
carefully and knowledgeably, a good style checker can reveal habits of
style, punctuation and composition which materially affect the quality of
the writing. Since such programs judge impartially, students often treat
the advice they give with great respect. We have watched students who
blithely disregard a teacher's comments about excessive use of the passive
voice, for example, take a style checker's relentless isolating of passives
quite seriously. Indeed, we have watched a number of students work
tirelessly to achieve a clear, concise writing style because they heeded a
style checker's analysis. Not all students respond positively to this
mechanistic approach; however, most find the information the good checkers
furnish helpful.


WHAT THE PROGRAM DOES

1. COUNTING

Style checkers count numbers of letters in each word. From that count,
some style checkers make inferences about the complexity of the vocabulary
in the text. Some programs consider words over 10 letters to be complex,
and others wait for fourteen or fifteen letters before declaring the word
complicated. Programs that have readability indices usually assume that
long words are not good, and that short words are desirable.
Similarly, style checkers count the number of words in each sentence.
They can read the period at the end of a sentence and the spaces that
follow it, identifying each unit that falls between as a sentence. Again,
programs that use an index usually make a negative judgment about long
sentences. Each program has a different default setting for recognizing
long sentences. RIGHTWRITER 3.0, for example, is initially set to label
sentences of more than 25 words as long; but the user may instruct the
program to label sentences of any length as excessively long. Other
programs offer the user no choice in this regard. They come preset.
Usually the accompanying manual will disclose the parameter used.


2. DICTIONARIES

Some style checkers have dictionaries--lists of words and phrases that
present trouble of some sort to a writer. Most style checkers will flag
any use of a form of the verb "to be" followed by a word ending in "ed" and
warn the writer that he/she has used a passive--in some cases this is
accurate, and in some cases ("The problem is greed") it's wrong. In a
simple program the dictionary may include such words as "like" and "as,"
each of which will trigger a warning that the word may be misused. A more
complex program may read the a period followed by two spaces as well as
"And" or "But" and warn the writer that a conjunction should not begin a
sentence.


3. CUSTOMIZING

Some style checkers, often the better ones, can be customized; the
writer can add words or phrases to the dictionary. This ability is
particularly useful for teachers who identify specific problem areas in
student writing and want to alert the students to them. It is also useful
for those alert writers who are aware of their own problems in writing and
who wish help in avoiding grammatical and stylistic errors.
Several programs permit users to choose which grammar and style rules
will be used in scanning writing. GRAMMATIK in both versions reviewed in
this pamphlet and RIGHTWRITER 3.0 both offer this feature. READABILITY
allows the user wide choice in determining the kind of writing examined and
the kinds of analytical charts displayed.



HOW THE PROGRAM SHOWS RESULTS


1. PRINTOUT

Most programs will print out a summary of their findings; if a program
does offer this option, the user can always use "print-screen" to keep a
hard copy. The more complex programs will print lists and sometime charts
or graphs of their findings.



2. ON-SCREEN DISPLAY

Some programs display their findings within the paper, marking all
trouble spots sentence by sentence. Some summarize their findings at the
end of the checking process. A few like GRAMMATIK III allow the user to
make changes to the text as the program points out a possible difficulty.
Some programs offer all these options. For most writers, a sentence-by-
sentence or screen-by-screen display will be most useful, unless the paper
is quite long.



HOW TO USE THE INFORMATION

The concept of readability is used in a variety of ways by these
programs, but in general they favor brevity over length. For newspaper
writing this emphasis proves invaluable. Many teachers encourage college
freshmen to write clear, simple sentences a la Hemingway. Their students,
cognizant of the programs' limitations, often find the style checkers most
helpful. Businesses invariably encourage using short, clear sentences in
communications because understandable written work saves both time and
money. Academics who glory in complexity while blithely obscuring meaning
will have little regard for the values fostered by the style checkers or by
teachers of writing; each writer will have to find his/her own way.


WILLY'S LETTER

Many of the reviews which follow use one letter, one from Willy, to
help users measure how good or how poor a style checker is. Willy's letter
contains numerous grammatical and stylistic errors. It is, however,
written in short sentences which are easy to understand. Few style
checkers recognize both its strengths and its weaknesses. Those checkers
gauged to test only readability rate Willy's letter as superb but take no
note of the spelling and grammatical errors which plague it. The more
complex checkers, those which not only rate readability but which check for
usage as well, prove more moderate and more accurate in their consideration
of the letter. We have included an unadorned copy of Willy's letter in the
file WILLY.DOC for those who wish to refer to it after reading a review.


RATINGS OF THE STYLE CHECKERS

We have given a general rating to each package reviewed. We have used
stars to indicate our evaluation of each program's power and usefulness.
We have placed the stars just above the program name at the beginning of a
review.

* POOR

** GOOD

*** EXCELLENT

**** SUPERB

The estimates given relate to the work we must do with students. They
are quick guides to the usefulness of the program to the two of us doing
teaching at the U. S. Naval Academy. Other people in other situations
might find programs we have rated "poor" performing well for them.
Programs we have rated as "excellent" or "superb" might not help in some
situations. Our judgments are not meant to be sweeping or scientific but
purely to provide a quick reference to those teaching college students or
requiring written work from them. Even these people should use the ratings
as a general indication only. If the features you need are in a program we
have not assigned a strong rating, then use the program, not the rating.
We have given our best ratings to those programs which had the features we
felt appropriate for us and for our students.


FOR CLARIFICATION OR HELP

If we can offer clarification of the information given here or provide
assistance with these or other programs in writing, please get in touch
with us.


Professor David Tomlinson
Associate Professor Harriet Bergmann
English Department
U. S. Naval Academy
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5044
(301)267-3274
(301)267-3425
(301)267-3277


{______________________________________________________________________________

A LETTER FROM WILLY
A Sample Used in Testing Style Checkers




Dear Clarence,

I hope this letter finds you and your family are doing well.
Please pass on my regards to them. It has been a long time sense we
have spoken. The time seem almost wasted not being able to shere our
newly found brotherhood. There are some strong feelings I'd like very
much to express to you. There are facts that should cause great
satisfaction in my life. My lovely family, nice home and fairly
successful career. There is a void in my life! Largely because you and
your family live so far away. I would enjoy a closer relationship as
well as distance between us. It is very difficult to describe the
pride and joy that being brother's brings me. Pride in the special
abilities you have as a leader and the compassion you show others. Joy
of the similarity you share with our mother. Virtues that shown clear
to most people She and you come in contact with. I am envious of those
special gifts. I have no intention of interfering in you afares but I
would be remissed not to mention some concerns. First you seem unaware
of the fore mention abilities. Secondly is the postive feelings your
successes bring to the others in our great (large) family. Your are
looked up to by all!

If for some reason you misconstrue the intent of my candid remarks,
pleas know I love you maddly.

Sincerely Your Brother


Willy
{______________________________________________________________________________

**

CLEARCUT




CLEARCUT searches ASCII files, producing a marked text and a
statistical summary of the text. The heart of the program is a dictionary
of words and phrases that are "bad, overblown or confusing." The
dictionary, which can be edited and enlarged using PC-Write or another
ASCII editor, contains both phrases to be identified in a piece of writing
and suggested replacements for those phrases.
Like most style checkers, CLEARCUT gives a readability index. It uses
a hundred point scale which puts less readable texts on the low end of the
scale and more readable ones near 100. There is no grade level indicator.
Problem words are marked by arrows and are followed by suggested revisions
marked by double arrows:



>examine>>look>>



CLEARCUT marks the sample itself and summarizes its statistical findings
after printing out the text. It gives a reading of the average word length
in the writing sample as well as the average sentence length. In addition,
the program tells things like how many words had five letters and how many
sentences had fifteen words in them.
What follows are just the three sentences in the letter by Willy that
CLEARCUT marked, although the program reprinted the entire letter. Three
words were marked by the program, one of them inappropriately--its
dictionary does not seem up to finding the difference between "similar" and
"similarity." Appended to the marked letter is the statistical summary.


CLEARCUT Output


>There are >>(omit), exist<< some strong feelings I'd like very
much to express to you.
>There is>> (omit), exists<< a void in my life!
Joy of the >similari>>like<


CLEARCUT'S Statistical Summary


3 word substitutes have been marked in file Willy.
File information:

WORD LENGTH NUMBER OF WORDS
1 16
2 44
3 42
4 47
5 30
6 27
7 17
8 8
9 6
10 3
11 3
12 2
13 0
14 0
15+ 0


SENTENCE LENGTH NUMBER OF SENTENCES
<10 10
11-16 6
16-21 4
21-26 0
26-31 0
31> 0


There were 245 words in this file, with an average word length
of 5.8.
There were 20 sentences in this file with 12.2 average words
per sentence.
Readibility [sic] Index (1-110, 100 is best) = 94.4




CLEARCUT is a good, quick statistical program. Our confidence in it was
not bolstered by the misspelling of "readability" throughout the
documentation, however.

For additional information contact:
Imagination Enterprises
223 Arbor Lane
Bryans Rd., Maryland 20616

{______________________________________________________________________________

***

GRAMMATIK II




For several years, GRAMMATIK II was the largest and most comprehensive
of all the style checkers--it comes with an 80 page manual of its own. It
performs a great variety of checks, offers a lot of information to the
writer and is a useful tool for the teacher. Unlike many other style
checkers, GRAMMATIK II makes a serious attempt to address a wide range of
fairly subtle stylistic problems.


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SUMMARY REPORTstic probUMMARY FOR Wilranmmary.


Su
pectaddi stylelem wo:hos8stic ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grao aSchool 47
HighaSchool 47
Colleg 0


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3 4 5 6 7 8hos9 10 11 12hosFr So Jr Srhos+1 +2 +3 +4 PhDc ------*--------------------------------------------------------------------
mmary.* -TFlesch rade Level (Read g Ease: 87)c probhere we St thr ism Numbers a bhere wes:ho200


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Longesr (#h16):ho 19 12.2 ap
Word St thr ism Numbers a Words:hoho241 0


Avers wiLavera:hoshos4.3 tences2 ap
Special St thr ism (as esthm prog%s a Words or bhere wes)c p Pasmost voice:hoshosho2 (10% S)
Pleposlengts:hoshosh26 (11% W)c pro============================================================================= 0


EXAMPLE PHIC DISPLAY FROM ) = 94.4
OMPARISON ANALYSIS 6
PERCENTAGE OF SENTENCES IN PASSIVE VOICE 00

10 ho200

300

400

500

600

700

800

900

100
| ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- |
|
|------|
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|
|
|--------------------|
|--------------------|
Gettysburg As atte
|
|
|-|
|-|
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|
|
|-----------------|
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From: daviortomlinson
Date: 06 Feb 89 21:58
Subject: Report on S
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itdca supplementasy utility packeof additional disks(set to retail a us$49)
i ce yet publnshed. es utility packewill includhasome featurerewhich
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document to a Hemingway short story, thA Gettysburg 94nmmary.
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version p smises to allow comparison n thdocuments A.4nmmary.
us f insertse s well. 94.4nmmarIn addition Aputility packewill includhaa RAM-resident
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8 Foliadditional information contact: 94.4nmmary.
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MAXI-READ MAXI-READ once was Aplostkcomprehenmost progr us f-supported style
checker . It p svides bothenumer cal itdcgraphiceoutput of its findings on aa single,-easily read screen. While Appublncity a usogr package claims
ogateiteis 'NOT juste "readability"
p stati,"eiteis certainly p imarily a
readabilityeindicator. MAXI-READ ha cew been replaced by PRO~SCRIBE,-it
update n tha new nameo hoses featurereconcerned n threadabilityeor undesstandabilityeincludh: 94.4nmmary.
l. Ahreadabilityesuimasy 0


2. Ahgrade level indicator 0


3. AhFlesch,index reading 94

3
4. es percentage of long (over seven letter) 12.2 anmmary.
5. es average numbhe of w12.2 inca sentence MAXI-READ also shows Apnumbhe of sentences in A text, thA numbhe of
w12.2 itdc Apnumbhe of syllables count d. es one aeature ce concerned awn threadabilityeiseit eindicator of percentage of personallw12.2 --
personallp snounseitdcpossesmost adjectists -- in A text. Of course, wgat MAXI-READ calculates p incipally is length.

Most
style checker doc Apsameo Wn thMAXI-READ, thAreeisei difference,
however. es short sentence,-ity short sentence,-getre Apnodcas "Good."
es long sentence-getrejudged "Poor."osAt least, thoseeire efullabels used
on A graphicescreen. esus, "es b ll was rown" receists a better rat g than "Cal Ripken
firedcefulb ll to Eddie Murray atefirst base."osSuch ejudgments aken as
gospeleire, of course, short-sight d. atimatik count rbalances ogis
calculation p length by measur g sentences in A pasmost voice s well. 9While "efulb ll was rown" might win on length,eitewould also br singled
outcas problemat cal becausws progr us , progr pasmost. Unfortunately,
MAXI-READ ha ce such count rbalanceo hosBy putcing an asterisk (*) beforewa 12., thA us f can ersure at A
w12.ewill ce bt count d in A syllabic calculation. While Apmanualkon adisk doe ce reveallwgat parameter ogr p stati uses to identify long
w12.2, wecsuspecteiteis Apnumbhe p letter . es p stati lists lengthy
w12.2, up to 250eof Am, encount r d in A text.y.
Any 12. over seven
letter long seems to bewercludhd in A list. esus, Apsesquipedaliit
list a usWilly's letter lists "family" four timts as a w12.eleading to A
complexityeof A text.y.It also includhs "sincerely," "lovely,"
"abilities," itdc"unaware."osAny 12. longer ogan seven letters makes oge
list,-itdc App stati doe ce eliminate duplicateso hoses functions which,separate MAXI-READ from ApothAr us f-supported
style checker ire (1) its colorful, well-organized menu2 itdc(2) A
amount of supplementaryeinformation ogr p stati gists us f . A brief on-
line thesaurus p svides suggestions a us shorter w12.2 to replaceha numbhe
of multi-syllable ones; itdca guide to int rpretation p Apresultreof A
analysis seems lesrejudgmental than A graphicescreen thA us f sees first. 94.4nmmary.
8 FolifurthAr information contact 0




0
RWS & Associates 0




8 132 Alpine Terrace nmmary.
8 0

San Francisco, CA 94117 {______________________________________________________________________________ 0




0

* 0




0

PARSE PARSE measures oge length of a document (undes 64k), counts Ap 12.2 aitdcgists a judgment on Apdifficultyeof ogr p sseo It uses ts formula
devised by Robert Gunn g in THE TECHNIQUE OF CLEAR WRITING to arrost at a
grade ofpdifficultyea usogr text.y.es count progreA syllablAp 12.2 is
based on Apassumption ogat any 12. of seven letters or morewmustehave
ogreA syllablA . An explanation p is parameter itdcothArs used by A
p stati can b found in Michael Mefford's "A CommitdcYou Can Count On" in
PC MAGAZINE a usJanuary 27, 1987. HAreeisePARSE'Seinformation about
Willy's letter: 94.4n 0




1564 p intable character 0




241 12.2 anmmary.



24 w12.2 n thogreA or morewsyllables anmmary.



20 sentences 0




4.4 average character per 12. 0




12.1 average w12.2 per sentence


0
Reading index: 8.8hgrade level es output progis p stati is meager. I counts,-itdcce much more.
es Fog Index is only marginally useful. PARSE gists no graphiceoutput and
no marked file, soc at all thewerformation is onescreen only. 94.4nmmary.
8 Foliadditional help see: 94 0
Michael J. Medford's "A CommitdcYou Can Count On,"
0

PC MAGAZINE, Vol. 6, No. 2,sJanuary 27, 1987 {______________________________________________________________________________ 0




0

* 0




0
PC-STYLE 1.0 PC-STYLE p svides a seriereof calculations: A numbhe of sentences in
ogA text, thA numbhe of w12.2, Apaverage numbhe of w12.2 per sentence,
ogA percentagws prlong w12.2, Appercentagws pr"personal" w12.2, A
percentagws pr"action" verb2, Apaverage numbhe of syllablA per 12. and
Apreadability level.It makes rathAr facile judgments from "poor" to
"best" according to Apnumbhes a result from its calculations. A chart
shows whethAr readability, personal tone itdcaction ire "poor," "fair" or
"excellent."
es writer gets a quick evaluation but little advice; Areeiseno way
to fitdcout which,sentences have trouble spot . PC-STYLE doe ce mark
sentences or w12.2;eitesimply report . NeithAr a positost or negatost
judgment from App stati teaches oge writer anything. HAreeire ogr charts
a usWilly's letter: 94.4n 0




Sentences: 20 0




W12.2: 241 0




0


0

Poor.....Best


W12.2 per sentence: 12.0 8 17.0 8 7.0 nmmary.
8 % Long w12.2: 9.5 8 14.0 8 2.0 nmmary.
8 % Personal w12.2: 14.5 8 0.0 8 9.0 nmmary.
8 % Action verb2: 1.2 8 0.0 8 2.5.4nmmary.
8 SyllablA per 12.: 1.5 8 2.5 8 1.0

0
Readability level: 8.6 8 18.0 8 6.0 es parameterreof App stati can b changed,-itdcw12.2 can b added to
or removed from its dictionarier. Customiz g might makeeitesomewgat more
useful. 94.4nmmary.
8 Foliadditional information contact: 94 0
0




ButtonWare
0




0

P. O. Box 5786 0




Bellevue, Washington 98006 0




nmmary(800)-JBUTTON 0




0


or
0




nmmary(206) 454-0479 {______________________________________________________________________________ 0




0


* 0




0
PHRASE WATCHER PHRASE WATCHER searches an ASCII text or a W12.Star document a us 12.y,
sloppy or trite phrasA . Each phrasA ogat matches its dictionary gets
starred,-brackete. and put in a copy of ogr original text file. On A
screen, App stati tells how many sentences wAreeread itdchow many "hits"
ogA p stati madeo By enter g "explain" itdcoge starred phrasA, thA writer
can fitdcout how to avoidcoge offending language.
es p stati doe ce , as most style checkers do,cgist an indication p
readabilityo It doe ce gist graphiceoutputo It doe ce indicatA
passost constructionscothAr ogan ose which,ire part prits phrasA
dictionary.
PHRASE WATCHER is a small p stati tgat doe a limite. job quite well. 9One majoliadvantagws pr App stati is a its data file2 can b altered by
the user. PhrasA can b added or delete. and suggestionsca usrevision
changed or enlarged. PC-Write oliany ASCII text editor will do Apjob.
es reeire only two commitds to learn,-itdcthewdocumentation p svided on
disk is a fine guide to Apusws pr App stati. 94.4nmmary.
8 Foliadditional information contact: 94 0
0




George Yee
0




01847 N. Frances Blvd.
0




Tucson, Arizona 85712 {______________________________________________________________________________ 0




0

** 0




0
PRO~SCRIBE 3.0
PRO~SCRIBE is e new name a usa well-known sharewire style checker
which,hasrlong been onws pr Apbest in its class. es oldpp stati, MAXI-
READ,coutran most prits competitors by offer g more information itdcby
offer g professional looking color screens. es new one containsiadvances
in graphics but few new toolsca uswriting analysis. 94.4n
EVALUATION Thispp stati will import ASCII usW12.Star text, automatically ignore
dot commitds and product an interesting chart analyz g some basic
stylistic featurereof oge writ g sample. W a follows is a slightly
doctored versioneof at chart (it occupie a full 80 columnscon screen and
may b printedcout) a us Apparagraph Typing. It correctly shows a A
paragraph is oo complex,,hasrno personal interestcw12.2 (pronouns) itdchas
a high precentagws prmulti-syllablA w12.2o In short,eitefitd ce hing
commendablA about oge writ g. As a style checker lessiadept at picking
out tatimatical difficulties ogan GRAMMATIK III-itdcRIGHTWRITER 3.0,
PRO~SCRIBE doe ce show a A fileeisevirtually flawlessitatimatically.
W a follows is an ASCII rendition pcoge summary chart PRO~SCRIBE gists in
colorful detail. 94.4n 0




PRO~SCRIBE SUMMARY.4n Overall | Very Complex | Difficult | Good a usAvg. Adults | Simple
Summary:::: |____________2______________________________________________|
_______________________________________________________________________________ 0




Grade Level: 15 | 8+---[ Index Summary ]---+.4nmmary.
8 Flesch Index: 40 |P 0|______+___1__+______+______|100 G nmmary.
Personal InterestcIndex: 8 |O 0|_1____+______+______+______|100 O Percent Sesquipedalian W12.s: 12 |O 15|_____1+______+______+______|0 O Average #eof SyllablAs
Per W12.: 1.7|R 2.3|______+__1___+______+______|1.0 D Average #eof W12.s
Per Sentence: 18 | 018|1_____+______+______+______|7
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv
Sentences: 13nmmaW12.s: 243nmma
Personal W12.s: 1% 8 W12. Wasters: 1
_______________________________________________________________________________ If ogr user requests, App stati will listcoge sesquipedialian w12.2
in ogr text itdcoge number of oimes each is used in ogr text. A marked
copy of ogr text show g A first seventy-two characters of each line
assognsia runn g grade level to Apwriting (8-10 is considered good,
neithAr ooo simple nor too complex). esis kitdcof mark g ireof limite.
utility as ire ogr two graphics screens which,show t complexity of each
sentence. es p stati can offerrno advice on how to revise a group p
sentences if ogry ire ooo complex nor can it help thA writer tie ideas
togethAr if ogr sentences ire ooo short,echoppy itdcunrelated.
A manualcon disk itdca utility a usprint g out oge manualcaccompany
the p stati. A README fileewith t copy of ogr bulletin board distribute.
p stati we received says a a memory-resident versioneof PRO~SCRIBE,
PRO~SCRIBE EXPRESS, will come to ose who payr Ap$35 registration fee. 94.4nmmary.
8 FolifurthAr information contact 0




0
RWS & Associates
4 0
0




132 Alpine Terrace
0




San Francisco, California 94117 MAILER UTORONTO 2/07/89
david tomlinsonnmmarMCCARTY%VM.EPAS.UTO 2/06/89ppartii


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