A while back I ran across a free Spelling and Grammar proofreading tool called “After the Deadline.” It looked interesting so I decided to test it for a while to see how it would perform. It actually worked well for certain mistakes that would not normally be caught by the spell checker built-in to most modern browsers. It easily caught such things as doubled words, article mismatch, the mix-up of words like “to and too” or “its and it’s,” as well as a few more subtle errors. I was pleased with its overall performance, but I wondered how it compared to any other free browser based or online proof-reading programs that may be available.
So I went searching and found a few other free tools, then set about devising a way to put them to the test. I decided that the best way to assess how well they worked would be to write a short text with an assortment of errors ranging from the obvious to those which are commonly overlooked. The following text is certainly not a work of genius, but I believe it was sufficient to reveal how well these tools actually work. Why don’t you give the two paragraphs below a look or two and see how many errors you can spot. Feel free to post your findings in the comments below. It will be fun.
If your like me, you may wish at times that their was a free software that could check both your spelling and grammar. I found a online tool the other day, that was advertised as as being able to do exactly that. The developers claim that besides just checking your spelling, it is also able too detect many common mistakes people make when writing. You might find this especially nice when writing four school, at an university, or your personal blog.
The reason I am writing this short passage is because I want to test the abilities of various software to identify common grammatical errors. I hope that this grammar checker is different than some of the others I tested. By now it should have find about 10 mistakes. If it finds less than half of the errors we’ll know it wont effect the quality of our writing much. If in the end none of the errors are detected, you and me will know its not really reliable at all.
Update: The tests below only reflect one run of the test text through each grammar engine. Terry Stefan, the developer of SpellCheckPlus, kindly pointed out that after the first mistakes are corrected, it is often helpful to run your text through a second time. This is because sometimes errors are detected based on the context they appear in. Once the context is correct other errors may be discovered.
After the Deadline: Eight of the errors were found. I would say it found about half of the grammatical errors. It found most of the obvious ones, and one of the more subtle ones. However, it missed a lot of those I would consider quite common such as the mix up of your and you’re, or their and there.
After the Deadline provides an extension for both Firefox and Chrome browsers, and a plug-in for Wordpress sites. It can also be used with other browsers by adding a bookmarklet to your toolbar, or you can use it online at the developer’s site. The plug-in is also available for several other languages.
PaperRater: Eight of the errors were found. The same ones as with After the Deadline. Perhaps it is based on the same underlying technology. This tool, however, also does a plagiarism check, gives word usage statistics, vocabulary and style scores, and a final grade.
PaperRater is only available for use online, and does not provide any browser extensions or plug-ins.
SpellChecker.net: 10 errors were found. This was the first tool I found that detected the mix-up of your and you’re, and their and there. It also noted a few words which are easily confused with other homonyms, it gave the definition of the two words, and asked if the existing word was the one I wanted. A nice feature. The only problem was that they were highlighted with the same color as other grammatical errors. It would better if a different color was used.
Another interesting feature is a separate thesaurus checker. The whole text is scanned for words that have viable synonyms and then those words are highlighted. This allows you to quickly go through and enrich your vocabulary if desired.
SpellChecker.net’s free tool is only available online at their site.
Ginger: 10 errors were found. The results were much the same as with SpellChecker above, but there were none of the extra features I mentioned in that tool. I found it pretty mundane and unexciting. Plus it only allows a very limited number of characters. I had to break the test text into two parts to test it.
Ginger has a downloadable paid product, but the online tool is of course free.
SpellCheckPlus: 12 errors were found. This tool actually was quite impressive. It found all but one of the subtle errors. The one it missed was not found by any of the others either. Strangely it missed one of the more obvious mistakes that most of the others caught. Never-the-less it was the clear winner for detecting grammatical problems. It was also the only tool that made any suggestions on punctuation which I did not include specifically in my tests.
SpellCheckPlus is available as a free online tool, but regrettably it has a 2000 character limit unless you register. They have a couple of apps for the iPhone, and Android, but they must be purchased.