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Some Free Browser-Based & Online Proofreading Tools

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.

 

Test Results

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.

http://www.afterthedeadline.com/

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.

www.paperrater.com

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.

www.spellchecker.net

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.

www.gingersoftware.com/grammarcheck/

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.

http://spellcheckplus.com/

 

Happy Writing!

Ritho

 

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Comments

by pcm (not verified) on 20. August 2011 - 21:16  (78056)

Thanks for this article. Good practice, great tips and addressing a subject that's often neglected these days.

I like your style, Ritho. Keep it up!

by David Snow (not verified) on 20. August 2011 - 20:13  (78054)

Word 2010 fount 10 of the 12. I am always amazed at the ones that it complains about that are not errors.

by TerryStefan (not verified) on 20. August 2011 - 16:29  (78043)

Thanks for the review. We've made a few tweaks and all the errors are now caught.

Terry
Nadaclair Language Technologies

[Moderator's Note : Non-English links removed. Not allowed]

by Ritho on 21. August 2011 - 0:30  (78061)

Wow Terry, thanks! Glad to see that you are actively working to improve your product. Now if only you had some sort of plugin for browsers like After the Deadline...

Even if it only worked while connected to the internet, it would sure be convenient.

P.S. Don't worry about the links that got removed.

by TerryStefan (not verified) on 20. August 2011 - 17:18  (78048)

I simply put the non-English links since one of the commenters asked about it.

Best,

Terry
SpellCheckPlus.com

by cclout (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 23:50  (77995)

And also, deleting the word "*[also]" makes 25 corrections.

by cclout (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 23:34  (77993)

Two dozen (24) corrections. (Since I find no way to underline, bold, or italicize them, they are indicated with *asterisks, and the [brackets] indicate three deletions.)

"If *you’re like me, you may wish at times that *there was a free software *tool that could check both your spelling and *your grammar. I found *an online tool the other day, *which was advertised as *[as] being able to do exactly that. The developers claim that*, besides just checking your spelling, it is also able *to detect many common mistakes *that people make when writing. You might find this especially nice when writing *for school, at *[an] university, or *on your personal blog.

"The reason I am writing this short passage is *that I want to test the abilities of various software *programs to identify common grammatical errors. I hope that this grammar checker is different *from some of the others I tested. By now it should have *found about *17 mistakes. If it finds less than half of the errors we’ll know it *won’t *affect the quality of our writing much. If in the end none of the errors *is detected, you and *I will know *it’s not really reliable *[at all]."

by cclout (not verified) on 24. August 2011 - 15:17  (78272)

■ The comment, as it states, marked and counted each "correction" that was made to the text, not the number of errors in the sample text.
■ I read the comments by "jeg" and the responses. Long ago I used to teach all that same stuff, and I have learnt more since.
■ "Less than" for "fewer than" is a minor blemish which I would tolerate in a writer though not admire, but it is true that a usage checking program should give the writer the option of changing it.
■ The word "software" can be noun or adjective. In the sample passage, it is used twice as an adjective, resulting in noun phrases that lack the noun ("a software ___", "various software ___"); so some noun must be supplied in each case.
■ The probable intention in "an university" was to test whether the programs knew about exceptions to using "an" before a vowel. However, in the phrase "at a university", the indefinite article "a" is a pointless word, since whatever happens "at university" happens at some university. It is unlikely that any program would catch that.
■ With the mere spelling errors corrected, we are left with the sentence: "You might find this especially nice when writing for school, at a university, or your personal blog." Stylistically that is horrible, but why? The answer is that it does involve an error of grammar. It is a form of syllepsis, in which the word "writing" is applied in two different and incompatible ways. The verb (present participle, subject "you are" implied) "writing" can be intransitive or transitive. In "for school", and "at (a) university" it is intransitive, so in the next phrase the occurrence of "blog" as a direct object is a grammatical error. To make the word "writing" intransitive in all three phrases, a third preposition must be inserted in the third phrase. The parallel phrases then become "for ___", "at ___", "on/in/* ___", and they are all adverbial phrases.

by Ritho on 24. August 2011 - 16:53  (78285)

Quote: It is unlikely that any program would catch that.

Actually I think all or most of them did catch it.

by Ritho on 20. August 2011 - 6:19  (78008)

You did quite well in finding the errors I purposely made. However, you missed one. "If it finds less than half of the errors..." should really be, "If it finds fewer than half the errors..."

I believe the rule is, "Use 'less' with uncountable nouns, and use 'fewer; with countable nouns." e.g. I counted fewer mistakes than you. vs. I used less correction tape than you did.

I have to say, I think some of your corrections are more stylistic than they are grammatical. Also you can't count a number (i.e., 17) as a grammar error. If anything, it would be a mathematical error.

by jeg (not verified) on 20. August 2011 - 1:31  (77999)

@cclout -- I think you should go back to school because you added a lot of unnecesary words, and missed real mistakes while correcting ones that weren't. i.e. the word are is correctly used in the phrase "none of the errors are detected". also remember that in the United States people use the word me instead of I, as in the phrase "you and me" not making it grammatically correct but accepted by Websters dictionaries. We're not in England. So, now you might want to check the mistakes I deliverately made on this text. By the way, I'm an English teacher speciallized in Hisory of the Enlish Language and Grammar Development.

by Ritho on 20. August 2011 - 6:01  (78007)

Some grammarists argue that "none" is really a contraction of "not one", so "not one of the errors is detected" would be the correct rendering in that case. I believe SpellCheckPlus was the only tool that picked up on this subtle variation. Even then it states that both are common, but formal English prefers a singular verb to be use with none.

(For those who might be quick to point it out, yes, I know that 'grammarist' is not a widely accepted word. I use words how I want, then pay them more later.) :p

by jeg (not verified) on 22. August 2011 - 1:56  (78122)

In this sentence none of the errors applies to a plural rule, more than one of the errors should have been found, so are is correctly used.

by Jojo Yee on 20. August 2011 - 2:15  (78000)

(A) "You and I will know it." OR
(B) "You and me will know it."

Personally I regard both (A) and (B) as acceptable depending on whether the writer applies Prescriptive Grammar or Descriptive Grammar.

See also: Objective Pronoun - Examples of Usage.

by Ritho on 20. August 2011 - 5:40  (78005)

I believe the standard rule is that you should be able to drop one of the pronouns and still have the sentence make sense or sound correct.

You will know it. = Is fine.
Me will know it. = Is incorrect.
I will know it. = Is fine.

"You and I" then is the correct grammatical structure.

by jeg (not verified) on 22. August 2011 - 1:45  (78120)

No doubt that is the correct usage of pronouns, as I stated, but tell that to americans which more than frecuently use English that way, i.e. Someone came yesterday. Yes it was me. instead of it was I (who came yesterday) or I want a beer. Me too, me too! Instead of so do I. You and me should work hard on this project (instead of you and I). Remember languages are alive and in constant evolution.

by beergas (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 18:29  (77973)

Thanks. Won't do any online registrations.
Best one I've used for longest time is ieSpell.

It can also spellcheck within online message boards.
Small clean fast. Can work with its free word storage system too. For critical work run results thru Word tho that one can be overly picky.

by Ritho on 20. August 2011 - 6:39  (78011)

It does not appear to have any grammar checking ability. There are tons of spellcheckers that work well, but few grammar checkers.

by Roberto (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 18:26  (77972)

spellchecker.net
does nothing with the text pasted online

receive error message:
"template not found"

have tweaked ad blocker and flash to no avail on chrome

by torres-no-tan-m... on 19. August 2011 - 18:03  (77968)

@Ritho,

Many thanks for the very useful tools. I tried to install After the Deadline in FF, but got a message stating that FF could not modify the needed file. ;-(

by Ritho on 20. August 2011 - 6:43  (78012)

Sorry you had trouble. It works fine on FF for me.

by DeniseH (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 17:47  (77966)

Thanks for tip. I installed After The Deadline plug in my Wordpress blog. That's exactly the tool I need. My writing skills are terrible.

by Jojo Yee on 19. August 2011 - 14:21  (77954)

Good find Ritho. SpellCheckPlus has now entered into this mega list: Best Free Online Applications and Services.

by Chuck Davey (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 13:54  (77951)

I caught a total of 16.

by Ritho on 19. August 2011 - 15:36  (77959)

You're hired! ;)

by Josh Kemp (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 13:24  (77949)

The first 3 comments have spelling and /or grammar problems. Are you guys doing this on purpose? :P

Thank you Ritho! I had no idea this kind of tool exists. I've always thought about trying to develop my own, but the task seems too daunting! I'm impressed to see that some developers have decided to tackle this project.

Also, kudos on the sample text. I couldn't have come up with a better example of spelling and grammar problems if I tried. Now we just need a way to force people to use these tools to make the internet much easier to read for us left-brain people!

by vaibhav (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 12:50  (77948)

Is there any tool which recommends that an article (a,an,the) is missing before the word? None of the tool which I have tried till now seem to do this.

by Shri (not verified) on 19. August 2011 - 12:46  (77947)

Any of them support multi-language? (Like google spell check in gmail)

by Ritho on 19. August 2011 - 13:45  (77950)

Do you mean more than one language simultaneously? I am not sure about that. But some do have other language support. Just see their websites.

by supanut on 19. August 2011 - 4:31  (77926)

Why is After the Deadline keeps resetting its preferences in Firefox?
Edit: The preferences seem to be saving now.