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One of my favorite features of Pro Writing Aid is the document summary, which lets me know overall, how good my grammar, spelling, and style is in that particular piece of writing. It’s a great overhead view of where I can improve.
Then I thought, hmmm… I wonder how the greatest writers perform in this scoring system, after all, writing can be so subjective. I figured I should do a playoff bracket pitting some of the greatest writers and their most recognizable pieces of work against each other.
I picked 16 great writers in the English language and plotted them into a bracket. One paragraph each, they will compete with each other to see which has the best overall score on Pro Writing Aid. The winner will move onto the next round. The loser will be eliminated.
I define a paragraph as a series of connected sentences with a central idea or topic. Therefore, if the first paragraph is of dialogue, for example, and is quite short (three to five words), I can add on until the sequence of ideas are complete. Therefore, a paragraph in this competition can have more than one paragraph breaks in this interpretation.
Take the first part of The Great Gatsby for example:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
This will count as one paragraph, because it’s a complete sequence.
Now let’s get into the competition:
Introducing the contestants!
The 16 Great Writers:
Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and The Sea
JD Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye
F Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
George Orwell – 1984
Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway
Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
Stephen King – The Stand
Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath
JRR Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings
George RR Martin – Game of Thrones
JK Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, Expresso, and After the Deadline
Some may think that using a grammar or spelling app as a writing tool is akin to using auto-tune as a singer. In a way, you’re bypassing important skills and disciplines of writing, such as having a good handle on the tools and structure of the written language.
Yet, in this day and age, to not use any given tool available would be a foolish move. It can be debated that what is important is the ideas being communicated, and if there is a way to ensure the communication doesn’t get disrupted by spelling and grammar mistakes, shouldn’t we take advantage?
Personally, I’m a proponent of spelling and grammar apps.
First off, writing is not editing. The task of an editor is a complete shift in the creation process. In a short timeline, it’s sometimes hard for a writer to make that transition. As a writer, you would want to have another set of eyes — even robot eyes — to have a look at your work before you share with your company. Additionally, writers who don’t use these apps still have access to them. It’s like walking instead of taking the bus. Yes, walking is healthier for you and you might save a few dollars, but the bus is still an option. You are by no means a hero.
With all that off my chest, I would like to share 4 free online spelling and grammar tool with you. And as a bonus, I will give a little review of them, showing off what they are capable of.
A Paragraph with A Lot of Writing Errors
In order for me to evaluate the apps, I needed a sample with as many types of errors I can think of. Inspired by the city I live in, I wrote the most heinous paragraph ever. Which, it may come as a surprise was actually pretty hard to do. Give it a try, try to purposely write a paragraph with some spelling and grammar mistakes.
This is what I came up with:
They’re is a lot to see in Vancouver. Lets explore what there is to do. If your traveling hear on a sunny day, I recommend you go to stanley park. This park is bigger and better. It’s a beautiful place. The sea wall is enjoyed by runners and joggers every day. In the park, you can find a nice field to relax and bring a picnic to have with a friend or you can even go to the aquarium or take the horse-drawn carriage and tour the whole park. There is a much more to do in Vancouver. A historic neighbourhood, you can go to is Gastown. On a busy day there are to many touristbut if you go during off season you don’t have to worry about that people. However don’t wander aimlessly too far east or you might end up in Downtown Eastside. I insure you, that it is not where you want to be.
This is the best (and the worst) I can do apparently. Let me know what you think and if I have missed any other notable errors.
4 Spelling and Grammar Apps
Now that I have a sample, I’m going to start plugging it into the apps and websites to see what results I get.
I pasted the paragraph into the text box and clicked “Check Writing” and a bunch of squiggly lines appeared beneath some of the words and phrases.
As you can see, PolishMyWriting.com missed a lot of spelling errors and the run on sentences, but picked up on complex phrases and words that could be omitted. Sort of…
Overall, this app is good for final touch ups after a more thorough edit. It missed a lot of mistakes and definitely won’t save you from embarrassment if you are relying solely on it to fix your first draft.
The Expresso App is an interesting product because it is not designed to help you correct errors but help you understand certain trends that might be appearing in your writing.
This app has a lot of details and can be a little confusing to use especially if you are not too confident with spelling or grammar in the first place. I recommend clicking into each category individually and understanding why this word or phrase is highlighted. Not every highlight is a suggestion to change, it’s more or less just telling you why it’s noted for you to consider.
Paste some of your writing in and see if you can spot any notable and you get to decide how you want to use that information. Good luck.
There you have it, those are 4 free spelling and grammar apps that can assist you as you write. My personal favourite is Grammarly because they offer a Chrome Plugin. What’s yours?
Are there other apps or tools that you are using? I’d love to check it out. Please share.
What’s to blame: tech-company trickery or poor parenting?
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2015
On October 9, Kanye West took to Twitter to give mobile game developers a little piece of his mind: “That makes no sense!!! We give the iPad to our child and every five minutes there’s a new purchase!!!” He added: “If a game is made for a two-year-old, just allow them to have fun and give the parents a break for Christ sake.” Empathic and on point as West was, he also neglected to mention that the mother of his child has one of the most lucrative mobile games on the market. I’m speaking of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a game where you get to prepare the reality TV star for the red carpet.
It’s hard to sympathize with West, because… well, who gives a shit what he does financially. However, many parents out there are facing the same problem as the multi-millionaire rapper. They give their kids an iPad, as a replacement for a doll, a toy car, or a deck of Yu-gi-oh! cards, and expect them to have fun and be responsible. Now, I don’t know too many two-year-olds that are able to conceptualize virtual money, because many adults still aren’t able to. Check around to see how many of your grown-up friends have credit card debt. It’s unfair to put the onus on children to be responsible while playing, so who should take the blame?
We blame cigarette companies for giving us cancer, we blame fast food companies for making us fat, and of course we should blame mobile game companies for leaking money out of our virtual wallets. Some consider the freemium-style of business brilliant, while others consider it trickery. In terms of games, it begins as a sample, usually free, to get the user hooked, and then they up the price once the player is addicted. While I believe the game companies have done a brilliant job in harnessing this, I don’t believe their intentions were malicious. And, as a businessman, West should know that it’s just supply and demand. If the player wants to skip a level, earn more stock, or gain leverage over an opponent—but they don’t want to put in the time—they can upgrade with a monetary solution.
Surprise, your kids are going to cost you money! Freemium games aren’t the culprit, they are just another avenue for your money to be lost. The same way you don’t give your children your credit card and PIN at the toy store, you shouldn’t give them an iPad with full access until they understand that the reality of their purchases. Educate your children about frivolousness and how each $0.99 click adds up.
You cannot stop businesses from creating products for profit, even if they do target children. Don’t believe me? Look at McDonald’s. You can’t win that way. What you can do is pull the iPad away from your child if he or she abuses it. Be a good parent and teach your children from an early age the value of money, and how it relates to the technology they are using. Organizations aren’t going to educate your children for you… or maybe there is an app for that.
There was once a time when we would roll out of bed and flick on the television and digest the morning news with a fresh cup of coffee.
Now many people admit that they start the day off by reaching for their mobile devices and routinely checking each of their apps and sites for current events, social and business correspondences and progression in their Clash of Clans economy. Mobile devices have changed every little thing we do, but it is still a relatively new technology and businesses are only starting to understand how to harness its full potential.
On Monday July 8, 2013, DigiBC presented MoMoVan, a digital marketing event that addressed businesses’ shift to become mobile first. Whether it is promoting a new product or supplying news, companies recognized that mobile is the media format of the future. But which platform should a company choose is still to be determined, mobile sites versus apps? That was a major question the panel at MoMoVan tried to tackle.
“It depends on what you are trying to accomplish,” said Johann Starke, president of FCV, an interactive and digital marketing agency. “Apps work great, but if you are building an app for a political party with a campaign where the content has to change, it depends on how it is structured. What if there is a problem? What if you need to update it? You are totally at their [App Store approval] mercy. I think the things that have time constraints, you are better off doing a mobile site and use apps for things that are product based.”
“Apps are a bit of a gamble,” Starke added. “You got to be careful that you time it right. I’ve heard horror stories about stuff taking 90 days from the time you send it in for approval and if they reject anything you’ll have to fix it. So it is tricky.”
Apps are a big commitment for companies, but for users they tend to be nothing more than a short-term fling, a impulse download followed by neglect and then deletion. There are only a handful of apps that have sustainable relevance and remain a permanent fixture on my iPhone.
Apps are a premium experience and it comes with a price. A quality app with a poorly planned purpose will result in lost of time and money. “The reality is,” said Sandy Fleischer, Managing Partner at Pound & Grain, “apps are going to break. It depends on the complexity, but ultimately apps are software, while websites can sometimes be brochure-ware. In general, the maintenance requirement for an internal app is going to be more so than on a website.”
Despite all that, new apps are being produced. Apple announced that in June that there are now over 900,000 apps in the App Store. That is a 28% increase from one year ago.
After all, what is the point of spending money and time creating something that will only be lost in the desolate sea of icons?