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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.
Back when I was in film school, I was a big deal. At least, I acted like a big deal. I had all these wonderful ideas for stories, and now and then, my scripts would be picked to move into production.
As a young filmmaker, there was nothing better than seeing your vision come to life… except for the fact that a simple misspelling can often ruin the impact of a line or description and assault your credibility — thus leading to embarrassment — and definitely was a word that I would misspell often.
… and on and on.
Thanks to auto-correct, I never really understood where my error was. I knew there were some ‘i’s and ‘e’s, but I didn’t know where they went… sometimes I even thought there was an ‘a’ in there.
I finally decided to examine why I kept spelling this word wrong. Was it me? Was it the word? Was it a little of both?
Then I tried something, instead of simply writing the word and hoping I would nail it. I decided to stop and say it out loud.
If you speak with any editor, they will tell you that reading out loud is one of the most basic methods of catching errors such as typos and grammar.
That was when I realized, I was jumbling up the syllables at the end of ‘definitely’. By mumbling the end of the word, my brain was not able to comprehend what letters are actually there and in which order.
The word that once confused me, now made sense structurally. There were no silent letters trying to trip me up. Like many words, it was logical. It wasn’t trying to be fancy. Yes, due to its nature, it’s still a tricky word to spell, but it’s much less of an inigma now… sorry enigma.
Sounding out words doesn’t always work when trying to spell, but sometimes it does. As we grow as writers and keep adding vocabulary to our arsenal, we must remember to keep our tools sharpen and not constantly rely on autocorrect to save us, because autocorrect might not always know what we are actually talking about. One of the oldest tools is saying the word out loud. Are you seeing a lot of red lines under a specific word? Pronounce it and see if it helps.
Thanks for reading. I’m documenting my writing journey here and on YouTube. Please join me as we become “legitimate” writers together.