By: Orpheus Technology
Trying to write something for your school homework, a new book, or just doing your content writing job, many of us have faced one of the biggest horrors in writings. This horror is none other than Grammar itself.
Be it any job or our daily lives, English grammar has been very important. It is a vital part of language learning and discipline. When using any modern writing, we have come across many products or application, offering us grammar and spell checks.
Most of the famous writing apps like MS word, Apache OpenOffice, etc., offer us inbuilt grammar checks and spelling checks. But we cannot and will not always be writing on this software.
We need an application that not only aids us in offline grammar checks, but also over online platform and over mobile devices too.
Fear not! we have a product to check all the writing errors called ProWritingAid. Operated by Orpheus Technology Ltd, this software came into existence at Oxfordshire, UK, in the year 2012.
The application is available across various platforms and in known to utilize NLP to aid in grammar, writing, spelling checks, and similar form of documentation work. This is amongst top products to check for any writing errors quickly.
Following this review, we will check the accuracy, features, add-ons, and every other feature it supports and then see if this British born grammar tool maintains the integrity in its mother language.
To begin with, users can check out free trial version of the service. They can start with web interface first and start learning the software.
We already had a premium version subscription to begin with. The web interface will look like a normal text editor. There are text fields where users need to input words to be checked and see if the tool is working.
The tool provides several services apart from grammar checks only like the plagiarism check, thesaurus, structures, etc. We will check these features one by one and let you know if this product is good or not.
The versions on desktop office products and google docs are same, except that it is in form of extension in both of them. There is a separate setup for both of them. Even the desktop version has separate plugin setup for MS Word.
There will be different codes for different errors which users need to keep in check. After this, all they need to do is let the document get scanned and then hover the mouse over the errors and correct them.
Let us now check out the features offered by ProWritingAid, to help us improve the quality of our writing.
Going for big features of this software, most grammar check software have separate features, out of which some are used for dedicated editing while some for extra activities. Most prominent features are grammar check, spell checks, sentence structures, readability, etc.
These are the crucial features of ProWritingAid, without which its entire meaning will get lost. Out of these, writing errors check and correction tools are to be most sought after. Both these functions are a huge priority to be assessed on.
As we all know, our first priority to get a properly written document is checking its grammar. Doesn’t matter if it’s a university billboard or science paper, we should always try to have proper grammar in our writings.
For testing purpose, we took out several writing texts from Internet and used them to verify grammar capabilities of ProWritingAid. The grammar check gave us mediocre results.
We did not hope for full accuracy, but many suggestions were straightforward bad. Grammarly has given some better results with sentences we tried to correct. In some instances, it had some confusion judging apostrophe S and the plural S.
There were less suggestions for commas and use of articles which are more prominent in Grammarly. The grammar mistakes are shown by blue colored underlines. Users just need to hover on those texts and click the corrected format.
We noticed that it worked well for tenses in the paragraph. This is also a very critical part to verify grammar in the article.
This grammar check is given for number of platforms and has exactly same UI over all these platforms. This helps to not confuse users with tons of different UI.
Another issue was once again with symbolism. The rectifier did suggest us to remove extra quotations i.e. without pairs. However, there were some sentences with genuine quotation needs and it should’ve rather suggested to add them in the sentence.
Overall, we were not satisfied with the grammar check function and it certainly needed more learning in guiding through the symbolism in the grammar. We would certainly give Grammarly an upper edge over ProWritingAid.
Another important error checks in the writing is Style Corrections. Generally speaking, style checks involve improving readability, proper verb usage, looking for long subordinates, repeated words and sentences, etc.
Using it to evaluate our sample article, we found that it worked better than the grammar check. Suggestions about usage of triggering words like really, certainly, kind of and other such uncertainty words were given.
It also found out active passive issues with the sentence. However, it did not offer a full suggestion to correct the mistakes related to passive voice of sentences.
These errors were highlighted using purple underline. One of the most frequent suggestions that we get is minimizing usage of adverbs in our writing.
Contrary to this, Grammarly is known to suggest specifically of the article “The” quite frequently in its checking. It would have been good if they recommended more detailed info about these suggestions in the application itself.
Overall, this section by ProWritingAid passed aptly and the suggestions came very neat.
Now, while writing or reading, we often come across repetitive and overused words. These words decrease readability of document and give unnecessary stress to readers.
Words such as the, was/were, has/have been, a, must, only, this, these, etc. are most frequently used words, in general talks. However, when these habits take a toll, people may begin repeating them in whatever they write and can make the content annoying.
This can create some redundancy in article and to help reduce it, ProWritingAid has overuse detect function. In our sample article of more than 3000 words, it successfully found some of above repeated words.
The suggestion they gave was to reduce usage of some article and adverbs to 6-7% of word count. There was other tab too for generic words like watch, see, find, tell, ask, very, etc. and they too were detected by this function, which were bit overused too.
One thing we encountered is that suggestions lacked giving synonyms to us while checking for overused words, which top products like Grammarly provide.
Surprisingly, it also reported the -ing endings too. This error was not suggested even in Grammarly. Technically not a full-fledged error, -ing use can be annoying if it repeats too much in the sentence. It is a sign of very amateurish speaking/writing, often used by non-native speakers in their early learning stage.
The next section was like above function. This function is called as the Sticky Sentences.
Well! What exactly are these sticky sentences and why do I need to reduce them? Sticky sentences are words made using the Glue words.
Wait, wait! another term Glue words, sigh! In simple terms, glue words are simple words, articles, verbs, nouns, etc., which are mostly grammatically correct but function as a barrier in readability. The most common glue words include articles like- in, on, the, to; verbs like - be, was, said, will, should, etc.
There are around 200+ glue words that are most commonly and repetitively used in a sentence. Reducing these words not only increases readability but also lowers overall wordcount, making your writing much compact and precise.
We really liked this unique feature. However, other software have like Grammarly have incorporated them in repetitive section itself. The glue word dictionary is made by ProWritingAid themselves and so we must acknowledge their efforts.
In our model article, it gave us numerous glue words and some of them were word pairs like – we will be, there is a, this error is, etc. All in all, it did a decent job with this feature too.
It will be good exercise and learning for all the users if they can provide us with some list of all such words, and their suggested refinements.
What horrifies most readers than a bad grammar is an absolute vile readability. A sentence with minor errors is still tolerable but usage of complex words and confusing statements can make readers just close it up.
This is especially useful for hardcore writers and media personals. Too much high-level English in both these fields can just rip off your audiences. So, how does the readability work in ProWritingAid?
It is really strain free than you might think. ProWritingAid relies on some common factors like sentence length, word density, word awareness, etc. and uses them to categorize sentences into three type viz. easy, slightly difficult, and hard to read.
There are some more interesting items in this section to determine the readability of texts. ProWritingAid uses a complex calculation based on Flesch readability test using the length of words, sentences, and average words in a sentence.
This helps to determine the correct score of readability. However, more complex words can be added in sentences with less words and so, they should use inbuilt dictionary to look for complex words and suggest using simpler terms.
ProWritingAid also displays estimated read time of document. This allows you to get a rough assessment of work. They also use a jargon test to find reading difficulty.
Now onto the Clichés. What exactly is this thing? Well, in our daily lives we come across words or ideas that are repeated too often. Such words lose their meaning overtime. One example of cliché in modern word is Literally.
“This word is literally used too often that it literally loses its meaning, you know people literally can’t get rid of it from their tongue.” In this sentence, you can see how the word lost its meaning.
To detect such cliché, ProWritingAid has its own dictionary using which it finds such words, similes, idioms, etc. and suggests replacing them. If you follow link in readers section of this feature, you can see a list of all such words in dictionary of ProWritingAid.
Overall, both these features worked fine, and any further improvements are always welcomed. The database contains proper words under blacklist to improve readability and avoid clichés.
This is another error category by ProWritingAid. Dictions is used to determine the redundancy in document. Sometimes, just to show off or convey some superiority, writers tend to use long wordy sentences.
For e.g., “The boy has the ability to surpass.” This sentence can be rewritten as “The boy can surpass.” Such words in writing not only increase word count but also confuse readers very often.
The diction report also aids in finding vague words. These words just add more to uncertainty in sentences. Examples for such vague words are slowly, likely, just, really, etc.
To check for these words, users need to click Diction tab on top of word check menu. It will display a list of words that belong to vague, abstract, and diction category. Only suggestion here is either to replace or remove those words.
The next section we check for is Echoes Tab. It is similar to repeat check. It will point out words that are too often used by the writers in same sentence.
Sometimes as writers, we may not see some repetitive content, owing to our sub-conscious habits. Even in cases of re-reading our work, we may leave these items because they sound normal to us. This can mostly be pointed out by third party since they are not accustomed to such repetition.
The Echoes check displays such words in proximity. You will get suggestion of synonyms if possible. Otherwise, if this feature is not working properly, manual checking with a fresh slate of mind or having someone else proofread it can also solve issue.
Both these features may sound similar but are quite different from each other. Using them can certainly help writers to get rid of such repetition and work towards getting new vocabulary and ditching old sub conscious words.
As the name here suggests, and as part of our consistent habits, we often reiterate certain words, sentences, phrases, etc. This section is confusing for many folks as we have dealt with repeated items before too.
So, the question that arises is how this item is different from other sections? In our testing, we found that this feature was redundant and could have been included somewhere else.
The words shown by this report is same repeat function that you can find in other grammar checkers like Grammarly, etc. Any words repeated more than twice were registered in this report.
This was overly critical in our view as these iterations are not even 2 or 3% of total article. This is what makes this feature mediocre. This feature does not differentiate between the repeat words type as above discussed features, and just reports them regardless.
Jumping on next table, let us see what features are present in Consistency Tab. As the name suggests, this feature is used to check consistency of your article.
How does this feature check consistency and how it defines such inconsistency? In general life, while reading something, we come across multiple spellings of a single word with same meaning.
The consistency check in ProWritingAid is done via three steps methods. The first step begins with the spelling check. You may be living in Washington and yet you may write half a book using word Color and other half using Colour.
This may create an unprofessional writing and so we need to use single language spellings across entire writeup. With over 2000 spelling difference across English from regions like USA, UK, India, Australia, and Canada, it can be very hectic to find all of them; especially when in this internet age, the exposure to these changes is very penetrating.
The second type of inconsistency that ProWritingAid helps to reduce is Hyphenation type. As we all know, sometimes while writing, we miss hyphens many times or overuse them or we are very inconsistent with words which use them.
As per their data, over 55% of documents have some hyphenation inconsistency. This is rectified using their scan and it will show the errors to be repaired.
The third most common inconsistency is capitalization issue. Now, many people not knowing about them can spell it inconsistently and it may look bad e.g. android at some places and Android at other, with both conveying same meaning.
Users can add capitalization not known by inbuilt dictionary and in this way optimize final report. There are some more inconsistency checks given by ProWritingAid.
One of them is quotation mark inconsistency. This is very usual form of checking that even 5th grader can find out. In some cases, quotation mark is used behind punctuations and some cases before it.
One more function carries a check for ellipsis. This allows writers to convey some meaning directly to readers’ minds. Many of have seen the usage of ellipses very often in modern writings especially comics and other such books.
The feature also returns results after checking En-dash and Em-dashes. Both these hyphen types are rarely used but they may confuse writers and they are not even provided on keyboards.
One more interesting check is serial comma. Well, we all are familiar with normal style comma but what is serial comma? Used mostly in American English, this type of comma has bit different considerations than normal usage of comma.
Widely used just before coordinating conjunctions( and, or, but, etc.), it can be sometimes confusing with regards to normal comma rules. However, it is not for us to debate whether this is correct or not. Typically preferred in academics, ProWritingAid helps users to input this comma wherever required.
Compared to other products like Grammarly who advice serial comma all the time, ProWritingAid doesn’t offer different approach to filter document type to be used on. Journalism and other such fields avoid such commas to save space.
All in all, this is not a serious mistake for immediate precaution. It is like spelling differences across nations and only thing we need to keep in mind is having consistency in their usage.
Overall, consistency feature is indeed equipped with some decent rules and may point out some of the most unconventional mistakes which we often let go.
Let us check for some more errors we commonly find in poems and idioms. As we know that songs, poems, idioms, and other short sentences and stanzas use a melodic tone.
Due to this, we may repeat some terms too often, which may annoy some readers.
The first check we do is for homonyms. Not quite poetic, but we have often seen many writers use it often and this may create a sort of weird impression in minds of readers.
Homonyms are words that are spelled same but have different meanings. Best examples are live- I live in this house, or I attended a live concert; Watch- watch over kids, or what time that watch shows, and similar such words throughout English language.
At times, it can be confusing even for proficient experts in this language to correct sentences using them. And so ProWritingAid is equipped with a homonym checking tool.
This tool doesn’t correct mistakes but only points out list of all the homonyms used in writing. Sometimes, this tool will not return proper results. The correct answers will be displayed when you hover onto underlined words.
The tool works together for homonyms, homophones, and homographs. The final result is mainly up to writers, since sentence structure is very critical in conveying meaning to these types of words.
So, the main work of ProWritingAid was to point out these homonyms and similar words, which it did correctly.
Like above, we have seen alliteration many times in our lives, especially if we are an avid reader. From nursery rhymes to patriotic poems, we could remember things better if we just learn them in form of a rhythm or music.
So, is using alliteration an error? No, it isn’t. ProWritingAid tool is used to scan for number of instances of alliteration in your document.
It is very useful in case you are writing a song, poem, or something similar. This tool will help you find total alliteration words used and then you can either increase or decrease them accordingly.
Contrary to the results returned by scanning tool, alliteration is something that can be added only by conscious imagination. Both alliterations and homonyms can be combined to form something amazing, and so once again, users need to reevaluate their work repeatably to get good combos.
Sentence is what we are using to make a book, document or even review this application. It is a combination of nouns, verbs, etc. to make something meaningful and we call it as a sentence.
So, what this tool does in ProWritingAid? The naming may confuse some readers but don’t worry, we are going to explain you the usage of this feature in ProWritingAid.
Well, ProWritingAid scans the sentence length for several reasons. The main aim is to promote a diverse writing. This can be done by promoting different sentence length.
Having distinct sentence length, and then different paragraph length for each page of your book may give a better readability. Starting with long paragraphs and sentences, using mid ways for medium one then again mix them. This randomness of word length is what makes reading unique.
The users can check certain items in sentence check like number of words, characters, etc. using this tool. The tool recommends average sentence length to 11 to 18.
Another thing it checks for is sentence variety. This is done by using standard deviation for average sentences. It will show average of sentence length between certain ranges.
In our tests, there were no long sentences found and it was suggested to have some. Overall, it is a minor perk that you can add in your writing to give some variety while reading.
Next part after sentence check is Structure Check. Structure of a sentence is important to give variety to your content.
When you use different styles in structure like questions, exclamations, surprises, excitement, etc., it keeps readers engaged. Repetitive structure like plain sentences, no humor, only assertions, etc. can make a content very boring to read.
So, how does ProWritingAid helps to improve structure of sentences? The answer is that they only advice on usage of structures like use of adverbs, gerunds, infinitives, coordinating conjunctions, participles, etc. There are no corrections suggested by ProWritingAid, but these pointers can help writers to evaluate their work.
All in all, this feature is useful only after traditional grammatical and spelling error are rectified. It is more of a philosophical approach to your writing than technical.
ProWritingAid also has a thesaurus inbuilt in its program. This thesaurus suggests for possible replacement of words. Users can replace them if they want to or just ignore it.
There is also an Acronym check given by them. It will list all possible acronyms in your writing. This can be helpful to cross check if you misused any capitalization and tell that correct acronym has been used.
Dialogue check finds list of all sentences with a dialogue tag. Most editors lack such a feature, and this adds as an advantage to ProWritingAid. You can find out such tags a lot in stories and conversations. This can also help writers filter dialogues and then rectify them.
There is also a pacing check to find pacing sentences. Sometimes, you rush through story or go on very slow pace, which can be showed using this feature. It helps to spread out speed of your content giving more varied reading experience.
The pronouns check allows writers to keep pronoun usage in check. Idle figure is around 5-15% pronouns in your content, especially ones that are used at start of a sentence. Too much usage can leave your writing dull.
There is a transition check that encourages use of words like nevertheless, similarly, as a result, likewise, etc. This helps to give assertive sentences and convey deeper ideas.
The House Style report allows writers to enter their own checklist and create their own dictionary or methods to check their work. It is a very useful part of customization in ProWritingAid. You can include custom acronyms, adverbs, numbers, user patterns, wildcards, etc.
Then there is a plagiarism check. As we all know, plagiarism is very bad practice and can easily strip away integrity of the organization. There are known and unknown plagiarism, like some people just copy and paste stuff from others while some is due to frequently repeated words.
Lastly, what to do if you have no time to go through each and every report we mentioned above? Well, in that case all you can do is to head on to the combo report. This helps to generate a brief report of the errors in your writing and can save a lot of time for busy writers.
We now end with conclusion to all error checking features of ProWritingAid. They have gone towards great length to devise different categories and methods to check for technical as well as non-technical errors. Unlike Grammarly, which provides support for only technical errors, ProWritingAid has done a clever work in including few aesthetic suggestions in writing.
This is one of the most important feature and necessity for any grammar checking tool. Accuracy here represents finding errors in writing and giving closest possible solution. 100% accuracy is not possible to be implemented by AI.
The accuracy we found in ProWritingAid was decent. Unlike its counterparts Grammarly, Ginger Soft, etc., it still needs to work more on better suggestions and accuracy.
The grammar suggestions were weaker than other top products, and so they should focus on this part first. All in all, this is something that cannot be judged normally like other features. It is supposed to be ever evolving and we hope ProWritingAid constantly updates it.
Talk about user interface, ProWritingAid comes in three major forms to be used. They have given a desktop version, online version as well as integration for various apps.
The online and desktop version are very similar. Both have similar menus, similar options and settings. Users can click on any tab they want ProWritingAid to scan for and it will display errors in form of colored underline.
The users need to hover on to these underlined texts and see the suggestions. They can either disable that rule, ignore error, or add it to dictionary.
One of the pains in using UI was that users were not redirected to the errors directly when they click on them in left-sided error reporting bar. You need to click on go-to button. This made the checking process unnecessarily lengthy.
One more issue we thought should be rectified is lack of adopting format and styling. Also, export function only supports RTF files. Support for word files, normal text files and pdf must also be present.
The keyboard functions like save was not given in web interface. Users need to manually use save button from top navigation bar.
The users can have some customization using top navigation bar. They can sort content to checked for writing styles like academics, business, creative, etc. They can also change the language used like UK English, US English, etc.
Same options and customizations are given in MS Word add-on. Similar integration is given for Google Sheets. They have given a Grammar checker API and its component too. Sadly, there is no app for MacOS and Android, which we hope they’ll release soon.
Overall, UI was stress free and small additional changes can make it much better. We did not encounter any issue using UI. Although, the error solution and suggestions can be updated as we have discussed them above.
As we walked through entire library and correction features of ProWritingAid, we would say that it is a decent product for mid-range writers.
Other than the grammar correction, there is also a report generation given by them to see different statistics related to your content. It will not only give you various statistics but also an overall score based on flesch ratings.
The extra support for other features is overwhelming and also the plans are bit satisfactory. We would still like them to improve with better grammar checks. Other than that, it is a useful product for mid-level writers, be it for science fiction or literature.