Did globalism and internationalism make writing more homogenized? With faculty exchange programs and international publishing to consider, it is now standard practice to stick with convention in terms of grammar and diction – instead of allowing your personality to come out in more tonal elements of writing, such as flow or presentation. Fact is, grammar and punctuation checking software now leverage tech in a way the Bard or your English prof from the 20th century would’ve poopooed.
Web hosting is no longer localized by country (think Lycos or Angelfire), and content creators stick to inclusive styles of writing to maximize their reach on international platforms like WordPress and Drupal. In any case, being understandable to as many people as possible is now every bit as important as being grammatically sound.
We take an in-depth look at why you need proofing tools and the most popular tools for going beyond simple spelling and grammar checkers.
First up, an overview from our research:
The Necessity of Punctuation & Grammar Software: Fact, or Writers’ Superstition?
A human proofreader would obviously be better than an algorithmic one, for their ability to identify things like terminology, bias or cohesion in flow of ideas. However, in the absence of professional advice, there is plenty of good that proofreading software can do. This is particularly true for current-generation software, which can identify substandard structure and word choice. Listed below are other important benefits to using proofreading tools, in no particular order.
- Punctuation people can get fairly opinionated on the subject of punctuation, particularly in use cases that can be influenced by regional factors or academic writing. Most modern proofreading software is cloud-synced and updated in real-time, giving you a reliable point of reference attuned to the international mainstream.
- AI, Learning and Personalization over time, most current-gen proofreading software adapts to individual peculiarities in writing. This means suggestions become increasingly tailored to any prospective writers’ style, giving them the opportunity to adhere to conventional writing as much as possible. At the same time, most programs have the ability to learn new words, phrases and even acronyms. This feature is especially useful for writers who write using specific trade, occupational or industry-related terminologies.
- Cost-effectiveness and Practicality the potential improvement in personal writing styles from using grammar software scale better the longer they’re used. This is because prolonged usage accrues personalization, as well as writer-specific data relayed to and from the community cloud. The same amount of time spent paying a professional proofreader is usually much more expensive and inflexible to an on-the-go lifestyle, as with screenwriters or journalists.
The Pros, the Cons and the Comparisons: 2018’s Top Grammar and Proofreading Tools by Usage
Without further ado, here’s our list of the top free and paid proofing solutions used by writers around the world. It’s important to note that the purpose of our list is to discuss the variety of features available in software (listed in order of popularity), rather than ranking and scoring them against each other.
Grammarly has well over ten million daily users globally, and is the most popular proofreading software in the current market. Grammarly is available in every way imaginable – online, via desktop applications for Windows and OSX, apps for mobile and even as add-ons for major web browsers. This allows users to edit their writing on a variety of websites and operating systems. Grammarly features an extremely intuitive interface, and corrects anything from typos and punctuation to fragmentation and run-ons. It also provides suggestions for structure, word choice and even genre-specific writing styles.
With such impressive availability and a straightforward user interface, it’s easy to see why Grammarly has amassed such a large number of users. From its launch in 2009, Grammarly has diligently worked to increase their accuracy and available features. The developers often tout their software as the world’s “most accurate,” and these days they aren’t getting much of a challenge to their claim.
Grammarly offers an impressive amount of functionality in its free service, with various advanced features in premium plans costing a monthly charge of $29.95/mo, a quarterly rate of $19.98/mo and a yearly rate at $11.66/mo. Advanced features include a plagiarism checker referencing billions of webpages, vocabulary suggestions and even advice on contexture in writing.
Hemingway is a niche product, and a favorite for countless writers around the world. Hemingway is unique in that it doesn’t focus on grammar and spelling as much as it seeks to strengthen your overall writing style. Instead of providing specific suggestions, Hemingway points out problem areas throughout your writing to help eliminate bad habits. The software is particularly good at identifying wordiness, the use of too many adverbs, subpar sentence structure and the dreaded “passive voice.” With consistent usage and learning, Hemingway aims to imbue your work with the strength and verve found in the writing of its namesake.
What is “passive voice?”
Passive voice is a grammatical term used to describe an instance when an object is acted upon by a subject, rather than the other way around (called “active voice”). An example of this would be the sentence The bank was robbed by Jeb instead of Jeb robbed the bank. The active voice is favored in the professional world, as overuse of passive voice can make any writer’s work come off as belabored or pedantic.
Instead of making itself available across various operating systems via apps and browser add-ons, Hemingway achieves the same effect with one-stop simplicity. Regardless of browser, platform or operating system, users can paste their work into Hemingway’s online editor. The editor features a remarkably intuitive interface, and can be used without any software installation or signup process whatsoever.
The best part about Hemingway is that it’s free to use. However, the online editor can get complicated in longer use cases, such as with book writing. For this purpose, Hemingway does have desktop apps for Windows and OSX – available for a one-time payment of $19.99. The desktop app provides many bonus features on top of everything Hemingway does for free, such as export to Word, PDF, HTML or markdown and direct publishing to WordPress.
ProWritingAid works like a powerful hybrid of Grammarly and Hemingway geared towards longer pieces of writing such as books, novels and academic papers. ProWritingAid offers spelling, punctuation and grammar checks, as well as in-depth analysis of deeper problems like verbosity and lack of variety in sentence length. And when we say “in-depth,” we aren’t kidding! ProWritingAid uses highlights, a categorized score system and even charts to let you know where the weak spots are in your writing style. It even tracks how frequently you use specific words and phrases. By using the software on large projects, even seasoned writers can glean valuable information on where – and how often – they slip into their individual bad habits.
As of this writing, the free version of ProWritingAid is only available via a Chrome extension and an add-on for Google Docs. This could be a problem for casual writers who use other popular browsers like Firefox or Safari. On the other hand, serious writers working on expansive projects (such as a research paper or dissertation) can use ProWritingAid regardless of their preferred browser by paying for premium features. These include desktop apps for Windows and OSX which are capable of working without an internet connection. ProWritingAid Premium is available at a yearly rate if $50, a rate of $75 every two years, $100 every three years or a lifetime payment of $175.
Comparing the Three while each of the above proofreading tools appeal to their users for different reasons, we feel this list just wouldn’t be complete without a quick comparison between software in terms of integration and features offered.
Grammarly vs. Hemingway both Grammarly and Hemingway offer universal availability of their free features, albeit with different approaches. Both are incredibly simple to use, with intuitive and minimalistic interfaces. The two differ mostly on their respective points of focus: Grammarly identifies mistakes and makes suggestions, while Hemingway helps you become a stronger writer over the long term by highlighting bad habits. Of the two, Grammarly is better suited for casual usage, as with blog and Facebook posts. Hemingway is better for more compelling and involved projects like novels and screenplays. Hemmingway is a bit more for the hard-core writer vs. the rest of us.
Grammarly vs. ProWritingAid while Grammarly enjoys rave reviews for its intuitive interface, ProWritingAid has a layout that can be overwhelming for some users. This is due to the sheer number of stats the latter is able to track. For simple tasks like writing blog posts or cultivating your social media presence, ProWritingAid is considered overkill.
Another important note to consider is that Grammarly shines in terms of availability across a variety of platforms and operating systems, but is sorely lacking a Google Docs add-on. Conversely, ProWritingAid is only available via Chrome extension, but does provide Google Docs support. Because of the current popularity of office collaboration software, this distinction can be a deal breaker (or maker) depending on what prospective users do for a living.
Hemingway vs ProWritingAid both Hemingway and ProWritingAid offer lifetime payment options, albeit at radically different prices. Both proofreading tools are also suited for longer writing projects. While ProWritingAid’s one-time payment is about nine times the cost of Hemingway’s, most users of the former will tell you the price is justified. ProWritingAid attempts to improve your overall writing style over the long term while simultaneously providing corrections, suggestions and in-depth tracking for typos and structural issues. While many prefer simple, minimalist UIs like the one offered with Hemingway, there are plenty of detail-oriented writers who prefer comprehensive analysis at their fingertips.
Special Mentions there are proofreading tools worth mentioning on this list simply because of their ubiquitous usage in our daily lives. While they’re largely taken for granted, their incorporation into operating systems and the worldwide web has improved the productivity of countless employees and home users around the world – and done so long before the release of modern proofreaders.
Microsoft Spellcheck Windows users have been using Microsoft’s office suite for decades. Whether they type on Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook, writers have always been able to rely on Microsoft’s spelling and grammar checker to mark (and in some cases autocorrect) errors in spelling, hyphenation, capitalization and punctuation. The best part? It can do so in multiple languages, depending on the localization set during your installation of Windows.
Google Spellcheck this feature is not as recent as you might think. For as long as people have been corresponding via Gmail (the first beta was launched in 2004), Google’s proofing engine has helped to keep typos and poor grammar out of emails to employers, colleagues and loved ones. The Google proofing engine is currently active in the background anytime you work on a project via the Google Docs suite, and Android users enjoy its reliability throughout their usage of the mobile operating system.
Proofreading Software is for Everyone
Whether you are a K-12 student, an undergrad or a professional, proofreading software gives you an edge. Putting in the time to tighten up your writing (as well as going the extra mile to analyze and eliminate bad habits) could be the steps to finally getting published, securing that book deal or standing out from your peers. With the added incentive of free-use options, there’s very little reason not to try the best products in the modern proofreading software market.