Don’t turn in that paper before proofreading it. Writers who rely on their own proofreading skills to polish their copy might, through the haze of tired eyes, overlook common grammatical mistakes and typos. If you don’t have a second set of eyes, consider partnering with an online grammar-check tool. Professionals and students who need to demonstrate the highest level of grammatical skill will benefit from the spelling, grammar and, sometimes, style recommendations provided by these Web-based tools.
Features of grammar-checking software vary, with the most basic versions looking for misspellings, complex phrases, missing punctuation, passive voice and other common mistakes. Others may offer readability statistics, word-choice suggestions and plagiarism checks as well. Some also offer desktop versions or application plug-ins and toolbars for one-click grammar checking.
How to Use
For most online grammar checks, you copy and paste text into a comments box on the Web page and then click a button to begin the review process. Some allow you to upload a Word or text document or provide a link to website content. The tool scans your copy, underlining potential errors. You review the errors one by one, evaluate suggestions, determine the best repair and make any changes. Some programs offer more options and evaluations of your copy. Follow the software instructions for taking advantage of those features.
Among the free online grammar-check options, a couple stand out. Most online grammar checkers offer basic copy-and-paste functionality with simple explanations and suggestions, but these standouts offer more. SpellCheck24, for example, offers that basic functionality with additional readability and word-density analyses. Readability analysis indicates the difficulty of your copy based on sentence and word lengths. A low score means it’s hard to read, so you may want to tighten up and restructure some of your sentences. The word-density analysis provides a list of the top 10 words used in your copy, which can also help you identify areas needing rewrite.
Next, there’s Paper Rater, wherein you copy and paste more than just the body of your work. The form needs the title, references and some other information about your copy for its analysis. The report you receive includes basic feedback (spelling, punctuation and usage) as well as a “bad phrase” score (lower is better), sentence-length statistics and an automatic grade for certain copy types.
Grammarly, a subscription option, provides additional built-in tools, including a plagiarism checker. The plagiarism and citation tool helps identify “borrowed” text and offers citations so that you can correct your copy. This grammar checker also offers a Microsoft Office plug-in to analyze documents offline. Proofit, a Grammarly affiliate, provides online human proofreading services for a per-document fee.
Grammar-checking software should never be your final proofreader. Although these tools help you identify potential errors, understand that they are not exact. Computer code will never be as effective as a human brain at identifying and correcting grammar. Your knowledge and grammatical skill ultimately determines how much a grammar checker benefits your copy. When you review each error and suggestion, you must have an understanding of proper grammar to make an appropriate correction. Keep in mind, also, that grammar checkers will not catch every error.
Joanna Polisena has been writing professionally since obtaining a high school mentorship at her hometown's city newspaper. Her work has appeared in daily newspapers, an employment agency's monthly newsletter and various corporate multimedia productions. She earned an AA in letters, arts and sciences from Pennsylvania State University.