Finding a worthwhile online grammar checker for an academic writer is a trickier task than one may think. It is not so much a matter of finding the best one out of a number of worthy competitors as of separating wheat from chaff – i.e., one or two checkers that actually do something from a multitude of those that don’t work at all, those that work but don’t check grammar opting for sentence length instead, and those that don’t work and try to sell you something to boot.
Based on the previous battles of free online grammar checkers in autumn and in December, we’ve got 4 semi-finalists – and today we will try out two of them - Ginger Software and Virtual Writing Tutor. For that purpose we’ve written a text containing some very standard grammar mistakes: in article usage, personal pronouns, Present Simple tense and basic sentence structure (all studied in 1st grade), relative pronouns and quantifiers (3rd grade and high school material respectively). A couple of simple spelling errors were thrown in for good measure, although it is not our primary consideration.
Previously, Ginger proved to be an almost perfect grammar checker. Oddly, in the current ‘test drive’ its performance was less impressive. It did well in correcting all the spelling mistakes; while as far as grammar goes, Ginger demonstrated a 50/50 ratio of detected and missed errors, although the cases are definitely not all that complicated (an article, a pronoun and auxiliary verb use):
However, the correction suggestions for each detected mistake are right to the point and explicit:
As for additional options, Ginger didn’t fail to provide synonyms for this or that word; yet unexpectedly it got stuck with sentence rephrasing (sample text sentences are not improperly structured as such, but some of them are somehow awkward or wordy, and could certainly benefit from rephrasing).
On the whole, Ginger still did quite a good job of correcting both grammar and spelling mistakes, but its performance this time is not exactly shiny. On the scale of 0 to 10, it scores 7 (6 for error correction and +1 point for additional functions).
Last time VirtualWritingTutor showed rather impressive results, noticing most (although not all) mistakes in our test text and suggesting proper corrections. This time, however, the result was surprisingly disappointing. VirtualWritingTutor had no problems in pinpointing spelling errors:
As for the actual grammar, it seems that mistakes in our test text have turned out to be too subtle – all of them went unnoticed:
Additional checks showed that VirtualWritingTutor covers a rather limited set of mistakes (verb agreement, possessive pronouns, mistakes in some set phrases) and does it quite successfully. Subtler errors, however, go completely over its head.
Overall, we’ve received the following results of our first semi-final of free grammar checkers:
And the winner this time is …. Ginger Software! Although this time Ginger didn’t show a performance as stellar as the first time we tested it, there is hardly any doubt as to which checker is the favorite of today’s race. While Ginger managed to find only about a half of all the mistakes in our text, it is still a much better result than its counterpart’s poor score. Although it can hardly serve as an adequate replacement for a real proofreader, Ginger can certainly be used as a support tool in a pinch. We’ll see how it’ll behave in the final of our battle. Stay tuned!
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