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Content and Copy

The Dirty Little Secret of Proofreading Software

Please don't support pubic schools.

I bet spelling isn’t on that list.

If you write copy or blog for a living the issue of proofreading has surely raised its ugly little head on more than one occasion. In fact, finding a cheap and easy way to have whatever you write reviewed and corrected is a quandary that everyone faces so it’s not really fair to portray the proofreading dilemma as something unique to writers. Whether you’re a business person, a sign shop owner or a writer of 19th Century historical novels you need to ensure that the writing you produce is as error free as possible which is why many of us have tried more than a few proofreading programs.

For today’s brief post we’ll take a look at the three most popular proofreading software packages available: Grammarly, Ginger and the native spell and grammar check in Microsoft Word. In particular, I want to give props to Dean Evans for his post on proofreading programs for his in-depth analysis of how they compare to his professional, proofreading wife.

1. Grammarly Probably the most famous of the online proofreading programs, Grammarly makes some pretty big claims when it comes to its service (claiming to identify over 150 text errors, offer synonym suggestions and to check for plagiarism) but does it deliver? From my own experience I was thoroughly unimpressed especially given the hefty sums Grammarly charges to use their service but what were Dean’s results?

In our proofreading test, Grammarly found five ‘issues’ with our sample text and instantly identified the three spelling errors – ‘dissappoint’, ‘flexibilty’ and ‘inovative’.

But that was it. It suggested replacing ‘didn’t’ in the sentence: “When Apple Corps launched their first iPhone in 2008, it didn’t dissappoint” with ‘did not’. And while it highlighted the incorrect use of ‘it’s’ in the final sentence, it suggested ‘it has’ rather than ‘its’.

Clearly, Grammarly doesn’t deliver, so what about Ginger?

2. Ginger Ginger is a hybrid spell checker and proofreader that is downloaded onto your hard drive. It also claims to be designed to help people with dyslexia in particular as well as to create personalized tests and quizzes based on your common errors. According to the makers of the program its features are as follows:

  • Ginger Identifies and categorizes your frequent mistakes based on your day-to-day writing
  • Practice your weak subjects to master them and check out your progress over time
  • Improves your accent and pronunciation to sound more like a native speaker using the text-to-speech engine

The features that the publishers chooses to accentuate point to the fact that Ginger is aimed at non-native English speakers. And, strangely enough, the concept of improving one’s accent through talk-to-text is highlighted as a major selling point. Having used Ginger myself I found it to perform much more poorly than any other program I have tried in the past so as a proofreader it’s a definite “no” although the jury’s still out in regard to its usefulness for non-native English speakers.

microsoft_word_up3. Microsoft Word 2010 Spellchecker If you’re a blogger or write in an HTML editor you know how annoying it can be to write in Word and then strip the formatting before pasting it into your blog or web page. Still, in terms of proofing, Word beats Grammarly and Ginger handily any day. True, you can’t trust every suggestion that it makes (it will often confuse the subject of a verb in longer sentences with dependent clauses) but it is leaps and bounds better than any other auto-proofing software I have come across. And, best of all, it’s free with Microsoft Office.

What’s the Secret?

Okay, as a reward for your patience I’ll let you in on the dirty little secret of proofreading software: they don’t work. True, they may catch common spelling errors and gross injustices of grammar but when it comes down to it there is simply no substitute for a human editor. So, what does that mean for you? Well, at the very least proofread your own copy and, if that still doesn’t help, ask a coworker or hire a pro if it makes sense for your project. Whatever you do though, don’t entrust your writing to a robo-editor. You’ve been warned.

 

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About Michael Rickicki

I am a freelance writer, translator, social media manager and co-owner of a mid-sized automotive accessories manufacturer and retailer in Brooklyn.

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