Writing Grammar check tools: pros, cons and quirks

MadmanRB

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Okay so as I may have mentioned here, I am autistic and grew up with a learning disability.
Now I am mostly high functioning, but it does have its effect on my writing and how I do things.
I have always had an odd relationship with grammar and punctuation but because writing is my only creative outlet well I do need grammar check tools now and then to make sure my work is readable as sometimes my brain runs off on its own, nature of the beast I'm afraid.

So during my trials with writing I have used several grammar tools both paid and free, this is not meant to be an endorsement or advertisement for any tools I have used but if I feel they are worth trying I will say so and with people with similar issues to me (or non-native English speakers) I feel this is a good subject and may help others.
I am not being paid by any of the services here and coming from a personal experience here.

Now yes any writer worth their salt should study grammar and punctuation but if the rules of English grammar confuse you, or you have an issue like I do well here it goes here are the main grammar tools I have used and what I think of each one:

Languagetool:

Languagetool is a free to use grammar tool that started as an extension for open office but now has many ports for other writing tools and even now has a paid service to fund the project.
Out of all the tools here this is the one I have used the most as a user of both OpenOffice/LibreOffice, I am a Linux user and have it as my main writing app.

Pros: Good at punctuation and decent at grammar checking. Also, very Multi language and open source, a huge plus.
Cons: Not as thorough as most paid tools.
Quirks: Can sometimes be overzealous with contractions making stories feel too formal, it's a bit better for office writers but not so much with creative writing.

Outwrite:
Outwrite I gave a go as it was affordable and somewhat decent at its job, felt powerful and picked up issues language tool did not, sadly I did not use it for too long and I will say why in my Quirks section.

Pros: Affordable compared to most other grammar tools, pretty good at grammar and punctuation checks.
Cons: Still not as versatile as other tools I tried including LanguageTool.
Quirks: Oh if LanguageTool can be overly formal at times this takes the cake, it made my writing feel less like a story and more like a technical manual... so yeah avoid for creative writing.

Ginger:
Another one I gave a go because it's affordable and has no heavy upfront asking price, again I did not use it long, and I will say why in my cons section.

Pros: Again affordable like Outwrite.
Cons: Truth be told Ginger isn't worth its asking price as it did not do much better than Languagetool, and why pay for something that you can get for free that can handle the same basic job?
At least LanguageTool's paid service helps its development while here I know it's going to some company and will not change too much in its lifespan, Languagetool may have its issues but at least it has grown during my time of using it while I don't think it will be the case for Ginger.
Quirks: Its interface is a bit too minimalist, and it really doesn't explain its corrections well to the user and why they are made.

Grammarly:
Now it's time for the big dog, the most advertised and referenced grammar tool I have encountered online.
It's got a lot of press and people talking about it and I will say it's a decent grammar tool its just not the best IMHO.

Pros: Grammarly gets its praise from how utterly powerful it is, it's not just advertising buzzwords as legitimately is very good at its job.
It's got a minimalist UI but one far more useful than the aforementioned Ginger, and it does inform the user on what is going on and why the corrections are made.
Grammarly isn't just some con job so that you pump money into something that doesn't teach you grammar along the way, it does help those with grammar issues like myself express themselves and teach them how to make a story seem more professional and less haphazard grammatically or in punctuation.
Cons: Upfront cost, this is my main reason for not using it. There is no denying how good Grammarly is but when it comes to its gate of entry Grammarly is quite expensive in comparison to its competitors.
You know all that money is going to its widespread adverts both on traditional television and on the internet too, and it detracts from its value as a service.
As I mentioned it is the most advertised grammar service I am aware of and there is no denying its media presence but to be honest I feel Grammarly isn't as good as it makes itself to be, yes its still a viable tool and I do recommend at least giving it a go but overall Grammarly is a bit overrated in my book.
Quirks: Has a cool selection tool that adapts to different wiring needs, rather it is for formal work or creative writing.

Prowritingaid:
Now we get to the other grammar tool I use, next to Grammarly it's probably the most well known grammar tool.
It's like the Pepsi to Grammarly's Coke when it comes to influence and reach, and doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves.

Pros: Firstly is cost factor, it's actually far cheaper in the long run than Grammarly and while some of its pricing seems absurd ($400 for a lifetime plan) but really over the course of time this cost factor is surprisingly affordable.
I am a very pragmatic person when it comes to money so yes that $400 is eye-popping, but I realize that it's cheaper than Grammarly over the course of 4 years so long time cost is something I think on.
Now one can go by its monthly plan which is what I am on now until I get my finances leveled out next month and go annual until I can get that $400 together which is entirely within my ability.
Point is its still cheaper upfront in its $20 plan as Grammarly starts at $30 on a monthly plan.
Secondly I feel that Prowritingaid does one job that Grammarly cannot and that is it teaches people proper grammar.
Yes to many grammar tools like this are a cheat and seem like a shortcut.
Not so with Prowritingaid, it actually has comprehensive explanations of why it suggests certain alterations and lets the writer know how to correct them.
This is why this is the only tool here I actually recommend investing in over almost any other as I feel it's a tool that not only does its job but does a service worth paying for.
Cons: Is interface is very clunky, but it does have its reasons to be that way. Also, not that many languages supported right now, only English and its regional spelling rules (I use American spelling as I am American where we took the U out of "Colour" the S out of "Maths" and put them all into USA Chants, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan would know :D
)
Quirks: Has formatting quirks even when using Microsoft Office and .Docx

Anyhow that is my take on this matter, of course if you have your own favorite tool or wish to debate on if Grammar tools are cheating well go ahead.
Sorry if this is in the wrong section.
 

LostLibrarian

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I bought PWA during its first NaNoWriMo in a sale for around 90€ or so. Love it and it's the only tool I use. Good enough for a "quick and dirty" edit to get most of the errors away. Also as a non-native english writer I appreciate the stats for overused words, adverb-count, and the like. It shows habits in writing one might not even know about...

There were cases where grammarly found a lot more smaller problems compared to PWA but I dislike spending more money when I already have one helper that is "good enough".

Should I ever go for a polished publication, I would probably buy a short-term access to it, but for a "polished first draft" PWA is more than enough for me...
 

Kenjona

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Thank you for the Opinion piece. It was very informative, I have been looking for grammar tools to help me with work.
 

PhillisCreziles

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Hey, I sometimes my brain runs off on its own as well while I'm writing too.

I preferably use a combination of google docs, and grammarly.

Grammarly for spelling, basic grammar, basic phrasing, and basic punctuation checking.
Google Docs for complex phrasing and tense checking.
 

Reisinling

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How do all those tools compare to basic grammar checks available in google docs?
 

lnv

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Okay so as I may have mentioned here, I am autistic and grew up with a learning disability.
Now I am mostly high functioning, but it does have its effect on my writing and how I do things.
I have always had an odd relationship with grammar and punctuation but because writing is my only creative outlet well I do need grammar check tools now and then to make sure my work is readable as sometimes my brain runs off on its own, nature of the beast I'm afraid.

So during my trials with writing I have used several grammar tools both paid and free, this is not meant to be an endorsement or advertisement for any tools I have used but if I feel they are worth trying I will say so and with people with similar issues to me (or non-native English speakers) I feel this is a good subject and may help others.
I am not being paid by any of the services here and coming from a personal experience here.

Now yes any writer worth their salt should study grammar and punctuation but if the rules of English grammar confuse you, or you have an issue like I do well here it goes here are the main grammar tools I have used and what I think of each one:

In general, grammar tools aren't really a replacement for knowing proper grammar. They simply make it easier to remember grammar cause when we write stuff, such things can often times slip our heads. Even if the better tools offer suggestions and explanations, that may not take into account the intention of your sentence or paragraph. And then there is the whole style aspect.

So all grammar tools should be used as an assist, not a replacement for knowing proper grammar.

Another tool that is very helpful with grammar is google. If you are not sure, take your phrase without the context and quote it in google search. If you get little result, chances are that phrasing is wrong.

Languagetool:

Languagetool is a free to use grammar tool that started as an extension for open office but now has many ports for other writing tools and even now has a paid service to fund the project.
Out of all the tools here this is the one I have used the most as a user of both OpenOffice/LibreOffice, I am a Linux user and have it as my main writing app.

Pros: Good at punctuation and decent at grammar checking. Also, very Multi language and open source, a huge plus.
Cons: Not as thorough as most paid tools.
Quirks: Can sometimes be overzealous with contractions making stories feel too formal, it's a bit better for office writers but not so much with creative writing.

LanguageTool has options for some of that. You gotta pick the categories of what you are writing so you can get it more tailored towards creative writing rather than formal.

You should also get ngrams and word2vec. That improves the quality of languagetool by quite a lot. Though the ngram data is large, like 8gb! And you probably want an ssd so it parses that data quickly.
 

MadmanRB

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How do all those tools compare to basic grammar checks available in google docs?
The one in Google Docs can be a bit obtuse as it is incredibly basic and while it has good sense of tense it does have major quirks in its grammar checks that you can't alter or change.
In general, grammar tools aren't really a replacement for knowing proper grammar. They simply make it easier to remember grammar cause when we write stuff, such things can often times slip our heads. Even if the better tools offer suggestions and explanations, that may not take into account the intention of your sentence or paragraph. And then there is the whole style aspect.

So all grammar tools should be used as an assist, not a replacement for knowing proper grammar.

I'm not saying that these tools are a replacement of knowing proper grammar of course. But then again the English language is ever evolving and sometimes "proper grammar" does not cut it depending on what you are writing.
One must balance such things on their own and use one's instincts on how and when to use such tools or skills.
I know I sometimes break grammar rules but mostly when I write dialog so that I can give each character their own voice.
In the story I try to have a character with "proper grammar" especially if I want them to appear smart or formal.
Then there is the more casual style that I use on a daily basis.
Then I have the very informal slang and super improper grammar characters.

LanguageTool has options for some of that. You gotta pick the categories of what you are writing so you can get it more tailored towards creative writing rather than formal.

You should also get ngrams and word2vec. That improves the quality of languagetool by quite a lot. Though the ngram data is large, like 8gb! And you probably want an ssd so it parses that data quickly
Yes I am aware of this, I am more judging how LanguageTool is out of the box then with any mods
 

lnv

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I'm not saying that these tools are a replacement of knowing proper grammar of course. But then again the English language is ever evolving and sometimes "proper grammar" does not cut it depending on what you are writing.
One must balance such things on their own and use one's instincts on how and when to use such tools or skills.
I know I sometimes break grammar rules but mostly when I write dialog so that I can give each character their own voice.
In the story I try to have a character with "proper grammar" especially if I want them to appear smart or formal.
Then there is the more casual style that I use on a daily basis.
Then I have the very informal slang and super improper grammar characters.
There is nothing wrong with breaking grammar rules or even making up your own words. As long as you know what you are doing. That is precisely what the english language is about.

I just wanted to point out that people shouldn't depend on grammar tools to fix everything, they simply are there to assist you when writing. Cause often times we get side tracked by our writing that we forget the grammar here and there. It acts as a reminder. Not a replacement for knowing your grammar. Especially since there are cases that grammar tools can make mistakes too.

Yes I am aware of this, I am more judging how LanguageTool is out of the box then with any mods

In the case of categories, those aren't mods. Out of box LanguageTool is tailored towards people writing essays. Like for students and the like. If you are writing your own book, it is expected that you are already well versed in grammar. But if that is what you want, you need to set the proper categories.

As for the mods, they are kind of a must. LanguageTool is based on fixed set of rules. Where all the rules are entered in manually by the developers and contributors. Not only is there a whole lot of rules, as you mentioned the english language evolves over time.

n-gram data that languagetool has up is bigdata from google books based on common word pairs and confusion pairs. Which are some of the most common grammar mistakes that are often times hard to simply make rules for.

word2vec is similar to n-grams, except instead of being bigdata, it based on training neural networks so it is much smaller in size, but has some margin of error. I don't remember what they trained it on, but I remember it said it was 99% accurate.

So I wouldn't even bother using language tool without those 2 for creative writing.
 
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