Perhaps you just started blogging or worked in journalism for years, but you still forget where some commas go. You need a spellchecker and grammar checker that works while you write. The search for the perfect checker may seem endless, but a few choices present themselves and a couple you may not have known about, too. You can find many free options, but few that provide accurate results for text on their own.
Microsoft Word Editor
The most obvious place to look for a grammar checker resides in your word processor. Microsoft Word’s free grammar checker misses a few things, but if you pay the $6.99 per month for Microsoft 365, you get Microsoft Editor. Its editor program conducts a more careful spelling and grammatical check. It also checks as you write and will auto-correct mistakes. You can add your corrections, too. If Microsoft Word continually marks your name as misspelled, you can add it to the spelling dictionary. You can also set it to automatically correct your most common typos.
Perhaps you want to avoid spending $7 per month for the 365 services. You can download the Grammarly plug-in, which spellchecks everything you type across cloud programs and browsers. It identifies mistakes as you type. You click on them to reveal your options. Once you correct it, you move on. It comes as a browser plug-in for chrome. On mobile devices, you can download the Grammarly keyboard that spellchecks as you type. Some users have complained that the keyboard misses many grammar mistakes, but it picks up most misspelled words. The plug-in does as well as the free website. You can use the Grammarly website as a word processor since once you create an account, it saves all of your documents. You can type directly into the cloud app, and it will identify your mistakes as you type. It does not auto-correct as Microsoft’s option does.
JSpell, GrammarCheck, Scibens, and a few other sites are using Grammarly’s writing engine. They do not use their own program. Rather, they include a link to Grammarly, which you will find if you click the button for the “Deep Check” on GrammarCheck, for example. Most of the options you will find when you conduct an Internet search for a spellchecker or grammar checker include sites that are thinly veiled feeder sites for Grammarly. Each re-directs you to the site, so you can obtain “a full check.”
Paper Rater stands alone as a separate program. It uses its own algorithms and programming to check each document. Like the free version of Grammarly, it does not pick up on all comma issues. Otherwise, it performs well. It also includes an option you can choose to have it “grade” the paper for you depending on the input you provide. You can set Paper Rater to check for readability at a specific grade level. It provides an estimated grade a teacher would give you.
You can add the Ginger Software app to Microsoft Edge or download it to use in conjunction with Microsoft Office. Few people have had luck with this app. It talks a good game, but it cannot correct grammar as it says it does. It advertises that it corrects “5x more mistakes than Word can detect. 5x faster.” This assertion does not bear out though. It does not pick up comma splices and can’t tell where commas should go in between phrases.
Ginger has its clones, too. Reverso is the best known. It offers a simple textbox interface. You paste your text into the box and can check its spelling and grammar in English or French. It does not turn up many mistakes and will offer you a more complete check in the Ginger app.
Unless you live in the United Kingdom or work in marketing, you probably have not heard of Screaming Frog. Digital marketers use this program to check their web copy, but you can use it to spellcheck your writing. This SEO tool lets you check a website by URL. You can check in 39 languages. It does require you to purchase a license, £149 ($207), so you can access all features. Once you correct the mistakes, you can spellcheck the site again without re-crawling it.
Problems with the Grammar Checkers
While some checkers let you adjust whether you’re writing for school, business, or casual, they do not let you set the checker for a specific style. That means you can not check a document against The AP Style Manual or The Chicago Style Manual, or Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Each checker typically uses the grammar of Strunk and White, which means that it misses many items that other writing styles consider incorrect. For example, AP style uses no Oxford commas. Chicago style does use commas. Many marketers must switch between writing styles, and academics must do so as well. Going from Turabian to Chicago style in a day creates confusion. No grammar checker on the market today addresses this issue.
Most spelling and grammar checkers do not let you train them. The Microsoft Word Editor does, and Grammarly will let you teach it new words for your personal dictionary, but you cannot customize the grammar. The other programs don’t let you add to the dictionary.
The Grammarly keyboard fails abysmally. It cannot detect a missing period from a sentence. None of the available options handle comma use effectively. They cannot address clauses nor when the Oxford comma is unneeded.
No one program can effectively check for all grammatical issues. Each grammar issue consists of what could be addressed by a simple “if, then” statement or machine learning. If the clause is of one type, the comma goes in a specific place. To obtain a grammatically correct document, you need to use multiple checkers.
Few people have the money to hire a proofreader for each paper or website and the time to wait for a human with a large workload. Having a single grammar checker that can provide one percent accuracy and let the user choose from a selection of style manuals makes sense but has yet to hit the market.
For now, you will need to combine the checkers to obtain the most accurate results.
Since you often need to combine programs, first determine which program you can most effectively combine to check spelling and grammatical checkers and obtain a genuinely well proofread and edited document.
So far, the best combination I’ve found is writing in Microsoft Word with Editor, then checking it in Grammarly. If you need to test web copy, write it in Microsoft Word with Editor, then check it in Screaming Frog.