Grammar Checking Software; Which is Best?
Do you write for the web? If you do, you’ll probably have tried—or at least thought of trying—one of the many grammar checkers out there. For a long time, the few grammar editing tools available were pretty basic. Recently though, we’ve been blessed with a plethora of grammar checkers; some of which are extremely easy to use, some that are very accurate, a couple that are both; and some that, sadly, fail to deliver the goods.
So which grammar checker ticks all the boxes—and which are the ones you should avoid?
In this detailed review, I’ll be looking at six individual tools, including the top four grammar checkers, that promise to solve our self-editing issues and give us all the best chance of turning out our best work, every time.
Just one thing I need to emphasise though: Using a grammar checker will not mean you never need to use an editor again. On the contrary, a human editor is as essential as ever, if we hope to produce well-written copy consistently.
Who needs to use a grammar checking tool?
Well, anyone who regularly has to write for others. This includes students, bloggers, authors, secretaries, the list is endless. So let’s dive in and look at some of the tools available today. If you want to jump ahead, you can use the Table of Contents above to skip to the relevant points.
I’ll talk about each one in detail, and give a summation at the end.
As with most articles on this website, there will be some affiliate links. It will cost you nothing to use these links to visit the product’s website. If you purchase through the links, I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. However, I sometimes negotiate special offers for my visitors, so please be sure to use them where appropriate. TY.
Grammarly is the one tool that other grammar editing software is measured against. It’s the best-known, and the most highly respected—and with good reason. I’ve already posted a review on Grammarly elsewhere on this site, but I’ll recap the main points here. It was whilst researching that post that I uncovered the other tools I’ll be reviewing in this article.
As with most apps these days, there are two versions of Grammarly. The first is their free offering: This very efficient spelling and punctuation tool works on the fly, just as if you had an English tutor looking over your shoulder. (Though it’s not quite so intimidating, thankfully.)
Any error it picks up is highlighted with a red bar, and you only have to hover over it to see Grammarly’s suggested fix and explanation. It’s like having a lesson in proper sentence structure every time you sit down to write.
The free version of Grammarly should be adequate for most. For those who need it, there’s a Premium version that includes such features as:
Advanced Grammar Checking.
With Premium, the program takes it up a notch. It will pick up such things as fragmented sentences, alliteration, comma splices, run-on sentences and more. Because Grammarly explains so clearly exactly what the problem is, and why it made the suggestions it did, you’re able to improve your own grammatical knowledge as you work.
If you’re not happy with a word you’ve used, double-click it and Grammarly will show you a list of available synonyms. Before long, your vocabulary will be growing with every piece you write.
There’s a feature to check the tone of your article; whether it sounds formal, chatty, etc. You’re also able to specify the tone you’re aiming for with your work. Grammarly will then adjust its correction algorithm to suit.
Genre Specific Writing Checks.
As a part of the above options, you can tell it whether you’re writing for a casual reader, or even submitting an academic treatise.
Plagiarism often happens accidentally. With Grammarly Premium you can test your piece against billions of online articles, so you can publish with confidence. No-one wants to wind up in the courts defending a plagiarism charge.
What does Grammarly cost?
(Note: Prices quoted in this article are in USD and were correct at the time of writing – March 2020)
Grammarly Premium will cost $29.95 if you pay monthly.
It comes down to $19.98pm if you pay quarterly, and $11.66pm if you pay annually.
Unless you need the extra features though, I’d say the free version might be quite adequate. In any case, you can always update if you think you need to. Check out Grammarly here.
ProWritingAid is possibly the best alternative to Grammarly.
This app will correct your spelling and grammar, much as Grammarly does while focusing on strengthening your writing. It does this, of course, by highlighting your failings (we all have them) and teaching you how to turn them into strengths.
ProWritingAid will check for style issues like sentence structure, repeated phrases, cliches, overused words, and limited variety in sentence length.
It will show you a detailed report on your writing that will focus on these, and other big picture issues, that will come in very handy—especially when you’re working on longer projects. ProWritingAid puts a lot of emphasis on style, something difficult for any automated system to do. There are times when even properly constructed sentences just don’t read well. This program, through its suggestions, could save the day when your writing doesn’t have the right ‘feel’, and you’re not sure why.
ProWritingAid is cheaper than Grammarly. The Premium version will cost you $60.00 per year, while the Premium + (this includes a plagiarism checker, which the normal Premium doesn’t) will set you back $70.00 pa. That’s half the cost of Grammarly. There is a free version, but this only allows for up to 500 words at one time. Check out their website with this link, and if you end up buying I’ve arranged a generous 20% discount for you.
Other options are:
$100 for 2 years, $140 for 3 years, or a lifetime subscription for $240. Unfortunately, there isn’t a monthly option, but when the one-year subscription is not much more than Grammarly’s first three monthly payments, it represents good value.
ProWritingAid includes over 20 different writing reports, which you can click on one at a time. Much better than doing all of your editings at once.
For example, you may choose to first fix grammar, spelling, and style errors. Then you could select the report to modify any repeated words and phrases.
Then you might run a report to identify cliches—and follow this up with a report on sentence structure issues.
Going through the reports individually like this will help you improve the quality of your writing. You just read through their suggestions, implementing what works for you.
Until recently, ProWritingAid only offered a browser extension for Chrome. Personally, I use Firefox, but I have Chrome installed as well just for moments like these. I’m pleased to note, though, that ProWritingAid has recently released an extension for Firefox as well as a Mac desktop app and a Google Docs add-on. It also works well with Safari, and MS Word, of course.
Cons of ProWritingAid
It’s not quite as user-friendly as Grammarly, especially when you first start using it. As a spelling and grammar checker, it does a great job, pretty much on a par with the Big G. However, the information isn’t displayed in a quite so easily digested format. Sometimes the sheer volume of information and the way it’s displayed can be confusing. As the name suggests, it’s likely to be of more benefit to someone who produces long-form documents (books, essays etc) but will be overkill for someone simply wanting to write better letters or emails.
Update: I’ve been using Pro Writing Aid Premium for a couple of months now, (I only had the free trial version when I initially wrote this post) and I’m loving it more and more. As a subscriber, I also get frequent tips and advice emails and online article links; these alone are invaluable.
That’s just my take, though. Grab the free version and see for yourself.
If you decide to purchase later, after using this link, – and you still want the 20% discount – you can add the code ZAMZP4UIVP at the checkout.
Overall, I feel ProWritingAid is a good, solid grammar checking tool. Fiction writers, in particular, will benefit from the pacing and dialogue reports.
The one big advantage Ginger has over Grammarly or ProWritingAid is that it supports up to 60 different languages. This means that you can write an article in English, then translate it into German (or any of the other options) then have Ginger do a full spelling and grammar check on its own translation. This has to be a huge benefit if you do happen to have the need for it.
Not everyone has the need for a multi-lingual grammar checker, of course, but if you do you should definitely consider giving Ginger a spin.
You can modify the dictionary for your own needs—adding words you don’t want to be flagged as mistakes. (names, places, slang etc)
The free version of Ginger comes with three tools: You get an editing window with translations, you get a dictionary, and you get a thesaurus. Errors are highlighted in much the same way as the others. You hover over an error and select whether to accept or ignore its suggestions.
With the Premium version, you also get what they refer to as a “personal trainer” to improve your English.
The trainer gives you personalized practice exercises based on your writing.
How does it compare with the competition so far?
Actually, fairly well. It’s definitely not as intuitive or easy to use as Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid, and the dashboard interface is a bit “clunky.” The multi-lingual capability of Ginger is its biggest selling point.
The basic free version has most of what most writers will need. Premium will set you back $20.97 per month, or $7.49 per month if you pay annually at $89.88. There’s also a two-year option for $159.84. (Where they plucked these odd figures from, I’ve no idea)
You can check out the free version here.
Like the other grammar checkers covered so far, WhiteSmoke does pretty much what they say it will.
One unique feature of WhiteSmoke is that it includes templates for over 100 common writing situations. These include thank-you notes, cover letters, condolence notes and many more.
Compared with the previous offers, WhiteSmoke does fall a little short. The interface is not what I’d call ideal. For one, you have to export your content into a text document before you can ask WhiteSmoke to check it for you. It’s also slower to respond than either Ginger or Grammarly.
WhiteSmoke, as with the previous tools covered in this review, is cheaper than Grammarly. Like Ginger, it supports several languages. These days, with so much international and cross-cultural communication happening, this will be a major plus for many. I’ve enquired as to whether Grammarly intend to expand their app to include a multi-lingual version but it seems it’s not on their radar. If they did, I imagine it would be an optional add-on—at an additional cost, of course.
Unlike ProWritingAid, WhiteSmoke offers mobile apps, and it works with all major browsers. Like the others, you do need to be connected to the ‘net to use it, as it’s a cloud-based service.
Price-wise, WhiteSmoke is on a par with Ginger, at $79.95 annually for Premium.
There is a cheaper alternative, WhiteSmoke Essential, at $59.95, and a Business Plan, at $137.95. There are no monthly options. There’s also a Chrome extension, at $49.95 pa. Features vary, but the Premium version most closely correlates with the other options outlined in this review.
Yes, you read that correctly. Right now, WhiteSmoke are offering you a 50% discount on whatever version or plan you sign up to. You’re welcome, by the way.
5. Hemingway Editor.
Hemingway editor is not a grammar corrector as such. However, I’ll include it here as it is a valuable tool in its own right.
The renowned author Ernest Hemingway was well-known for his punchy, short sentences and no-nonsense writing style. His is a style many latterday writers strive to imitate.
In keeping with this, the Hemingway Editor will analyse your writing and offer suggested improvements wherever it sees excessively wordy “purple prose”, as it’s known in the business.
Hemingway is available for free as an online tool, and as a desktop app for the princely sum of $19.99 one-off fee.
As I said, this isn’t a grammar checker but could be worth considering if you feel your work needs tightening up a little. A word of caution, though: If you follow all of the recommendations your work may become a little too stilted.
You’ll see how it grades your writing in reference to how easy it is to read. It also flags use of the passive voice, excessive adverbs, and complex phrases.
One negative aspect of Hemingway is that you have to copy and paste your work into the app, and it doesn’t preserve your formatting. It also doesn’t show you how to correct the faults it finds, it just indicates where you need improvements.
6. After The Deadline.
After The Deadline is a free, open-source online program that functions as a basic grammar and spelling correction tool.
To quickly check a piece of writing for free, you can copy and paste it into the interface at afterthedeadline.com. This tool provides feedback on spelling errors and provides grammar and style suggestions, and is also available as a browser add-on.
I found a few other completely free open-source programs, all of which will correct your spelling and grammar. However, without exception, they have severe limitations.
Most require you to copy and paste your work into the tool to be checked. They all have limits on the number of characters you can test; limits that restrict their use to only short-form writing. Some just don’t work satisfactorily, and some, it’s been suggested, upload your work to their own systems, where it’s suspected your work may be vulnerable to theft and plagiarism.
The Wrap-up (Quick Comparisons)
Grammarly: The benchmark against which all grammar checking software is measured. Reliable, simple to use, and accurate. Cost: $139.92 pa. (I’m going to be quoting annual fees in these comparisons)
ProWritingAid: Everything Grammarly has to offer, with the addition of the 20 individual writing reports discussed above. Cost $80.00 pa (including plagiarism checker) Lifetime subscription, $340.00. Maybe not quite as easy to learn and use, but once mastered will be a great asset. This price doesn’t take into account the 20% discount code available through my link, above.
Ginger: Pretty much on a par with ProWritingAid, with the addition of multi-lingual attributes. Anyone seeking a grammar checker for a language other than English—or who needs the translation capabilities—need look no further. Cost: $89.88 pa.
WhiteSmoke: Falls a little short in some ways. The final results are fine, but WhiteSmoke does have some issues relating to ease of use and speed. The inclusion of the preformatted templates is a nice touch, though. WhiteSmoke does have an edge over Ginger regarding platform integrations, but this may be addressed soon. Cost: $79.95 pa.
Hemingway: As I said, Hemingway is not really a grammar checked per se, but is a handy tool we should all consider. At $19.95, it’s not a huge investment.
After The Deadline: One of several similar online, open-source tools that can be accessed for free. It offers basic grammar correction for small compositions.
So there you have my review of the Best Grammar Checker Tools for 2020. Have you used any of these tools yourself? Do you have anything you’d like to add to the conversation?
Feel free to join the conversation via the Comments Box below.
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