Browser Based Writing and Grammar Tool

Photo: Student working in a Google Doc

Student working in a Google Doc

This is the sixth installment in the series Exploring Useful Browser Extensions. Previous tools highlighted in the series include The Great SuspenderClearlyAnnouncifyEasyBib Tools, and social bookmarking options.

Public speaking may be one of the most commonly expressed fears, but the unease provoked by grammar mistakes can make writing a similarly high anxiety activity. All those motherly corrections when speaking or English teacher’s red ink can make more than students dread writing. Just about everyone has experienced a haunting sense of being judged for a spelling and grammar error that became plain as day right after submitting a document or clicking the send button.

There still is no substitute for a strong set of human proofreading eyes. Yet, there are tools that prevent potential embarrassment from missing simple errors. Plus, there is no reason not to employ an extra line of defense whether your knowledge of grammar is sound or not.

The browser extension Grammarly functions like the old Microsoft Word spell check but in Chrome. This means it will work in Google Apps, not just Docs, but all of them. Generally, it works wherever you can enter text in the browser. Even more, Grammarly does the job better than Word, providing a cleaner look and far better explanations.

Image: Grammarly, a Google Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store

Grammarly, a Google Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store

The Grammarly extension requires creating a free account. Once signed in, a green circular icon with the letter G, shaped like and arrow, appears in the browser toolbar. While the button provides general access to the tool, a contextual icon is more helpful.

A small, translucent circle appears in the lower right corner of your browser window whenever you can enter text. This icon regularly spins as it analyzes your text while writing. Cross-referencing the over 250 grammar rules in its database, the icon turns red and includes a number whenever errors are found. Additionally, a red or green line appears, depending nature of error identified, under the suspected text. They are the familiar red for spelling errors and green for grammar errors, but they are straight. No more squiggles.

Image: Using Grammarly to review writing

Using Grammarly to review writing

Clicking the lower icon provides access to the Grammarly tool and a new layer appears in the browser window. The new layer includes a vertical toolbar, a clean and easy-to-read column of your text, and a column highlighting the errors. The click of a mouse will reveal a detailed explanation of why the potential error was identified. Plus, the explanations can be helpful, even educational.

The tool also features a web-based dashboard with the account enabling users to upload text files for analysis. Since Grammarly offers a premium service, for a rather hefty monthly fee, there are limitations on the tools available with the free version. Contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style are all elements reviewed in the free version. For free options, those provide more than enough reasons to give it a try.

Image: Upload documents to Grammarly's dashboard

Upload documents to Grammarly’s dashboard

There also is a Mac desktop application that will run directly on the laptop and work with more word processing applications than what is available in a browser.

One of the more interesting additional features of having an account the email entitled Your Weekly Writing Update, which includes a basic usage report. The email chronicles your weekly activity with a few simple metrics. The report includes measurements for words written, mistakes made, and unique words, each with a statistic comparing your numbers with all Grammarly’s users. It is a pretty basic report but unexpected and interesting, regardless.

Ultimately, Grammarly is just a tool. It is not perfect and will not catch everything. Nor is it better than learning basic grammar rules or having a knowledgeable pair of human eyes review writing. It is, however, worth considering for anyone learning or lacking a bit of confidence when writing.

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