Writing for university can be a challenge —you need to get the academic tone of your essays right, make sure all your arguments tie together, and also, your spelling and grammar must be perfect.
These days, writing doesn’t have to be the tiresome, shot-in-the-dark process it once was, when all you had was a dictionary. A quick online search will uncover heaps of online or app-based grammar and language checkers to help you with your writing.
But which one should you use? We can’t answer that; what works well for one person might not work for another. What we can do though is give you this list of five of the more popular grammar apps on the market, so you can have a look at them all and make your own choice.
To be totally transparent, we have no commercial relationship with any of the below services. We just think they’re worth talking about.
Ginger is a comprehensive grammar and language checker from Ginger Software. Available in an online, desktop, and app-based format, this app not only checks your spelling and grammar, but provides contextual spelling correction, picks up phonetic spelling mistakes, and can make your writing sound smoother and more natural. It also has English practice courses that are based on your mistakes, and translation ability for over 40 languages.
To use it, just start up the app and start typing. Any options for fixing your text will appear in a pop-up at the top of your screen.
Ginger starts at US$29.96 a month on the monthly plan, or US$89.88 for an annual plan, so it’s getting towards the pricier end of the available grammar apps.
Pros: Highlights your errors in real-time, an easy-to-use app
Cons: Expensive for what it is, spell and grammar check is unreliable, no plagiarism check, pop-ups can be annoying and distracting.
Whitesmoke is a complete grammar-checking tool that integrates with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook to make sure your writing is always accurate.
Just input your text into the main text box, and click on any of the option buttons along the top menu. “Writer” will be your main tool. The grammar checker analyses your work and offers alternatives, and any grammar or punctuation errors come with an explanation as to why it’s wrong, so you can learn from your mistakes. The spell checker points out incorrect spelling, words used in the wrong context, and provides suggestions in a column down the side of the page so you can make any changes.
Whitesmoke is a pretty nifty app. It identifies any stylistic errors so you can improve your tense usage, and their language database is constantly updated so your writing always moves with the times. It also comes with a plagiarism checker, and can translate into over 50 languages.
At just US$9.95/month for web operation, and US$14.95/month for the premium software, Whitesmoke is a bargain.
Pros: Checks grammar in real-time, highlights errors clearly so you can see exactly where they are, has an Android keyboard integration so you can avoid typos on your phone, is an affordable option for students
Cons: Not 100% accurate, it does miss some mistakes.
Read More: How to Avoid Plagiarism
Grammarly is probably the most well-known grammar app, and with good reason. With both an online and desktop-integrated option, you can choose the way to use Grammarly that suits you best.
Grammarly lets you choose the types of errors you want to catch, so whether it’s your use of tense, spelling, stylistic errors, repetition, contextual spelling, whatever you need you can make sure you’re covered for. The handy style-checker lets you keep your writing in line with the tone you’re after, so you can set it to check for academic reports, business memos, personal blog posts, and heaps more, and Grammarly will suggest where you need to make changes so your work reads in this tone.
As well as telling you where you’ve made an error and providing alternatives, Grammarly tells you why it’s wrong, so you can learn from your mistakes. With a built-in plagiarism-checker, you’re covered for originality, too.
The Microsoft Word-integrated version operates like Microsoft spell check—enable the app from your menu in Microsoft word, and any errors will appear in a bar down the right side of your page. The web-based platform is much like Google Docs, just create your new document and start writing, with a toolbar down the left side of your page providing all the grammar and writing settings you need.
It’s compatible with both Windows and Apple software, but it comes with the cost of being one of the more expensive grammar apps out there, starting at US$29.95 a month, or US$139.95 a year.
Pros: You can use Grammarly across multiple platforms, you can set your writing style, provides detailed analysis as to why your grammar or spelling is wrong
Cons: Not 100% accurate, occasionally analyses using different English versions, can be a bit slow, at $29.95 a month for premium use it’s not the cheapest option for students
Hemingway is a web-based writing improvement tool that was named after Ernest Hemingway, who was known for his ability to make his writing clear and concise (among other things).
This is exactly what Hemingway does: it analyses your writing to make it clear, easy to understand, and removes any filler words. This app highlights in yellow any sentences that are hard to read, and highlights in red any sentences that are too long, or you should consider rephrasing. It also catches passive voice, or tells you where you can use a different word that will make more of an impact.
To use it, just input your text into the web-based text box, or write in the desktop app, and let Hemingway do the rest. Your errors and suggestions will appear on the right side of your page, and it provides you with a readability score—the lower your score, the easier it is to read.
It’s as simple as that.
Available both for Apple and Windows, the web-based version is free, otherwise it’s a once-off payment of US$19.99 for the desktop app.
Pros: The web-based version is free, it’s simple and easy to use, available for both Windows and Apple, a good student option
Cons: Incorrectly spelled words are not given alternatives—you’ve got to do this work yourself, isn’t 100% accurate, the online version doesn’t save work
CorrectEnglish is an app developed by a US company that evaluates US college applications—so you know you’re on to a good thing.
This online tool provides instant proofreading, so you realise your mistakes in real-time. It shows you not just where you’ve made mistakes, but where you can tighten up your writing, and provides alternatives and feedback so you can make it better. You also get a template list of commonly-used documents, so you’ll always have an idea of how to write what you need.
One smart feature is its language feedback. This lets you write in English, but your language feedback is available in a range of different languages.
Various style guides can be integrated with CorrectEnglish, as can a number of language and research tools, and it comes with an inbuilt plagiarism checker.
It’s a bit pricey, with a flat fee of US$120 for one year, but each subsequent year is only US$20.
Pros: Easy to use
Cons: Not 100% accurate, only available online—cannot be used without an internet connect, no undo button if you accidentally make changes you don’t want, expensive for a student budget
So there you have it: five different grammar apps to help get your writing on track. While none of them are 100% accurate, just remember that no app will be, and these are simply to help you get the most accurate writing that you can. If all else fails, nothing beats getting a second set of eyes over your work.
For further grammar help you can always see what your University has on offer. Most universities have an online grammar guide, that covers everything you’ll need that’s specific to your course and your University, so it doesn’t hurt to look online.
Read More: Academic English – Tools for International Students