Proofreading test: my wife vs. Grammarly vs. Ginger vs. After The Deadline vs. Microsoft Word 2010

by Dean Evans

What's wrong with this sign?

This is a different kind of proofreading test.

The challenge is this: can proofreading software provide an effective shortcut to good text checking?

Of the five options I’ve chosen, four are digital tools that claim they can help you with proof reading/checking your copy.

They are Grammarly, Ginger, After The Deadline and the built-in grammar and spellchecking talents of Microsoft Word 2010.

The fifth option is my wife, Kate. She obviously doesn’t like to be referred to as a ‘proofreading system’. But she is a trained magazine production editor who dissects raw copy for a living. Often brutally. She plays the part of a proofreading service for hire.

Read on to see the results.

The proofreading test copy

If you’ve already tried our quick proofreading test then you’ll be familiar with the compact chunk of copy below:

When Apple Corps launched their first iPhone in 2008, it didn’t dissappoint. In fact, it immediately captured the collective imagination with a geeky allure driven by Apples slick design, the phone’s smart flexibilty and it’s inovative multi-touch approach.

There are eight mistakes in it – two factual errors, three spelling errors and three grammatical errors. See our proofreading test answers page for a full run-down and explanations.

For the purposes of this test, I ran the text through the four digital options (and gave it to the wife) to see how many errors they could highlight. Consequently, each one is rated out of eight.

Grammarly review

Grammarly positions itself as the ‘World’s Most Accurate Grammar Checker’. It boldly promises to identify over 150 text errors, offer synonym suggestions and to check for plagiarism.

While it’s free to get your text checked, you need to sign up for a seven day trial to see what the problems actually are in detail. Beyond the trial, there are a trio of pricing options – you can pay monthly ($19.95), cough up quarterly ($13.32 per month) or opt for a yearly subscription ($7.95 per month).

In our proofreading test, Grammarly found five ‘issues’ with our sample text and instantly identified the three spelling errors – ‘dissappoint’, ‘flexibilty’ and ‘inovative’.

But that was it. It suggested replacing ‘didn’t’ in the sentence: “When Apple Corps launched their first iPhone in 2008, it didn’t dissappoint” with ‘did not’. And while it highlighted the incorrect use of ‘it’s’ in the final sentence, it suggested ‘it has’ rather than ‘its’.

Grammarly scored: 3/8

Ginger review

Like Grammarly, Ginger touts itself as a do-it-all grammar and spellchecker. The big difference is that this downloadable software (PC only) adds proofreading functionality to a number of popular applications – Microsoft Word, Outlook, Powerpoint, Internet Explorer and Firefox.

A small Ginger control bar appears whenever you’re actively using a compatible application. You simply click on the bar, or press F2 to start the copy checking process. Ginger then identifies any spelling errors or grammatical mistakes and suggests corrections.

You can test-drive a 600-character demo for free. The premium version of the software costs $198 (one-off fee), $132 (for Contextual Spelling & Grammar Correction only) or $19.80 for a monthly subscription.

The premium version also boasts a clever text-to-speech function, which enables you to hear your text read aloud in a surprisingly decent digital voice. Lastly, a ‘Learning’ feature acts like a virtual tutor, helping you identify common grammatical gaffes and understand how to fix them.

It’s a shame then that Ginger had the same success rate as Grammarly, correctly highlighting the three spelling errors, but glossing over the remaining five mistakes. Of course, you wouldn’t expect a digital tool to get the factual errors in this proofreading test. But the grammar checking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. A spellchecker could probably do better…

Ginger scored: 3/8

Microsoft Word review

Could a spellchecker REALLY do better? Microsoft Word includes spellchecking and grammar functionality and so it’s interesting to see how the 2010 edition compares to the so-called proofreading tools like Grammarly and Ginger.

Quite well, as it turns out. In our proofreading test, Word automatically highlighted the three spelling errors (‘dissappoint’, ‘flexibilty’ and ‘inovative’) in red. It also pointed out the incorrect use of ‘it’s’ (underlining it in blue).

Microsoft Word scored: 4/8

After The Deadline review

I had high hopes for After The Deadline. You can download it and use it with bbPress, Confluence and OpenOffice. You can bolt it into Firefox or the Google Chrome browser and you can access it via a WordPress plugin. You can even cut-and-paste the copy you want checked into a web page.

That said, it didn’t fare well on this proofreading test. At least not at first. The online version only picked up one of the spelling errors (‘flexibilty’), ignoring the other two. And it didn’t spot any of the grammatical flaws.

Yet when I tested it again using the WordPress plugin, it picked up all three misspelled words. So if you write content straight into the WordPress dashboard, After The Deadline is useful for making a final pass through your posts in search of spelling errors you might have missed.

After The Deadline scored: 3/8

And my wife…

My wife is an experienced proofreader and has worked in the publishing business on a variety of magazines including Official Windows XP, Digital Camera magazine, Computer Arts magazine plus various books.

She picked up all eight of the errors. Obviously. Using our proofreading checklist, she performed one pass over the text to double-check the facts before going through it again to root out spelling and grammar mistakes.

My wife scored: 8/8

Proofreading test summary

What we take away from this five-way match up is that you can’t beat the eye of a human proofreader. Digital tools can be useful as spellcheckers, grammar fixers and synonym suggesters. In some cases, they can help you improve your basic writing skills and steer you away from embarrassing copy-editing errors as you create content.

But there’s more to proofreading than hunting for typos and making sure you haven’t written ‘your’ when the sentence structure calls for ‘you’re’.

What digital tools like Grammarly, Ginger and After The Deadline CAN’T do is check that web links point to the right pages, that names are spelled correctly or that facts and figures are accurate. So while they might claim to ‘proofread’ text, they actually don’t. You’d be better off doing it yourself or getting somebody else to check copy for you.

Creative Commons License photo credit: stingp

For more about proofreading

There’s an expanded version of this article in our book ‘Don’t Trust Your Spell Check’. It’s packed with pro proofreading tactics, looks at why we make mistakes, why we’re bad at spotting them and wraps up with 25+ challenging proofreading tests for you to try.

You can find it on the Amazon (US) store here and on the Amazon (UK) store here. For all other Amazon regions, simply search for ‘Don’t Trust Your Spell Check’.

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Ateeq June 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I really enjoyed reading through your text. I was just going to purchase a monthly subscription with grammarly and I googled it to see if it really works. Your text was on top in google and now I am not going to pay them anything as MS word can provide better results for free. Grammarly lost a customer because of you. lol… Although, in your test, your wife got the highest scores but I am still bound to use MS word for at least few coming years as I don’t have any wife right now…so sad! Might be having one in few years…


Michael April 1, 2015 at 7:56 am

It has been a while since I used Grammarly. In fact the last time I used it the developers were still trying it out on people like me (for free). At the time I was using it I needed to find a way to get my academic writing into shape (a non-writer having to write a large thesis). I found Grammarly really useful for providing me with improving the quality and style of academic writing that I able to produce. For what it is worth, Grammarly got me half way there – a good professional proofreader helped me to complete the journey.


sonia July 24, 2015 at 3:57 pm

I was going to do the same. I recently started writing website contents and articles/blog posts and already use the free version for Grammarly. Humans are much more practical in these sorts of things because in the end we want to read something that has a human touch to it. Which is why the Flesch reading is so flawed at times.


Cynthia October 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Or, you can combine any of these tools. I usually use a text-to-speech engine, Word 2010, Ginger and WhiteSmoke (in that other) to check a piece.


Dean Evans October 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm

That sounds like a good process. What’s WhiteSmoke like? It’s on my list of things to try.


A KUmar December 9, 2012 at 3:00 pm is another checker software


Tony Butler February 14, 2014 at 10:21 am

Don’t let the website fool you, I’m a novelist who relies on my publisher’s proofreader to correct my grammar and punctuation. (I left school at 15)

I have a lifetime membership with WhiteSmoke, and am so impressed with it I have now deleted it from my computer. Though it was great at finding spelling mistakes and highlighting duplicated words, its suggestions and punctuation checking is the stuff of comedy.
Save your cash.

That’s why I’m here searching for a proof-reader that works, and is affordable.


Tim Price May 28, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Dean, There is an error of word use in your article here. You wrote, “It boldly promises to identify over 150 text errors…” The word “over” is a spatial reference. You should have use “more than” which is a quantitative reference.

Great article by the way.

Tim Price


JK November 21, 2015 at 1:57 am
Brian Holz March 24, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Did you notice that you said, (in that other) instead of (in that order) in your comment? I thought that this was hilarious and on point with proving the efficacy of what this article was all about; human proofreading!

“The challenge is this: can proofreading software provide an effective shortcut to good text checking?” Obviously NOT! Hahahaha!

Did you proofread your own comment? I mean, with “a text-to-speech engine, Word 2010, Ginger and WhiteSmoke (in that other) to check” YOUR piece? Lol!

I’m just having some fun with you! No offense intended! Have a wonderful life!


Mr. Khan December 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

Try to check Whitesmoke as well, Please.


John Thiesmeyer January 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Your phony “test” was just a setup for your wife. A) No software pretends to be able to pick up factual mistakes in things like dates and corporate names. That’s a job for copy editors, not proofreaders. B) It’s foolish to pay text-checking software to catch simple spelling mistakes. Any good word processor will do that. (So will my e-mail program.) The spelling mistakes that proofreading programs can and should catch for writers are “contextual,” made of multiple words correctly spelled–Loan Ranger, weather vein, by in large–which Word doesn’t catch. All your “test” showed is that the “grammar checkers” don’t catch the three possessive mistakes. A good grammar checker should probably catch 2 out of 3.

It’s nice to show off your wife as a competent copy editor. But as for testing grammar checkers, get real!


Dean Evans January 9, 2013 at 7:00 am

Hi John. I think you’re missing the point. A word processor will certainly pick up spelling mistakes and some basic grammar problems; so will paid, so-called ‘proofreading software’ like the Serenity Software you represent.

But if you’re working online (and working on your own), there’s a good chance that proofreading and copy-editing disciplines now blur into one. The idea behind this short test was to show that commercial proofreading programs won’t always make you a better writer. There’s much more to accuracy than a spell check and getting somebody else to read your work is always a good idea. Time permitting, I’m going to test the software again with a longer and more varied text excerpt, which will feature more of the contextual issues that you mention.


Mary December 19, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I am interested in tools to help my students. I teach English IV in an alternative school setting. My students are seniors in high school who range in reading and writing abilities from 1st grade level to college graduate level. It is my primary goal to help them become independent learners since they are about to graduate from high school despite their abilities. I have many students who really work hard and continue to struggle, but I freely admit, most are just lazy. I teach my students that no one is perfect; no one will catch 100% of the mistakes 100% of the time. There is a reason that even Stephen King has mistakes in his published works. I model proofreading and editing using Microsoft tools, online and/or paperback dictionary and thesaurus (I frequently hand several different versions to students to see who can find the answer first), and I model my personal proofreading skills (read paper backward word by word for spelling; backward by sentence for complete sentences; forward out loud for content and meaning; replace it, these, and they if possible to clarify…). Still, I want them to have knowledge of resources. The key to success as independent learners is to know when to seek help, and when an answer to a problem is required, where is the best place to find the answer quickly?

I also want my students to be able to check for plagiarism and documentation. I received my master’s degree from the University of Phoenix – online. We had learning teams in every course. I knew how to document my materials, but I also had to make sure that my teammates weren’t plagiarizing. UoP has an online service to check for plagiarism, but this service is not available for public use. I would love to find an plagiarism checker that could: (1) Highlight or color sections of the paper that closely resemble sources from the internet. Sometimes students attempt to summarize, but don’t make it enough of their own words. (2) Tell students that 10% of the paper is other people’s words and 90% their own. Most papers for academic purposes allow a certain percentage to be quoted material as long as students document the sources.

Can anyone please recommend a program that could help? I don’t want to pay to test programs to see if they work. I also don’t want to try all of the “FREE” trials. I don’t have time to try them out, and I definitely don’t have time to answer, delete, or unsubscribe from the thousands of advertisements I receive after my 7 day trial!


Aya Shida September 12, 2014 at 5:45 pm

It’s called copyscape, and you can use it for free by creating a web page (maybe use weebly?) and pasting any text you want to check onto that page. Then run through copyscape. It wont catch copying from books that arent online, but will catch anything from the internet.


Amore January 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Hi Mary

I realize that my response to your question comes a year later, but I have only just come across this forum.

I am a student and our University uses “Turnitin” to check our submitted documents for plagiarism content/similarities taken from online books, journals and the like. I am not sure how much this program costs but what I can say is that it is very effective.


Hugo Benjamin Minney October 26, 2015 at 9:30 pm

A) a search engine like Wolfram Alpha should be able to pick up factual errors. I’m surprised that nobody has integrated this into their tools
b) a good grammar checker should pick up all of the mechanical stuff. However it seems to me that it’s vital to be able to set the context for your grammar checker – what is the audience you are writing for? Amazingly, every online tool I’ve looked at (and Word itself) simply say “this is good writing”. For whom? For a class of 10 year-olds? For the board of a company that produces computer software? For the member web pages of a professional association?
I use StyleWriter, which doesn’t fact check but does show my style in a graphical format, compared with the style I’m trying to write (ie the audience i want to interact with), and I am surprised that this author hasn’t reviewed it as I bought my copy in 2013 and it was already at version 4 by then.


Mike Brown February 22, 2013 at 7:11 am

Thanks for the share, i tried using ginger and it is quite good, above than others. but the problem is if you make so many sentence and grammar mistake, none of the tool will be able to correct it, so ultimate choice is hiring a proof reader.


Fred Tessensohn November 3, 2015 at 12:19 am

To paraphrase James Thurber, I am horror and struck by the paragraph above. I am a reckless optimist, therefore I am going to imagine that Mike Brown’s post is a quiz to test one’s proofreading skills. I shall take the bait:
1. “Thanks for the share.” This is a gross grammatical error. The word “share” can be used as a noun, as in “I only bought one share of stock.” but using “the share” in place of “sharing”? Heavens to Betsy.
2. “… i tried using ginger…” Okay, I’m all for modesty but let’s not reduce a reference to oneself (“I”) to lower case “i” just to save wear and tear on our little (pinky) finger. Also, as a product name, shouldn’t “Ginger” be capitalized as well?
3. “… above than others.” I could pretend not to have a clue as to what this cumbersome construction is about, but I am fairly certain what was meant was either, “above the others” or “better than others,” but definitely not “above than others,” which is both non-grammatical and nonsensical.
4. “… others. but the problem is…” So, here we are again. Not only is “but,” the first word of the sentence, not capitalized, but starting the sentence with it implies a conjunction that has no preceding word or phrase. Removing it would make the sentence better, faster, and stronger.
5. “… if you make so many sentence and grammar mistake, …” I don’t know if a spell checker would catch the mismatching singular and plural cases here, but I believe I did. The correction: “… if you make so many sentence and grammar mistakes, …” but I find even this a bit clumsy. I would have written instead, “… if you make too many structural and grammatical errors, …” (I suppose this is a matter of taste, style, upbringing, and nature versus nurture.)
6. “… none of the tool will be able to correct it …” Again, we have mismatched plural and singular cases. Also, and I will be charitable and not count this as mistake number seven, the use of “it” here is correct only if we accept the earlier use of “mistake” instead of “mistakes,” which I definitely do not.
7. “… so ultimate choice is… ” Ugh. This sample is beginning to read like it was written by a non-native user of English. Correction: “… so the ultimate choice is …”
8. I really should not have to point this out, but every dictionary I have consulted recognizes “proofreader” as a perfectly valid and useful word. There is no excuse for splitting the word in two.
I trust I did better than Grammarly, Ginger, or even Word would have done, and I would be honored if Dean’s wife agrees with even half of the items I have listed. I know there are more, but let’s leave things as they are, shall we?


Joy Hoeffler April 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm

As an aspiring editor, I found this article to be very helpful. I am trying to figure out if it would be worth using any of the paid tools as a back-up to my own editing. After all, no one is perfect (except maybe your wife), and I want to make sure my clients receive the best editing services I can offer, even if that means I have to pay out-of-pocket for a software program to double-check myself. Your comparison of the different software programs was immensely helpful. I won’t waste my money on any of these when Microsoft Word can do the same for free. I am mildly disappointed no program can truly act as a good back-up yet, but it is comforting to know that my services cannot yet be replaced by a computer program.

Thank you for your work.



Dean Evans April 2, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for the comment, Joy. My take on it as that software can’t truly ‘proofread’ like a human can. There are so many errors that we make beyond spelling mistakes and grammar goofs that these packages just won’t spot. One of the things I have found is that it’s often a good idea to run text through different software packages. For example, if you run the sample proofreading test through Google Drive (formerly Google Docs), it picks up the three basic spelling mistakes, but misses the incorrect use of ‘it’s’. Yet Google Drive spots the missing apostrophe in ‘Apples’, which Microsoft Word misses. Ultimately, some of the software here can be useful for basic error-checking, but only when used as part of a proofreading process, not as a replacement for it. There’s an expanded version of this article in our new book ‘Don’t Trust Your Spell Check’, which you can find on Amazon.


David Elins May 2, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I’ve been using free Grammarly for a while. Here is what I’ve noticed:
1. It seems to be ubiquitous, showing up (unasked) in many applications. It caught my initial misspelling of the word “ubiquitous” but it does not seem to catch “grammarly” which, AFAIK, (also not flagged by Grammarly) is not a legitimate word and appears to be a noun masquerading as an adverb.
2. It almost always incorrectly asks me to replace the word “too “with “to”.
3. It asked me to replace the possessive “Dad’s” with Dads, thought I’m pretty sure the former was correct. (It wants me to replace it in this sentence with “Had”!

In short, it is a good free tool, but IMHO (didn’t flag that one either) it needs to get much better before it is worth paying for (ending with a preposition – will it be flagged – is it even wrong?),

We’ve all bought too much software where we are paying someone to do their beta testing for them.


Colin May 22, 2013 at 10:00 am

To be honest I didn’t find this review very helpful – all it did was leave me deflated :-) . The reason I am looking at proofreading software is because I do not have somebody like your wife on hand to check my stuff and really don’t want to be forking out $15 – $20 every time I need a proof reader – and end up waiting hours or even overnight — and no, I’m not interested in a proofreading service. It’s too expensive when you’re churning out lots of copy. I just need something that will catch some of the errors that slip through. I also don’t find Word to be particularly good – I just wish there was some software that could do a good job.
Thanks anyway.


Dean Evans May 22, 2013 at 10:55 am

Thanks for the comment Colin. Although I’d argue that that this article has been somewhat helpful in showing you that automated proofreading software isn’t an effective replacement for manual proofreading. At least not yet. I’m sure that the technology will improve. Right now, there’s no substitute for re-reading through anything that you write, checking for errors. This process doesn’t need to take very long and there are some good ways to approach it – reading text aloud, reading it backwards, tapping each word as you read it, and so on. There’s lots of good advice in our book – Don’t Trust Your Spell Check.


Dwight June 8, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Have you compared Serenity Software’s Editor? Would be very interested, if not. They claim to have made similar comparisons with a larger list of programs, always coming out on top…


Dean Evans June 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I did an expanded version of this article covering Serenity’s editor in my book. But basically, if you use the same text here, it queries the hyphen in ‘multi-touch’, suggests that ‘in fact’ could be sliced out to tighten the copy up, and spots the misused ‘it’s’. It also picks up the three spelling errors. Pretty good really. So I’d rate it at 4/6.


Tom July 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Text to speech software can be an alternative proofreading tool, I use Panorpeter Plus ( ), it reads the text out aloud with natural sounding voices, it can convert the text into mp3 audio files too.


Joe August 10, 2013 at 9:56 am

Hi Dean
I am glad I read your report as I was tempted to try these alternative grammar checkers.
I will now just carry on using the checker in word.
My problem with using grammar checkers is I am a amateur comedy writer and because the characters I am using are speaking in British common guy to guy type speech (not slang) it does have trouble coping.


Georg August 27, 2013 at 4:11 am

Thanks for this *eye-opening* review! Your example text made me cringe reading since the mistakes/errors are so obvious – and I say that not even being a native English speaker! I took your snippet and double-checked on Grammarly, Ginger and ATD and it’s true, all those (overpriced) tools only found the three spelling errors, but I can do this in Word already. This obviously settles the question for me whether Ginger et. al would be a good addition for me as an occasional writer. All those tools claim to do a contextual grammar check – obviously, the part with the “Apples slick design” and the cringe-worthy “it’s innovative approach” failed the test…and I am sorry, those are OBVIOUS things. Thanks!


Gaynor September 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Interesting article. I agree with your standpoint. I think any software is going to struggle with the slight nuances of language, and I’d always have a human eye go over it anyway. Gaynor Paynter, author of Working From Home as a Transcriptionist in South Africa


Kendrick October 22, 2013 at 10:06 pm

From the services listed in your post, appears to be the most heavily marketed. I just see it everywhere on the interwebs. Used them for my bachelor thesis, that was a disappointing experience. Used one of the services, where humans do all the job ( if you must know). But if using proofreading tools is your only option, running these tools two times usually improves the results.


John Lennon December 13, 2013 at 7:58 am

Grammarly is the king of grammar software. I prefer your wife though. Yep. That’s it.


Web Sidekicks November 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Well, nice article, however we all know that it’s rather impossible to create perfect automated proofreader, the question is, do those existing ones worth the asking price…


Dean Evans January 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

That depends on how you want to proofread your content. The software is no substitute for a human proofreader. BUT, they can be helpful in spotting some basic mistakes and, if you can afford them, better than nothing at all.


John Lennon December 13, 2013 at 7:40 am

Oh God. Give me your wife.


Dean Evans January 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

I politely decline. 😉


Francine Walker January 5, 2014 at 7:16 pm

I am looking for a grammar checker for my very simple and stupid mistakes. I am not a writer in any sense. It should be able to catch something as simple as. “I contact_ Mike and told him to come over”. What is so hard about catching a simple mistake like that?. Microsoft grammar checker us useless. I found Ginger to be the best.
But I wonder, are these checkers safe? I want to use them to check my emails. Are they sending my text up and down the network. These email could potentially contain sensitive information, passwords etc… How do we know they are not storing and sniffing out messages. Or someone is hacking into their system to do this? Am I being paranoid?


John Koziol February 5, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I recently downloaded the computer app free version of “Grammarly” programmed into my Macbook Pro.Though I haven’t used it much, yet, because it has been less than a week since I downloaded the Grammarly free version app, I ABSOLUTELY love it!!! Having read your article and what you discovered with your review of the grammar check programs that you reviewed, I thought of using more than one so, hopefully, what one doesn’t pick up the other will. I read in the comments section where someone is doing just that. I really don’t yet see what grammar programs that offer an advanced version for a price have that is better than the free version that makes it worth buying the advanced version. Being a writer myself, I am always on the lookout for anything and everything that will help tighten what I write. I also come from a family, in particular, my father’s side of the family, who was frugal with money so I’m always looking for ways to do things that don’t cost much if anything at all. Therefore, based on your article, I will use as many of the freebie versions of these programs as much as I can and go over whatever it is that I write along with them since I pride myself in being a better than average proofreader, stemming from years of doing it. If I find myself a grammar proofreading program that I find does an especially outstanding job, and if it offers an advanced version that really impresses me then I will buy it and stick to just that one. In the meantime, as I just said, I will do just what i said I was going to do. Thank you, ever so much for this article you wrote. I found it extremely informative, therefore extremely helpful.


Ella February 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Interesting. I’m a self published author of historical romance novels. I purchased the Grammarly annual subscription to use in conjunction with my editor. I also rely on my writing software as another net to catch mistakes. Do I regret Grammarly now? Hmm… not yet. Its my second line of defense and I’m happy with it so far. My final line of defense is my wonderful editor. My goal is clean professional content. It would be nice to save money and time by using only software, but it seems neither are completely perfect. A person can miss things when editing a full length novel, but between the two, (software and person), things should look pretty good from the readers pov.


Landon Parks February 14, 2014 at 10:14 pm

I just wanted to add that I use Word 2013 and Ginger. Is Ginger perfect? No. Will it catch every issue? No. I think anyone who goes into a program like this expecting it to compare to a trained, English-major, human proofreader will be sorely disappointed. Complex issues are rarely caught by these software checkers. BUT, here is what I have found: Ginger does a better job than MS Word 2013’s built in Spell/Grammar check. A lot of my writing mistakes (I’m a novelist, so I tend to write really fast) is simple mistakes. I can’t tell you the number of times I have typed ‘were’ instead of ‘where’. Not because I don’t know the difference, but because as fast as I write, I make mistakes. Ginger catches things like this every single time. It knows (with 100% accuracy from my tests) rather I meant ‘we’re’ instead of ‘were’, or’ where’ instead of ‘were’, etc. Word, on the other hand, is terrible at catching these issues. Word only flagged roughly 50% of those same mistakes that Ginger caught. Workd does work much better at finding passive vs active voice mistakes and spelling issues. Ginger also has a sentence rephraser. Does it work? 20% of the time. A great deal of the time I find the correction would not fit the sentence; then again several times it suggested a great replacement that I loved.

You see, I use both as two tools. Each complements the other pretty well. Does either software know what I meant to say if I say it wrong? I doubt it – how could it? It does catch 95% of straight up grammar issues though.

I’ll also add that I’m not sure where you see Ginger costing $132 or $20 a month. I don’t have the premium version, but I have the paid basic version. Only difference is that basic doesn’t inclue the text to speech tool. It’s either $4.90 a month or $30 to buy outright.

No, I don’t work for or support any one software program. Just a consistant user.


George Hahn February 17, 2014 at 8:12 pm

I’ve tested trial versions of StyleWriter 4 and PerfectIt. I spent a week going over my 140,000 word novel with StyleWriter and it did find a lot of things that needed correcting, including an excessive use of passive voice and too much use of words like pretty and very. It didn’t find many spelling errors, probably because my word processor had already found them. It did have some problems, however, like a clumsy interface with Word, frequent crashes, and some other issues. PerfectIt didn’t check for much, but was very useful in finding capitalization problems and other inconsistencies that StyleWriter didn’t look for. It was much easier to use: I ran my entire novel through it in about an hour. The difference related to better ease of use and the more limited tests it made.


Jay March 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm

I have tried some of those checkers as well. I would recommend using PaperRater since it is free. They all have errors, so why pay if you don’t have to?


Thom G. March 16, 2014 at 11:45 pm

I enjoy writing, but at 63 years my last formal schooling was as a 20 yr old in college. I have had short stories published in a local history journal and now I am writing a novel that is a work of love. I have switched from Word to Pages and have used Ginger in the past with Word. It is frustrating to have a spell and grammar check program giving me obvious errors that I end up wasting my time researching only to have my initial instinct prove to be correct. I need a reliable helper that assists my writing, not one that writes for me. Thank you for the very insightful look at these programs, everyone has different needs and mine are to see what I am doing and offer credible help.
The new Ginger program that reads text back to me sounds good, (my wife is tired of listening to me read my stories to her) I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on it.


Randy Wilson April 9, 2014 at 4:35 pm

I appreciate things like this because I was just looking into Ginger and thinking that would solve my problems and was about to sign up and pay the monthly fee….I’m glad I read this because now I won’t. Is your wife available for proof reading? I don’t understand why proofreading is such an expensive thing to have done. You can read one of my ebooks in an hour less if you are a good reader I suppose, I’m not…and I can read it in an hour. But they want like $500 every place I look to do the proofing of the book….that’s more than a lot of lawyers charge per hour!!!!!! I don’t get the justification for that! $500 an hour for sitting on your ass reading something and fixing the spelling an grammar errors? Don’t make sense to me!

Randy Wilson


Pavel Iostes April 22, 2014 at 2:05 am

My problem is not having a human type kind of person to check my errors, like the kind in the last clause. I am extremely poor and so can’t afford those sites that actually have human checkers and charge a lot for each page. It would be nice for some viable alternatives to be elucidated, I mean besides having to buy a book that I won’t read. I am 62 and trying for a masters degree and think it’s impossible to get real help unless one has a lot of money.


angie April 26, 2014 at 2:46 am

I”m trying to do a poetry ebook but I don’t have anyone to edit my poetry so what online
tool would you suggest? I don’t trust anyone so I don’t know if they would steal
my poems anyways. I tried contacting a local University and even offered
to pay but they acted as if they were too above me to help, thanks


Dean Evans June 14, 2014 at 7:01 pm

IMHO, getting a friend to look things over for you is better than investing in an online tool and hoping that it will catch every error.


Mynah May 3, 2014 at 12:28 am

To give credit where credit is due, the title should read ‘Human proofreader vs Grammarly …’. Your wife scores 8/8 because she is a proofreader, NOT because she is someone’s wife. The title makes it look like ‘anyone’s wife could do this better than Ginger, Grammarly etc.’ whereas that is not necessarily the case. Is your point that any human could do better on these tasks, or that a human with proofreading skills will always do better? (To me, the ‘wife’ part is inconsequential and a bit patronising.)
Randy, proofreaders don’t just read a book in an hour then charge you $500. They go through the book letter by letter and look for errors in spelling, punctuation (yes, every comma and quotation mark) and grammar. They check that you’ve used the correct word (their/they’re/there for example, and will check usage with you if you’ve used technical terms) and that you’ve used words in the correct way. They check for problems with formatting (spacing; headings/captions/titles; wrong font e.g. are italics used correctly, has a letter in bold crept in somewhere?). They check tables of contents, indexes, cross-references and much, much, more. This takes hours, not an hour. If a manuscript has many errors it will take even longer. Your book didn’t take an hour to write, and it will not take an hour to proofread.


Elias May 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Any ideas on where to get an affordable wife with a good sense of grammar?


Dave Skinner March 3, 2015 at 11:54 pm

Can’t be done. Absolutely impossible. The good sense of grammar is a possibility. The other part, not so much. :)


Lyon June 9, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I am a translator and proofreader, and have tried many programs and even macros for helping me detect all kinds of errors. In the end, Microsoft Word language pack / proofing tools are the best. Nowadays I only use these and am very happy with them. Ginger and others alike are not worth their price, and their creators assume too much of their creations. If you are not a professional, hire a proofreader to do the job, because Ginger and others alike will not do a good job, quite the contrary. A good job requires a good professional (human being), not a machine or program. If you even try to depend on tools like Ginger to spot all your errors, then you have a big problem. Your reputation is always on the line, so depend on a professional (human being), or on your skills and free tools to help you detect as many spelling / grammar errors as possible.


Mark Massar September 6, 2014 at 5:27 pm

The whole purpose of writing is to engender (?) effective communication. If you don’t know that there is a word like “engender” or you don’t know its correct meaning, then your writing, like a knife to a scalpel, will suffer in its absence and proper application. No auto-correction program will likely ever accomplish this, but teaching should learn to accept its limitations and evolve from micro-analyzing simple sentence structure and move on to the higher orders of effective composition.


Ali September 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

As a not English native speaking PhD student, who is writing his thesis using Microsoft Word 2010, what is the best software that has stable and clear add-in toolkit or what is called plug-in within the MS Word?
Will really appreciate an advise from academician user who has applied comparison!


Dean Evans September 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm
Sam Sagmiller September 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I used Ginger, full of bugs and locked up my pc… support was a joke… never could get them to help…
So I was looking for a diff one, this helped, thank you!!


Jannie Tang November 14, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Where can the 46 comments be found?


Dean Evans November 16, 2014 at 8:25 pm

They were broken. But now fixed. :-)


Carl November 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Thanks for this, I’ve been thinking of trying Grammerly and Ginger but don’t like committing with my card details for a simple trial. My girlfriend is a proofreader, and a good one at that, but has decided halfway through proofing my novel that she no longer has the time to do it, so I’m looking for something cheaper than the £1000+ it’d cost me to hire a professional. Looks like I’ll be sticking to Word…


Scott Shuppert January 9, 2015 at 4:32 pm

This is all wonderful and thank you Dean and your wife for even starting this blog. However, I have to look at this from a different perspective. As a business owner for the last 25 years, I live and die by what I write. The technology business has changed, and the importance of writing is by far king. I have to make my living by what I write. Everything my staff and I write that could be a simple email quotation to a full technical description and manual reflects us as a company. The way my business works, the idea of an outside proofreader does not work. Myself and a zillion others just like me simply need to write technical documents – very well – quickly and every day a zillion times. For that, we need the best tools we can get. Time is everything. Process wise, the only method that makes any sense is some automated application that proof’s anything I and many others write – anything from an Outlook/Word email, a web form, a 25 page proposal, a simple email reply, a 10 person Skype group live text, all the way to a simple Google Talk instant chat on the fly.

If my company wins our next job because we wrote a better technical response, it is not relevant if this magic software costs, $ 5 or $ 5,000.

I very much wish I had the technical capabilities of your wife, but so many of us are stuck with what we have. I cannot tell you the difference of their/they’re/there if my life depended on it. And I clearly understand myself and my company look’s like an idiot and a fool not if, but when I misuse these words. We have even gone so far as starting to really use Nuance Dragon with properly trained profiles, but we wind up editing almost as much as we speak. If my customer see’s 3 proposals, and two of them are full of grammatical errors, and one is well written and clear who is going to get the business? Of course, that customer is going to think “Gee if they cannot even take the time to write a proposal in proper English how do I expect them to even care about my project?”

So how does a simple business owner create better writing? What I have understood from this blog that software provides –maybe on a good day- a 2->4 star improvement. A human who knows what they are doing could be up to a 7-8 rating. I would pay most anything for some magical software to improve my companies writing skills to get to that 6 range. Help! This is a real and serious problem, with financial lives depending upon improving this. Today we use MS Office 2013, with Word as its editor with every Office spelling and grammar trick we know of turned on.

Please, I look forward to all of your suggestions. HELP Please! My business, my employees and even their family’s life is determined by how well or how poorly what we write. Please further point us poor helpless soles / writers who don’t have a clue how to write?


Carol Brown March 25, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Hi Scott,

I appreciate your response and would like to share it with my college writing students as another real-world example of why such things matter. (Some are under the impression that once they get through the required English courses their writing life is over, though other students–often those who have come back to school–disabuse them of that notion fairly quickly.)

One suggestion I have that might make you more secure about what leaves your office would be to see if there is a local college who might have an English instructor who could function as your editor. (There are many instructors who are working hard to make ends meet and who might welcome this opportunity–and, should you have time, might enjoy an earnest student). You could polish your copy and then run it by your proofreader-professor.

I asked my students to try grammarly last semester and found that those who took the time to read and learn from the explanations provided not only gained skill but confidence. It is not a perfect system–and the learning process is not instant–but they found it a useful tool that–along with what we did in class–that gave them an increased awareness and helped them perfect their writing.


Louis March 25, 2015 at 3:54 am

Just wanted to share. I’ve used the free edition of Grammarly for a while now and really like it. Wasn’t sure about paying for Premium, but there’s a limited time offer for $29 for the entire year. Not sure how long it’s going to last, it’s up as of 3/24/15 –


Laurens Landkroon March 25, 2015 at 11:00 am

Hi all,

Interesting stuff here, both in the original post and the responses (forgive me for not reading all of them…)

I am a translator and use so called “quality assurance tools” for checking my translated content.

Have a look at the site through the below link : I found it a while ago and even though it is not directly aimed at text writing or proofreading content, maybe you can find something you did not already know and it may get you closer to what you are looking for…..)

Happy writing (or proofreading / translating / localising, etc.etc)


Tannia Ortiz-Lopés March 27, 2015 at 3:39 pm

As an English second language user, I am enjoying using Grammarly a lot. I use this program as a second set of eyes to Microsoft spell check, and I am happy with the result. Of course, at the end of the day, I will pay a professional proof reader to help me find mistakes on any manuscript I am planning to send to a publisher.

They also offer professional proof reading services. I am considering it but not convince yet. Any comments or suggestions?


Prashanth K April 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm

While Grammarly may not be as useful as manual checks, it sure is incomparable to most of the existing tools when it comes to grammar checks. I am not talking about simple spell and grammar checks, but the most advanced kind that includes contextual checks! (e.g. use of “lonely vacation” instead of saying “lovely vacation”).

Grammarly has saved me from more than a couple of embarrassments, but its steep price of $139 was a bit of dampener. What saved me this time was the steep discount in their annual pricing. They introduced grammarly premium at $30 instead of the normal $139.

Available for a limited time at


James L May 17, 2015 at 11:37 pm
Andy Kuiper May 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm

A good ‘honest’ review thanks for taking the time to share your findings Dean :-)


bern May 24, 2015 at 1:54 pm

I have been using Ginger for over a year and use the free version. I have found that between Microsoft word and Ginger there is a lot of disagreement as to the grammar of a sentence. The spelling is not really an issue as both will catch contextual and plainly misspelled words, you have to set MS word up in order to catch the contextual. Moreover I agree with the fact that the software cannot make a person a better writer. It take practice and hard work just like learning to play guitar or improve your golf game… Great article John.


bern May 24, 2015 at 1:58 pm

After reading my comment I see a misspelled word, ‘take’ instead of ‘takes,’ ha ha, actually reading what you write out loud helps better than any software anyway..


Midav October 29, 2015 at 8:42 am

Just curious, I can only spot seven errors myself. That’s the three spelling errors, it’s, 2008, Apple Corps, and Apples. What is the eighth error?


ELLEN October 31, 2015 at 8:33 pm


Does your wife offer an annual subscription fee?

Great article.


ELLEN October 31, 2015 at 8:38 pm

I took out an annual subscription of Grammarly, installed Grammarly on my Macbook Pro, and started running into system problems. My system managed to hang with that rotating colorful bouncing ball more times than was tolerable and would only return to normalcy with a re-boot. Got online with an Apple tech who advised that I shut down that application. We simply disabled the software and the problems have seemed to cease. Just one person’s experience.


Mr. Luigi November 27, 2015 at 4:03 am

It appears this review was written sometime in 2012 (the date is not showing…at least on my smartphone). Since it is almost 2016 I wonder if the results would be different. For example, Grammarly now advertises is checks 250 areas, not 150.


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