AI based grammar checker: The hunt for “perfect” solution

(From The Economist)

The Economist writes:

On the other hand, Grammarly has a problem with false positives, calling out mistakes that are not. The other two suggestions were not disastrous, but neither did they relate to “critical errors” as Grammarly maintains. In the assertion that enlargement had “created a fatigue” within the European Union, Grammarly needlessly suggested deleting the “a”. In another error-ridden sentence it recommended removing a comma, which fixed none of the problems. This false-positive tendency is not a deal-breaker for reasonably skilled writers who just want a second pair of eyes; you can dismiss any suggestion you like. But truly struggling scribblers might not know when Grammarly’s ideas would make their prose worse rather than better.

I was surprised to discover this article pop up in my Google search, but it was dug deep inside the search results. My subscription to Outwrite had expired (and I failed to realise it). While I have a back up for ProWritingAid (another grammar checker tool), Outwrite is my daily driver. For a satisfactory reason.

I use grammar checking tools to speed up my workflow as an “additional pair of eyes” that works in the background, and calls for action to most pressing parts of the write up. Grammar rules (for a linguist) and hence interpretation through AI aren’t complex. However, scaling up the algorithms, ensuring reproducible corrections and “correctness” is a tough ask. Besides, not everyone is in the “market” for such a solution; most will ignore this as an avoidable expense. Therefore, it is difficult to cut through clutter for the narrow slice of consumers, as most leads are generated through heavy search engine optimisation (marketing costs). Most companies, in this space, are opaque about their “engineering prowess” and there is no formal academic comparison that makes it onerous to compare. Hence, I am sticking to something which works for me.

I have used Grammarly in the past, which failed to work for my new WordPress block editor. I was scammed through an affiliate link posted by “consultants” for PhD advice on my earlier iteration on Twitter. Affiliate marketing works through payback mechanisms (you share specific coupon codes, and the websites earn a significant share of the total cost ponied up by the end user). This is definitely not illegal- a legitimate way of earning commissions. However, users are often tricked through dark patterns. I prefer to avoid Grammarly now. I don’t recommend this – their interface is outdated, and as outlined above from The Economist. Though, they have a mind share due to excessive reliance on keywords, SEO marketing and other shady tactics. The product itself is subpar and I don’t find it worthwhile for me. Your mileage may vary (and this represents a opinion).

After another prolonged search, Linguix is another worthwhile contender. They have improved the product rapidly in the past few months – updated language rules, works in Fastmail (my email client) and has a new “sentence rephraser”. It helps you rewrite specific parts of the sentence structure, possibly using Natural Language Processing. As expected, it is likely to be computationally expensive (at scale) and therefore partially restricted to free users with unlimited usage for paid users. Linguix runs several lifetime deals, and has several coupon codes – please do a Google search for them. I have linked it here.

I will recommend Linguix if you are on a budget – grammar rules are better than ProWritingAid and are at par with OutWrite. I like the sentence rephraser, and in my limited experiment, it worked flawlessly. One of the key recommendations for Linguix is the stellar customer support – often from the owner himself. I have the opportunity to interact with him, and he has been prompt in settling the issues. Hopefully, the WordPress block editor will be resolved (only my specific use case scenario), but I will recommend getting Linguix. It ticks all the right boxes with stellar customer support. Linguix works on other platforms, but my workflows are geared towards my browser.

Outwrite (Previously GradeProof) serves my personal use case. I find their marketing honest, grounded, and they avoid all the sleazy SEO at scale. They have a simple functional website and a stellar Chrome extension, that integrates with my highly demanding workflow. It generates sensible suggestions, corrections, and a sentence rephraser. Highly recommended. Outwrite was generous to provide me with a complimentary subscription, because I have been advocating for their honesty and tweeting daily in their support. However, I have been asking them to offer me a method to pay for the services and give me a “life-time” deal, because it requires capital to run operations at this scale. I haven’t linked any specific affiliate codes, except the links to their respective websites.

WordTune is another sentence rephraser, and they have a compelling product, but have terrible customer support. An email sent to them has remained unanswered for over three days. It doesn’t bundle in any grammar checker, and it would be difficult to compare rephrasers from Outwrite/Linguix. I don’t reckon it justifies the USD 120 per year for their subscription. I haven’t used Ginger Software or any other suggestions from the “grammar checker list”.

This isn’t the last post on grammar checkers, because the products keep evolving. I plan to update it in the future.

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