A Lot of Fog and White Smoke

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fog-in-sicilyI was searching for a software solution the other day, when stumbling over Whitesmoke and Ginger. Neither was what I sought, but once intrigued, I loaded their trial versions.

Both products claim to be a better version of Microsoft Word’s spellchecker and grammar tool. These tools provide spellchecking, and claim strong validation engines for grammar and style, and producing high-quality suggestions. Various language dictionaries, translation, thesaurus, … This post is too short for the impressive list of features, so you may understand my reasons for a closer inspection.

In a nutshell: it’s a joke. Try the free trial for a good laugh, just do not spend a penny on it.

I offered the same test to both tools:

First, I gave a simple and correct sentence, which a reference to a 3.3V voltage. Incomplete sentence was the verdict when facing the decimal point.

Second, I gave a 10-page Word document. This document (none of mine ;-) sports poor grammar, many spelling and upper case errors, poor style, use of jargon, missing articles or false word choice (e.g. weather vs. whether). The analyser tools should have shone with  long lists of findings. However, notes were mostly on missing articles and words missing from the dictionary.

Third, I gave a half-page long and reasonably well-written document, with more reasonable results. One repetition was reported, and no inappropriate advise was given.

Last not least, I found Grammarly, an online tool serving the same purpose – a pure online tool, given that their Microsoft Office Add-in crashed within minutes. Grammarly’s results and suggestions were better than Whitesmoke or Ginger’s. I used Grammarly for a while in a real (technical) document. It gave plenty of advise about my use of passive voice, thank you very much, and made me conscious of my writing style. A cross-check with the poorly written document showed no overwhelming success for Grammarly though. I also found many aspects of their online tool not practical or unacceptable on various accounts.

Grammarly found more issues and provide better guidance, compared with Whitesmoke and Ginger, but is far from being useful and worth a paid subscription.

An interesting journey. The journey soon continues with the more capable contestants, StyleWriter and Editor; stay tuned.

(The second part is right here.)

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