The problem is, most English users in the world use the language as a second or foreign language. Plus English writing is not easy, even for English speaking people. To improve the quality of our English writing, we can use the help from a grammar and spelling checker.
Even though some word processors come with their own grammar and spelling checker, the quality of these built-in tools is usually less than mediocre. Dedicated grammar checking tools are good, but they come with a steep price. One of the best free tools that we can use to check our grammar and polish our writing is After the Deadline (AtD).
Using The Online Tool
The tool is available as both an online tool and plugins for various applications. The online version is available at its own dedicated address. You can also access it from the AtD site by clicking the “Demonstration” link at the top of the page.
To check writing mistakes in a piece of text, paste the text inside the writing field and click the “Check Writing” button below. After processing the text, AtD will underline parts that it thinks contain mistakes. Click the underlined text to see the suggested correction(s) and/or read the explanation.
There are three elements of writing that will be evaluated by AtD: spelling (red underline), style (green underline), and grammar (blue underline).
Choosing “Explain” from the pop-up window will bring you to a new webpage with a further explanation about the subject.
Downloading Additional Tools
Going back and forth to the online checking tool page is not always practical. That’s why AtD also comes in various flavors, as plugins for several other writing tools.
WordPress users should be familiar with the tool as it comes standard in WordPress.com and as part of the JetPack plugin package for self-hosted WordPress blogs. I previously wrote about the WordPress plugin here, as well as the bookmarklet.
You can see support for other tools by clicking the “Download” link on the page menu. One of them is a bookmarklet that you can easily install in any browser (except Chrome) by dragging and dropping it to your browser’s bookmark bar.
You can assign any name to your bookmarklet then it will be ready to use. You can click the bookmarklet to add a proofread button above the textbox. Then click on the proofread button to find spelling mistakes, misused words, and grammar errors.
There are a few limitations, though. For example, you can’t use it for text that exceeds 7,000 characters, you can’t use it on WYSIWYG editors, and there’s no style suggestion.
Chrome users can use the AtD extension instead. Click on the link to go to the Chrome extension page and click install.
The AtD icon will be visible on the address bar whenever it can act on the current page.
A browser extension is also available for Firefox users.
If you use Windows Live Writer to blog, you will be happy to know that there’s a plugin you can download and install to add a “Grammar Checker” option to WLW. This function will utilize the AtD server to check your writing, so the 7,000 character limitation is applied and your computer has to be online to use the service.
If you want an offline solution, you can install the AtD plugin for OpenOffice‘s word processor. The plugin will contact the AtD server to check the writing, but you can download, install, and enable AtD server software on your computer and re-route the proofreading service to the local address. You can find the complete instructions on AtD’s OpenOffice plugin page.
Even though there’s nothing better than the assistance of a real live language editor, I’ve found AtD to be a great solution for those who want to improve the quality of their English writing but can’t afford commercial grammar checking tools.
Have you tried AtD? What do you think about it? Any better alternatives? Share your opinions using the comment below,