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I only became aware of the Grammarly tool a few days ago, which is a kind of instant spelling and grammar checker for texts that can be used, for example, via a browser plug-in in any text field in the Firefox browser. Grammarly is great, but unfortunately there is no Grammarly in German. For this reason I looked around for an alternative and with LanguageTool Plus I found what was closest to Grammarly.
Yes, LanguageTool Plus also offers a free basic account, but its functions are severely limited. Nevertheless, this basic version also has a few advantages over normal browser plugins for spell checking: It already recognizes a few grammatical errors and automatically finds the appropriate text language, while with other plugins you always have to switch in the browser which language is to be corrected.
You don't have to register to use it free of charge and you can use the plugin permanently for free. With LanguageTool's premium account, you get help with setting commas and even more suggestions for improvement if it looks like a grammatical error, in addition to the usual spell check. I looked at the premium version because I wanted to see what LanguageTool can do.
LanguageTool's premium account currently costs around 5 euros a month if you choose annual payment.
Short note: Even if I am mainly concerned with the German language, LanguageTool is not limited to German. On a Overview page you can see the languages that LanguageTool supports. The "Activity" bar shows, however, that English, German and Portuguese are being developed the most.
When you have created and paid your account, you install the add-on or plug-in for the service in your browser. You can find the relevant links here:
After the installation you can enter your login data in the settings of the plugin so that the payment can be verified and you can manage your personal rules. Unfortunately, these are currently not managed centrally, which means that you only have your personal dictionary and rules available in the browser you are using and on the special computer.
If you are now on any website and enter text in a text field, LanguageTool automatically checks the text every few seconds. According to the provider, the text is sent to the provider's server, but not stored there.
In the lower right corner of the text field you can see a small, round symbol that is briefly blue with waves when checking the text and then immediately switches to a red number in a circle. The number shows how many errors LanguageTool found. These are also marked directly in the text by underlining words in red, yellow or blue, for example. Words that are obviously wrong or unknown are underlined in red. Suggestions that show a better word suggestion are highlighted in blue, and grammar and comma errors are underlined in yellow.
Now you can click on the highlighted word with the mouse and you will get a description of the error or a comment. Unknown words that you have certainly spelled correctly can be added to your personal dictionary with one click and an exception can be set up for rules that you do not want with a click. These exceptions can be viewed in your personal account and removed again when you call up the settings of the add-on.
How the tool checks "technically" is well described on the website:
LanguageTool checks every text simultaneously using three methods:
- Spell check: LanguageTool checks every word for its spelling and uses the same dictionary as LibreOffice, but expanded by more than 10.000 words.
- Error pattern: LanguageTool has around 2200 error patterns for German that identify certain problems in texts. These patterns refer to a sequence of certain words and parts of speech. For example, "yes, faster, the more" is recognized as an error because a rule exists that recognizes the sequence "yes", increased adjective, "the more" as a probable error and suggests the word "ever" instead of "yes".
- Statistics: Many word pairs from similar words are checked to see whether the other word could possibly be meant. For this purpose, it is checked how often the word usually occurs in which context and how often. If one word occurs much more frequently than the other in a specific context, it is assumed to be correct and the less frequently occurring word is assumed to be incorrect. Two words before and after the word concerned are used as context. An example of this is the word pair you / yes. Both are spelled correctly on their own - the context only reveals which word is correct.
You can see that there is a lot of know-how and technical standards behind the tool. That also shows active communitywhich helps to improve the rules and markings or to expand the error database.
As always with automatic spell and grammar checkers, LanguageTool is also used with "brains". Not all of the words it chalked up or tried to correct are really wrong. But if you read your sentence in context, you can usually tell whether LanguageTool's suggestion is right or wrong. Unfortunately, he is mostly right. ;-)
I haven't tried Grammarly excessively as I don't write lyrics in English. As far as my wife (she is a native English speaker) explained it to me, Grammarly helps a little more than LanguageTool, as it also recognizes things that are not directly wrong, but which should be avoided in texts:
LanguageTool also has functions that go in this direction, but they are not yet fully active, as you can see with Grammarly. But I have high hopes that the developers will stick with the ball and keep improving the service. The payment through the subscription model should help that there is constant motivation in the direction.
Overall, the use of the tool is very intuitive and visually appealing. The fact that the check is carried out constantly and in every text field (you can create exceptions for domains) ensures that you quickly get used to dealing with it. I've only been using it for a few days, but I appreciate the active blogging support so much that I don't want to miss it anymore.
If you want to check the service for free, you can either do this by installing the plug-in with the limited free account, or you can test your texts in the Online examiner on the website copy. There you can already see what the tool recognizes and how the texts are marked. The highlighting with the Firefox add-on looks much nicer, however.
I noticed three things that I would like to submit as suggestions for improvement:
For me as an author, it would be very nice if LanguageTool would move further in the direction of Grammarly when it comes to suggestions for wording and suggestions for improvement for easy-to-read texts.
I got a year of "Premium" free from the developers to test the tool. However, I approached them because I find the service interesting and as a blogger, of course, I am constantly writing texts in the browser. I would like to thank the makers of LanguageTool for the "premium year". I can promise you, however, that this has not caused me to report positively about the tool. For me, who writes texts in the browser every day, the service is so helpful that I already know that I will continue to book it after the year.
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He appears as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with problems of a technical nature. In his free time he drives electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with his iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions for current bugs.