One of the most influential ways software and technology impacts writers is in editing. Algorithmically powered software can review grammar, spelling, punctuation, and even style. Today, we’ll look at Typely, a proofreading tool for fiction and essay writers.
What is Typely?
By the designer’s own description, Typely is a “reliable proofreading tool and essay editor for any writer or student.” There’s one aspect of Typely that makes it stand out from the other major proofreading tools you’ll find on the web—it’s not a spellchecker.
Yeah, you read that correctly. Typely ignores spelling (mostly) and focuses on readability. Basically, the developers wanted a tool that could be hyper-focused and precise. Doing so meant, to them, that complex actions like spell checking would be left to existing tools.
Specialization has long been a means to differentiate in a crowded product field. Typely’s designers knew enough not to compete with ProWritingAid or Grammarly; the top programs for thorough proofing. Which, by the way, I’ve reviewed in detail:
Thinking in Layers
If you opt to try Typely (which you should), you’ll need to use another tool as well to check spelling. I recommend both Grammarly and ProWritingAid; software with powerful free versions and great paid version. The decision about which to use and whether to pay for their services I think comes down to personal preference, so I won’t weigh in there.
But I’ll quote myself from the above review of Grammarly: “Grammarly helps with spelling, but it is far from perfect.” The same is true for ProWritingAid. Both will flag spelling errors based on context the algorithm doesn’t properly understand. There is no single, perfect grammar tool.
Which brings us to the biggest strength of Typely: it does not use an AI. Instead, the application uses rules and norms to compare your text against. Elegantly simple. With the caveat that you will need to use another means of checking spelling.
Typely Versus The World
The obvious and necessary question is: why Typely? Does it bring anything that Grammarly or ProWritingAid don’t?
What better way to see what Typely is made of than to run a document through all three services? So that’s what I did.
I took The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe from Gutenberg and pasted the content into each editor. I chose this short story because Poe’s word forms and syntax are old enough to trip up most grammar editors. Let’s have a look at the results.
Typely Errors Flagged: 7
Grammarly (Free) Errors Flagged: 63
ProWritingAid (Free) Errors Flagged: 170
The disparity is…large. I opted to use the free version of both Grammarly and ProWritingAid to ensure we got a symmetrical view of all three. Rather than dismissing Typely here, we need to look at the errors it identified.
Here’s the log:
In order, here are the errors:
- Starts_With_Conjunction – And
- Starts_With_Conjunction – But
These first two are paragraphs starting with a conjunction, something generally frowned upon.
- Needless Variants – thenceforward
In this sentence: “My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.” Typely suggests replacing thenceforward with thenceforth.
- Weasel Words – Very
I love this one. The phrase in question is “very large” and the suggested replacement is “huge.”
- Verb Form – been
The sentence is: “Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate;” and Typely wants to replace “been” with “have been.”
- Typo – middle ages
Typely is asking that we capitalize this to “Middle Ages.”
- Phrasal_Adjectives – ly
And finally, Typely wants us to remove the “ly” from “freshly-spread plaster.”
Typely Error Quality
In this 3800 word short story, Typely found seven errors. Of those, the only one I disagree with is #5; replacing “been” with “have been” would make the sentence worse. And in the review, Typely didn’t flag numerous commas either missing or used in excess, missed some complex phrasings that could be simplified, and ignored some spelling variations. For example, Grammarly flagged:
- Marvellous -> Marvelous
- Some one -> Someone
- By means of -> Using/Utilizing
In a similar fashion, ProWritingAid’s wealth of errors touched on many words no longer in common use.
- Procuring -> Buying
- Retained -> Kept
And many more. But what we must note; what makes me stop and take notice of Typely, is that neither Grammarly nor ProWritingAid identified the seven errors. The only approximate match was by ProWritingAid, which suggested replacing “freshly-spread” with “freshly spread.”
The Competitor’s Error Quality
Looking through the errors Grammarly and ProWritingAid offer, all of them fit into one of three categories:
- Comma use
- Modern Spelling
The vast majority are suggestions about adding or removing commas; a difference in writing styles from Poe’s day to now. The same with the spelling errors and tautology. Some errors marked were clearly intentional, for Poe’s artistic purposes. Consider this instance:
The officers bade me accompany them in their search.
Grammarly flagged “accompany” as being in the to-infinitive form and should be:
The officers bade me to accompany them in their search.
Which we can tell is not pleasant to read. And I’m not even convinced it’s actually correct grammar.
The errors from ProWritingAid are all similar. They account for modern trends in writing styles and do not consider the author’s personal style. How could they?
Variety Is Versatility
Which lands us on a common bottom line in the search for writing software: variety is versatility; and for finessing your writing, the more opinions the better. Just like getting multiple beta readers to give feedback on your story, you can and should employ multiple proofing tools. Typely, while flagging far fewer errors than its competitors, does a great job of catching niche changes to strengthen your document.
With that in mind, I suggest Typely as a great addition to your automated review process. It won’t replace your spell checker and you still have to get readers to comb through your manuscript. But since Typely is a free to use program available right in your browser, it makes a fine tool for refining complex sentences and catching those annoying weasel words.