Homophone Check and Grammarly: Automating Grammar Instruction

Fountain pen/Flickr Creative Commons/Luigi Crespo Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/crespoluigi/3334034672/
Fountain pen/Flickr Creative Commons/Luigi Crespo Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/crespoluigi/3334034672/

As a college instructor, I’ve struggled with teaching grammar in the classroom. For various reasons, grammar instruction is de-emphasized in college writing, and the focus is on higher concepts like rhetoric and analysis.

There are times when I need to teach grammar. I do a lot of one-on-one conferencing with my students to help them improve as writers, but I’ve never had a way to let them check issues on their own.

Recently, I’ve discovered two tools that have helped me introduce grammar concepts to students without having to dig through textbooks: Grammarly and Homophone Check.

Both tools allow you to copy and paste essays. They will check for grammar issues, highlight them, and explain the concepts further. While Grammarly focuses on style, spelling and plagiarism, Homophone Check finds homophones and explains how they are used correctly.

Both tools are excellent. When I used Homophone Check, it highlighted every homophone. If I floated my mouse pointer over any of the  homophones, I’d see a description of each similar word used in a sentence:


This tool is especially helpful for students who deal with spelling or word choice issues. I’ve found this is a very common problem.

Grammarly gives a report and prompts you to sign up for a 7-day trial. You can use the service for those 7-days, but after that it costs $19.95 a month. That’s quite expensive! Homophone Check is free, which makes sense for a service like this.

Both of these tools help with editing as well. If you’re a writer who struggles with basic grammar and spelling and don’t think your word processor’s built-in grammar tools do enough, these sites will help you. If you’re a teacher, these tools will help you explain concepts to students who might not understand them without seeing it.

Homophone Check is particularly helpful because homophones are a persistent problem for some writers. The site’s visual tools help writers understand the concepts on the spot.

I like both these sites because it helps emphasize basic grammar concepts without “fixing” them for the student. That’s why these tools will help writers learn the concepts, not just erase mistakes.

Teachers, writers, editors: what other tools do you use? Let me know in the comments.

(Disclosure: Jason Braun, a writer and editor here at Critical Margins, created Homophonecheck.com. I have no direct affiliation with the site beyond knowing Jason and liking his product. Grammarly is a site I use, but I have no affiliation with it except as an enthusiastic user.)