Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Writing tools when English is not your native language

English is the mainstream language of scientific writing, and even if we evolve into new ways of expressing our results (e.g., infographics), this won’t change. Thus, any writing tools available to help non-English native speakers (and writers) are useful and valuable.

Improve your English with Writing Tools

One of the greatest challenges a Portuguese face when writing in English is the use and abuse of the Passive Voice. The reason is the enriching such voice brings when writing in Portuguese, but it’s not the same with English. Thus, every time I check my writing in one of the writing tools to help me improve the English, most suggestions relate to the use of the Passive Voice.

However, the fact of being systematically suggested to change the Passive Voice to an Active Verb for a more direct approach to any argument made me more sensitive to how, and when to use it in my writing. Thus, in my experience, tools helping you to improve your English can have a lasting and positive impact on your writing.

Here I’d like to share my experience with 4 writing tools helping you improve your writing in English.

Hemingway

Hemingway was the first tool I used to assess and improve my English writing. It has a simple interface, clean and user-friendly. Recently, developers have updated the app, including significant improvements to previous versions. Suggestions highlighted in the text allow you to improve your writing. You can try it online free, and if you like it, you can buy the desktop version for a reasonable price. The fact there is no subscription service is an advantage.

 

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid is the second tool I used. Like Hemingway, you can test your writing online and improve. ProWritingAid has the benefit over Hemingway of including different a yearly writing styles (General, Academic, Business, Technical, Creative, Casual and Web). You can analyze your grammar, style, clichés, overused words, or even sticky sentences. Thus, it is a more potent tool, but with a price. If you want to take advantage of all the features, you need to sign in to a yearly subscription option. Thus, ProWritingAid is more expensive than Hemingway.

 

Grammarly

Recently, I started using Grammarly because of the ability to check your writing within a browser, which is useful if you have a blog. Like ProWritingAid, it has a lot of potential features like choosing your writing style, vocabulary enhancement, and a cleaner interface.

Grammarly automatically checks all possibilities for improvement while you write, which can be pedagogical in a sense. It also includes a plagiarism tool. The main problem is the subscription price, which represents an investment you want to benefit from its full potential. Grammarly is the tool I’m using at the moment in my writing.

 

Writing & Improve

Write&Improve is a writing tool I found recently. It is aimed at Academia and has a lot of options in that sense, but those focus on specific tasks. Therefore, it can be a useful tool for college students and academic staff, but I feel it doesn’t have the simplicity and flexibility of the other apps. The feedback is helpful but needs some improvement. For example, it says a word doesn’t look right, but it doesn’t tell you why. Thus, it ‘s hard to understand how can you improve.  Nonetheless, worth trying.

 

Final Remarks on Writing Tools

What I haven’t told you yet is that I wrote the paragraphs above in their proper apps. However, when I pasted the content into this blog post, Grammarly still pointed some mistype errors and had a few other suggestions for improvement which were clear and allow me to learn. Curious.


QUESTION: do you have any experience with these or other apps for improving your English writing?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

One Reply

  1. ProWritingAid is really nice and the free version can be used for abstracts. Thanks for the suggestion!

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