Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gramlee gets an F

On Tuesday, I posted about Gramlee, a new web-based proofreading service. Gramlee sounded great in theory, but I wanted to check it out for myself. I took advantage of the site's free 100-words-or-less trial, submitting the following text--the beginning of Tuesday's post itself--for editing:

There's a dirty little secret among all writers: it's easy to proofread someone else's writing, but damn hard to proofread your own writing. There's a simple reason for this: when you're reading your own work, you know what to expect--so you impose the correct words/phrases on your writing even when they're not there. When you read someone else's writing, however, you are objective simply because it's all new to you. That's why I included getting feedback on the list of habits that most good writers share.

Today, I received this response from Gramlee (I'm sharing at as image, because otherwise it might seem beyond belief--click on the image to magnify):

Do you see anything you wouldn't expect from a proofreading service--like four typos? Given that this is precisely the type of thing that writers would depend upon Gramlee to fix, this is a disaster. Let's look at those typos one by one:
  • "this.:" - The folks at Gramlee appear to love punctuation a little too much
  • "imposevisualize" - A collision of the words "impose" (from my original) and "visualize"--Gramlee's version, apparently, of a "mashup"
  • "expect.--" - Punctuation's so nice, they use it twice
  • "wWhen" - When you recommend typos that not even Spell Check would miss, you've failed pretty miserably
Now I did like a couple of their suggestions: they cut some superfluous words out of my writing, and they didn't editorialize (they could have cut the word "damn," for example). But those small successes don't begin to outweigh the almost laughable results.

Writing well is difficult, and an online proofreading service is a great idea. Now if someone could just come up with one that actually works, it might be worth using. Hell, even the "
team of professional writers" at Gramlee appear to need all the help they can get.

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