ProWritingAid proofreads academic article on ‘phrasal intertextuality’
For this experiment, we chose the abstract from an academic article written for Journal of Second Language Writing by Mary Davis and John Morley, the creator of The Academic Phrasebank.
We set the writing style as Academic, and the language as English UK.
Because of the nature of the ProWritingAid tool, we ran several separate reports rather than one combined report.
Let’s start with a basic real-time grammar, spelling and style check.
ProWritingAid identified five style issues and one grammatical issue:
The grammar checker suggested inserting an article a/the in front of the noun “recognition” (which was unnecessary).
The style checker suggested removing an unnecessary word or phrase to improve readability (in four instances), and recommended turning a dependent clause from passive into active voice. The former were good suggestions, but the latter would have further increased confusion around the pronoun “they”/”them” (the text-matching software identified what? Tutors? Their views? Or “these” phrases?):
We also ran a few other reports on the same sample that seemed important for checking the quality of writing.
The Readability report predictably (and rightly!) identified the piece as “very hard to read” (the piece gets a “Heart Attack” diagnosis on The Writer’s Diet):
On the report page, ProWriting Aid gave no explanation for the reasons behind the poor evaluation, nor any guidance for improving the text. The user/writer has to be familiar with the different readability scores and how each score is generated, which means the writer already has to know what lexical and grammatical aspects produce “easy” or “difficult” reading in each case. It is up to the writer to then revise their text according to this knowledge.
Clichés, Overused, & All Repeats reports
We also explored the few features that help identify clichés and redundancies (Clichés report), overused words (Overused), and any other repeated words and phrases (All Repeats).
The Overused Words check looks at the use of modifiers (“could,” “might,” “maybe”…), intensifiers (“very,” “so,” “really”…), generic words devoid of specific meaning (“interesting”…) and words that suggest “telling” rather than “showing” (he “knew”…). In this case, the report accurately identified overuse of the word and phrase “there (is/are/)”:
The Clichés catcher, which also looks at redundancies (i.e. “frozen ice”), caught none in the test sample:
The Repeats tool, which checks the text for frequently used terms, highlighted both keywords (“phrases”) and words that were unnecessarily repeated within the paragraph (“However, there”…) and, on occasion, even within the same sentence (“writing”):
It is unclear why the repeats check failed to identify the same phrases that appear in the Overused Words report (i.e., “there is/are/…”).
Altogether, these ProWritingAid features could be useful to a wordy writer as they bring verbal redundancy and repetition to the writer’s attention in a visually striking way.
Text used in the experiment: Mary Davis, John Morley. (2015). “Phrasal intertextuality: The responses of academics from different disciplines to students’ re-use of phrases.” Journal of Second Language Writing 28 (June): 20-35.