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“The World’s Best Grammar Checker” (Ginger’s slogan on their website).

“Ginger’s linguistic accuracy is such that users cannot simply accept every suggestion and expect that their writing has automatically improved” (Robert Swier).

 
Ginger is a free, downloadable, corrective software that checks one’s writing for spelling and grammar mistakes. It also offers automated paraphrase and translation, as well as developmental resources for language learners, esp. ESL/EFL students.
 
The tool has many useful integrations and plugins but has to be used with caution due to its high level of inaccuracy.

Description

The primary function of Ginger is text editing. Alongside a grammar and spelling checker, Ginger suite also includes a translator, a dictionary and thesaurus, text-to-voice reader and a range of other writing-related tools, such as a Personal Trainer. The Trainer collects data on the writer’s most common grammar mistakes and offers short practice exercises on relevant topics.
 
Ginger uses big data statistical algorithms in conjunction with Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology to decipher the semantic and contextual meaning of the written text. It does this by comparing the input sentences to billions of similar ones found on the Web. Analysis of this data supposedly allows the computer to learn how natural human language is used. Ginger says it can understand the intended meaning and context of the text you feed into it. Ginger’s marketing slogans hint at the tool’s primary target audience: internet users and business professionals, especially non-native English speakers (Swier). Ginger is also increasingly being used by ESL/EFL educators, with licensing options available at many educational institutions, and discounts offered for student subscriptions.
 
With intrusive browser extensions, word processing plugins, and bold claims, Ginger Software (which calls itself “The World’s Best Grammar Checker” and “the world’s most sophisticated proofreader”) has become one of the most popular tools for automated text correction. Its ubiquity, once a user has signed on, is alarming. Ginger, like the Grammarly and ProWritingAid suites, starts to inspect everything one writes on pretty much any platform, from word processing programs and Gmail to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
 

(Mis)Use in Writing

For mature writers, the inconvenience of having to install the software for proofreading, combined with the tool’s low level of linguistic accuracy (see Drawbacks & Malfunctions and Experiments), hardly make it a worthwhile tool. Its web browser plug-ins and other extensions can be both pleasantly useful and annoyingly obtrusive. While they can help you catch small spelling and grammar errors in various online writing environments, enduring Ginger’s omnipresence and its enthusiastic and meddlesome nature requires more tolerance than a reasonably confident writer may have.

In the Classroom

Use Ginger to make students pay more attention to the potential errors in their writing so that they learn to recognize and understand them.  Self-learning extras,such as the dictionary, thesaurus, paraphrase and translation functions, can be added to the process. Although Ginger cannot provide “perfect linguistic accuracy,” the tool can engage students in “more attentive revision” of their work (Swier). Students should never rely entirely on the tool’s suggested corrections. Many, if not most of them, will be inaccurate or even nonsensical (See Drawbacks & Malfunctions and Experiments for examples). Give your students enough guidance in assessing the tool’s work.
 
 
To view some suggestions for classroom activities with Ginger, visit Exercises.

Drawbacks & Malfunctions

Linguistic accuracy
Even though some research on ESL/EFL student-use of Ginger claim positive results (see, e.g., Daniels and Leslie and Swier), the enthusiastic tool should be used with great caution. It is far from accurate in its language use predictions.
 
Robert Swier praises Ginger for its ability to reliably identify and correct small errors characteristic to some ESL writers, such as:
 
  • subject-verb agreement (Two horses is running → Two horses are running)
  • missing prepositions or articles (I want to buy carI want to buy a car)
  • and most misspellings
However, it is also capable of significantly changing the semantics of the sentence by suggesting the wrong correction:
 
  • I cried the babyI carried the baby, instead of I made the baby cry
  • I looked the movieI liked the movie, instead of I saw/watched the movie
Ginger does not really understand the meaning of input text. Neither does it fully understand how a non-native English speaker may think.
 
Users can teach Ginger to ignore certain words marked as incorrectly spelt by adding those words to a personal dictionary. But Ginger is unable to expand its knowledge base of grammatical errors (or lack of those). When Ginger falsely and repeatedly identifies what it thinks is a grammatical error, you can only sigh and ignore the highlighting.
 
 
Language standardization
Acknowledging only US English and British English as usable language standards, Ginger remains a conservative tool that does not recognize the multitude of other English dialects and their grammatical variations that exist around the world (See also Ethical Issues).
 
 
Rephrasing
Ginger says its Sentence Rephraser “analyzes users’ text and creates variations of the same sentence to enhance users’ communication.” That is not quite the case, as often the variations suggested significantly differ from one another and/or the original text. Ginger has trouble understanding the original meaning especially in texts written in an unconventional style that do not “fit the template.” The tool may use a large corpus of data to identify possible options for paraphrase, but it will always ultimately be faced with “an infinite set of possible expressions in natural language” (Perelman). Ginger also claims to offer from zero to up to ten options for rephrasing any given sentence. But sometimes, the rephrasing tool does not work at all, and the machine remains silent when asked to paraphrase a text. To see some short examples of how Ginger can helpfully (or, often, unhelpfully) paraphrase ungrammatical sentences, have a look at Robert Swier’s review of Ginger as a pedagogical tool and visit our Experiments page.
 
Translating
Powered by the Microsoft® Translator, Ginger’s translation function is as bad as could be expected from a machine at this stage. To view experiments with German, Russian, Latvian and Spanish as target languages, click here.
 
 
Formatting
Ginger does not retain the formatting of the original text, and the distortion results in new spelling errors. The formatting options on Ginger are limited to a small selection of font size and style.
 
 
Interface
Users are unable to simultaneously work on their text and view the dictionary or thesaurus entries offered by Ginger. If the user wants to first edit a text and then translate it, they will have to copy-paste the edited text in the Translation window.
 
 
Functionality
The spelling and grammar checking functions in Ginger cannot be separated.

Ethical Issues

Data privacy
For research and development purposes, Ginger collects non-personalized information, such as data on spelling and grammatical writing errors that get compiled but not associated with particular users. “[A]though the company collects information from the text, Ginger Software does not retain information that links that text with individual users,” believes Swier. Yet Ginger’s data policy also states that a third party has access and may use the user’s IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), to display targeted advertisements or content from other third parties to the user. In other words, Ginger may collect information about your browsing habits and sell that to advertisers for commercial purposes. Ginger’s data privacy policy has not changed since November 2016.
 
 
 
Language bias
Despite its tolerance for a certain degree of informality in writing, Ginger may be as biased as other similar language-checking tools (think Microsoft’s grammar checker) when it comes to evaluating non-standard English dialects. For example, it flags non-standard syntactic patterns that are characteristic to the African American English dialect as incorrect without offering much explanation to the user (Behrens et al.). Like most technology that fails to acknowledge the nuances of linguistic variation and the growth of language, Ginger may “promote rules of standardization outside the students’ linguistic experience” (Zuber and Reed, quoted in Behrens et al.).

Experiments

To see how Ginger manages the various editing, paraphrasing, and translating tasks that we threw at it, visit Experiments.

Reading Room

Behrens, S. J., Chirinos, Y., Spencer, M., & Spradley, S. (2016) Academic English and Language-Related Technology. NADE Digest 8(1), 28-34.
 
Dale, R. (2016) Checking in on grammar checking. Natural Language Engineering 22(3), 491-495. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1351324916000061
 
Daniels, P., & Leslie, D. (2013) Grammar software ready for EFL writers. OnCue Journal 9(4), 391-401. http://jaltcue.org/files/OnCUE/OCJ9.4/OCJ9.4_pp391_401_AC_Daniels_Leslie.pdf
 
Evans, D. (2012) Proofreading test: my wife vs. Grammarly vs. Ginger vs. After The Deadline vs. Microsoft Word 2010. Good Content Co. http://goodcontentcompany.com/proofreading-test-roundup.
 
Perelman, L. (2016) Grammar Checkers Do Not Work. WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship 40(7-8), 11-19.
 
Saadi, Z. K., & Saadat, M. (2015) EFL Learners’ Writing Accuracy: Effects of Direct and Metalinguistic Electronic Feedback. Theory and Practice in Language Studies 5(10), 2053-2063, http://dx.doi.org/10.17507/tpls.0510.11
 
Swier, R. (2015). Ginger Software Suite of Writing Services & Apps. Calico Journal 33(2), 282-290. http://journals.equinoxpub.com/CALICO/article/viewFile/27069/27193
 
Thiesmeyer E., & Thiesmeyer, J. (2014) Comparing Grammar Checkers: Holding Grammar Scammers’ Feats to the Fire. Serenity Softwarehttp://www.serenity-software.com/pages/comparisons.html
 
Zuber, S., & Reed, A.M. (1993) The politics of grammar handbooks: Generic he and singular they. College English 55(5), 515-530. http://doi.org/10.2307/378587
 

Technical Specs

Title
Ginger*
Website
Type of help offered
Editing for spelling and grammar mistakes; translating; paraphrasing
Platform
Online; desktop
Ginger Page for iOS
Ginger Page for Windows
Ginger Keyboard for Android
(incl. mobile devices)
Cost
Freemium (free but limited); payment options for Premium (Desktop) versions:
monthly $29.96
quarterly $19.98
annual  $12.48
for two years $9.99
Student & institutional discounts available
Function
Corrects; offers developmental help via Personal Trainer feature and dictionary/thesaurus resources
Method
Statistical analysis algorithms and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology to contextually understand text and intention
User interface
Clean, comfortable. A bit heavy on external resources. Very basic for word processing
Related sources
English Online (language learning resource on Ginger website)
Browser plug-ins
Chrome; Safari; Firefox; IE; Gmail
Integrations
MS Office (free)
First released
 2007
Developer
Ginger Software (Yael Karov)
Support service
The website‘s Help section with a basic FAQ; technical support team: support@gingersoftware.com

  * Disclaimer: This website and its resources were created in the first half of 2019, based on the most recent broadly available versions of each tool at the time. Technology changes too rapidly for us to capture the details of each new version. Here we address more lasting issues: the overall accuracy of algorithm-based corrections vs a human mind; the invisible ideological and linguistic influence exerted by our writing tools on our minds; the pedagogical and ethical implications of using each tool for (teaching) writing.