In one of the Quick Sessions held at WordCamp SF, a demo of “After the Deadline” was presented. After the Deadline is a contextual spell checker, grammar checker and advanced style checker that can be used within WordPress or as a browser add-on. The demo was very impressive in that it caught quite a few issues with their sample text. Especially amazing was the contextual spell checker in that it would suggest appropriate spellings based upon the context of the sentence.
The day after WordCamp I installed both the WordPress plugin and the Mozilla Firefox Add-on of After the Deadline. Being me, I crafted some text to see how well it would do at correcting. While it wasn’t perfect, it caught quite a bit. In fact, it caught everything that Microsoft Word did. For one word, though, it didn’t suggest the correct spelling. MS Word, on the other hand, did have the correct spelling but it was a bit down in the list of choices. Since After the Deadline hadn’t caught everything, I thought I’d send a note off to the publishers just to let them know. The response was that After the Deadline is an advanced tool and represents the state of the art in this type of checking. It went on to mention that “making a computer understand what you wrote and catch every error is completely beyond the reach of today’s technology.” That seemed fair enough. I also had to take into consideration that I was trying to trick the tool as I wanted to see if I was smarter than a computer program. Fortunately, in this instance, I was but I’ve also been in development and debugging for many, many years.
The response to my comments also referenced a blog article about the role of spell/grammar checkers noting that, while really essential in the editing process, they do not replace the need for human proofreading and editing. That makes sense to me, and basically how I envisioned this WordPress plugin, though, one always hopes for that tool that completely covers for cases of hand-brain mis-matches.
As far as cons, I’d say that the database behind this tool still needs to mature a bit such that it catches more issues. Also, if you use the Firefox browser add-in, be ready for it to pick up on every text input area and notify you if it finds any spelling or grammar errors. This can be overridden on a per site basis but is a bit overbearing. I think I’d prefer an implementation where one can right-mouse-click and select to have a check performed. The WordPress plugin works in this fashion. From the WordPress Post/Page edit screen you click a spell check button.
I’d highly recommend you give the After the Deadline WordPress plugin a try in helping manage the editing process of your WordPress blog. This said, don’t rely on it to catch everything, nor for it to remove the need to properly write a Post. Fortunately, if the content of your articles are interesting and informative, most readers will not hold a misspelt word here-or-there against you. I’ve been looking for something better than “WordPress Spell Checking”, and I found it and will continue to use it.