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Grammar checker: Check your English writing with this free online ESL grammar checker. Click "Check spelling" and then "Check grammar." For speech recognition, click on the microphone icon and begin speaking.

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What is the Virtual Writing Tutor?

This free online grammar checker or proofreader helps writers count words, check spelling, check grammar and punctuation, check paraphrasing, improve word choice, self-assess the use of target structures, and master English pronunciation. It also trains learners and novice teachers to become better proofreaders with an error correction game on the Error Correction Games page. This website is 100% free to use, and membership is free. What follows is a list of its features. At the bottom of the page, there are a series of frequently asked questions. that you may find useful or interesting.

Essay Checker

If you write essays in your second language for high school or college, check your essay for embarrassing errors that a teacher would deduct points for. For the best results, we strongly recommend a two-pronged approach, using this Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker first and Grammarly next to ensure your essays are at their best when you hand them in for evaluation.

Word Counter

To check your word count, copy-paste your text into the text area above and click Word Count. The results will appear below the text area. Knowing the number of words in your essay, blog post, article, report, academic paper, short story, or book will help you respect the minimum and maximum limits set by your professor, editor, or client. The word counter will also count your sentences and calculate your sentence length. This feature is useful if you are aiming for a more conversational style with a shorter average sentence length, or if you are aiming for a more academic style with longer sentences. For details on what is counted and what is not, see the Word Counter page.

For alternatives to this word counter, try Word Counter or Word Count Tool.

Spell Checker

Click Check Spellling and misspelled words will be underlined in red inside the text area. Left-click on misspelled words to see spelling suggestions. Currently, I use a standard international dictionary, but I can add custom entries. Contact me if you get tired of seeing your name (or some other word) flagged as being misspelled when it isn't.

Grammar Checker

To check your grammar, click on the Check Grammar button. The system will check for common punctuation errors, common grammar mistakes and ESL grammar errors, false cognates, contextual spelling errors, and word choice errors. The results of the grammar-check are listed below the text area. You must scroll down to see the suggested corrections. The reason for putting correction advice down below is simple. When learners scroll down to read the correction advice and then scroll up to make the correction, I believe that there is a better chance that they will remember the correction in the future.

The Virtual Writng Tutor's grammar and punctuation checker feature is powered by a modified LanguageTool system. The difference between these two systems is that the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker has thousands of additional error detection rules to catch common ESL grammar errors.

Some examples of common ESL errors that the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker can catch are as follows: tense shift errors, missing auxiliaries, adverb word order errors, aspect errors, collocation errors, articles with plural nouns, adjective word order errors, double subjects, double objects, double negatives, mixed conditionals, gerund error, h-epenthesis errors, pronoun antecedent agreement errors, quantifier errors, verb agreement, and adjective agreement errors.

Virtual Writing Tutor Grammar Checker API service

We offer a grammar checking API service with a free one month trial for developers. With the Virtual Writing Tutor's API, you can add spelling and grammar checking capabilities to any website. This will be of special interest to developers of websites with proofreading services or English language learning websites and mobile apps. For details on the grammar checking API, see our Grammar Checker API documentation page.

Punctuation Checker

The Virtual Writing Tutor can catch a range of punctuation errors. It's a comma checker, an apostrophe checker, a quoted speech checker, and an addreviation checker. Click on the Check Grammar button, and the system will check for these and more common punctuation errors. In case you were wondering, the punctuation error that professors complain about most is the missing comma after an introductory clause, phrase, or word.

Vocabulary Checker

To check your vocabulary, click on the Vocabulary Checker button. This will open a list of options to choose from. Each option is a different vocabulary checker tool. Select a tool to profile your vocabulary and refine your word choice.

Academic and conversational vocabulary → Click this link to list all of the words that make your text seem particularly academic or conversational. Aim to use academic vocabulary for your school work and to reserve conversational words for blog posts and fiction. Learn more about academic versus conversational vocabulary.

Cliches and power words → Bloggers should select this option to check for expressions that have lost their original impact because of overuse (cliches) and to count the types of words that elicit powerful emotional reactions in readers (power words). Eliminate cliches; they're boring. Include power words; they're engaging.

Field-related vocabulary → If you are learning English for professional or academic purposes, click on Field-related vocabulary to see which words in your text are related to the 47 fields of study on FieldRelated.com. The system can display the best match, the three best matches, or the ten best matches. Each match is shown with a link to additional field-related readings, listenings, and glossaries to help you extend your field-related learning.

Target Structures → English Second Language teachers often ask their students to use certain target structures in their writing. This tool checks for comma-separated lists of words in a text, displaying and numbering sentences that contain a word or phrase from your list. List items can be case-sensitive or case-insensitive. Useful target structure lists can help you get started using this tool with your writing.

For alternatives to the Virtual Writing Tutor vocabulary checker, try Longman Vocabulary Checker and Lextutor.ca Vocabulary Profiler.

Paraphrase Checker

Try the Paraphrase Checker the next time you want to use other people's ideas in your writing. Remember that ideas are free, but the expression of those ideas is owned by the original author. Good writers must, therefore, learn to paraphrase effectively and give credit where credit is due to avoid accusations of plagiarism. Remember that it is very easy for professors to catch plagiarism these days.

The Virtual Writing Tutor can help you improve your paraphrasing skills quickly. Here's how. Draft your paraphrase, click on the Paraphrase Checker button, and copy-paste the source text into the text box. Click Check, and the paraphrase checker will compare your text to the original text. It will underline words and phrases that are common to both texts. In addition, it will calculate the similarity of the two texts with a score. For optimal results, check one sentence at a time, and aim for a paraphrase score below 50%. See the paraphrase checker page for more information and a sample text to try.

Instead of this paraphrase checker, try a Paraphrasing Tool or learn how to paraphrase a source properly.

Essay Outliner

By clicking the Essay Outliner button, members can get help creating essay outlines for three common academic discourse models: the opinion essay, the prioritized list essay, and the argument essay. These three tools, make the process of planning and writing persuasive essays easier and faster.

For an alternative essay outlining tool, try this Essay Map. For help with a thesis statement, try this thesis builder.

Feedback and Links

Members can see texts and feedback from past grammar checks. Clicking the My Feedback and Links button is a great way to review your errors. You can also see a prioritized summary of the links that were generated with the feedback your receive. In this way, the Virtual Writing Tutor generates a personalized and prioritized language learning curriculum for each member.

Error Correction Game

Members can play a game on the My Profile page that provides practice finding and correcting common second language errors. There are 1000 sentences in the database to practice with. To see a short video explaining how to use the Random Error Correction Game, click on the Help! button on the top menu.


This website is a work in progress, so I cannot guarantee that the system will catch every error in every text or that the advice and corrections will always be perfect.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best grammar checker?

That will depend on who you are. For graduates and professionals, a proofreader that checks as you type -- like the one integrated into Microsoft Word -- is probably your best choice. You will have enough confidence in your command of style and grammar to want to use a grammar checker for errors of inattention and contextual spelling errors only.

If you are dyslexic, you will want a second set of eyes to proofread your writing. A human writing tutor can often find errors that can seemed invisible when you do your own proofreading. You may find that you omit words, miscopy quotations, and find yourself unable to catch errors on your own when there is time pressure. A grammar checker that can help spot agreement and spelling errors can be a great help.

For highly advanced second language learners of English and native speakers attending a university, an English grammar checker that focuses on style and punctuation errors is probably your best choice. The problems you face include the overuse of the passive voice, run-on sentences, comma-splices, and dangling participles--among others. There are some good pro-version grammar checkers that can help with these problems.

For beginners and intermediate learners, however, your needs are different. You will need a grammar checker that checks for common developmental errors and transfer errors from your first language. You will also have difficulty constructing and conjugating verbs. Your writing will include numerous tense shifts, word order problems, and number agreement errors. You'll use the wrong word for a particular context, and you will tend to impose the common sentence structures from your first language onto English that will seem unnatural and confusing to your reader. Add to these, bad translations suggested by Google translate, spelling errors, and the general chaos that comes with the cognitive overload of having to compose in a second language.

All that is not to say that grammar checkers suited for one group cannot help writers of the other profiles. There are errors that members of all three groups make. When we focus on our message, we tend to give less attention to form. Typos and missing morphology invade the hastily composed emails of even expert writers. Furthermore, English spelling is wildly irregular for some words making it easy to forget the spelling of low-frequency words. Any spell checker and even the simplest of grammar checkers can catch some errors that are common to all writers. But can they suggest useful corrections? That is another story.

The Virtual Wrting Tutor is primarily an English Second Language grammar checker. It is designed to provide feedback that is explicit enough to help the writer not only eliminate an error from a current text but also understand how to avoid it in future writing tasks. As such, my goal is to make the Virtual Writing Tutor the best ESL grammar checker to help learners of English as a Second Language. It may also help dyslexics, professional bloggers and university students. The price is right since the Virtual Writing Tutor is 100% free. Is it the best grammar checker for you? Try them all and decide for yourself.

How can I embed a free grammar checker into a webpage or blog post?

You can get the iframe code to embed the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker into your webpage, Moodle course, or blog with this grammar checker iframe code. The iframe is set to expand to 90% width of the page or frame you put it in.

What is the purpose of the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker?

The primary goal of this grammar checker is to enhance ESL pedagogy. English teachers are a limited resource. They are available only to their own students, only during the course, only during the day, and are typically only available for one-on-one instruction for a few minutes at a time. A free online grammar checker website can enhance pedagogy by filling in when teachers are not available. A free, automated grammar checker can assist learners by being available to everyone, student or professional, night or day, and by providing tireless assistance with tedious proofreading tasks.

Why should language teachers use the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker in their courses?

Students are usually loath to do any writing unless it either "counts" or they get extensive feedback that will prepare them for an assignment that will count. Teachers therefore feel obliged to copy-edit every assignment students hand in. However, spending just 5 minutes a week on each student's assignment adds twelve hours and 30 minutes each week of corrective feedback to the workload of a teacher with 150 students. Many teachers will therefore limit the number of writing assignments they give students because of the impact corrections have on their workload as a teacher.

By automating part of the corrective feedback that students receive with the Virtual Writing Tutor, teachers can ensure students get extensive feedback on every assignment. Confident that students' errors won't be ignored, teachers can assign more writing tasks to students without increasing their workload.

Making the correction load more manageable is one benefit for teachers, but there are benefits for students, also. There are at least 5 clear benefits that I can see:

  1. students get a greater amount of consistent, explicit, just-in-time corrective feedback on surface errors from a grammar checker than they would otherwise
  2. students learn to become more autonomous when using a grammar checker
  3. grammar checkers teach students to become judicious users of technology, engaging their critical thinking skills, especially when they receive bad feedback or false alarms
  4. grammar checkers provide students with lifelong learning opportunities
  5. grammar checkers can provide feedback on multiple drafts of an assignment, instead of typically just one or two drafts

Are online grammar checkers going to replace ESL teachers?

No. Your job is secure. Grammar checkers will never be able to teach writing as well as a well-trained English Second Language teacher. That's because what teachers know about their students, their language learning anxiety, their first language, their current level, about language pedagogy, about the task students have been assigned, about the goals of the lesson, and about the terminal objectives of the course is really much more than a soulless machine can ever know.

Teachers should stop thinking that they have to compete with grammar checkers and view them as an assistive technology that can help reduce some of their correction load. If you are feeling afraid of losing your job to a grammar checker, you don't understand your job very well. Providing corrective feedback on errors may be a huge part of your workload, but ask your self this. If a machine could catch all the surface errors my students make on their writing, what other aspects of my students' writing would I want to spend more time on? Start thinking about how you can give some of the tedious aspects of your job to a machine so that you can spend more time on a higher order analysis of the ideas and the flow in your students' writing. Instead of thinking of writing as a grammar test, you will be able to see it as communication.

Your job is not going anywhere, but it might get a little more interesting. Prepare.

How should teachers incorporate the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker in their ESL course?

In order to use a grammar checker effectively in an ESL course, teachers must, in my opinion, do two things: 1) create a routine in which students are required to use the grammar checker every week, and 2) set a standard of zero avoidable errors. To ensure students stick to the routine, teachers can assign a writing task at the end of each lesson and deduct points if the text contains avoidable errors

What are avoidable errors? Avoidable errors are those particular errors students can correct for themselves because they have received form-focused instruction or because a free grammar checker like the Virtual Writing Tutor can detect them and suggest corrections. In other words, a student who submits a text that contains errors in grammar that was thoroughly taught in a previous lesson or contains errors that can be eliminated by using the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker is a student who has not met expectations. Submitting texts containing avoidable errors to a teacher indicates a lack of learning or care, and should be scored lower than texts without avoidable errors.

In two of the courses I teach, my students must submit 12 texts over 15 weeks. The first 11 of those texts must be checked with the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker and have all avoidable errors eliminated. Each text is scored using a simple rubric. It must be 100-200 words in length, contain the target structures from the lesson, and have all avoidable errors elimnated using the Virtual Writing Tutor. If a text is submitted with avoidable errors, the student loses 1/3. The other 2/3 comes from using target structures taught in class (1/3) and from submitting a well-developed text (1/3). The only exception to my rule about using the Virtual Writing Tutor is with the final exam. On the final, students do not get access to the VWT because I expect that they have learned to eliminate their most common errors by then. Use the target structure tool with the Vocabulary Checker to quickly find the grammar, phrases, or vocabulary students have been asked to iclude in thier writing.

One of the best ways I have discovered to incorporate an online grammar checker into my ESL lessons for my non-fluent learners is to create a series of steps in a collaborative narrative writing project. Both my Actively Engaged on the Job and Actively Engaged at College textbooks involve collaborative narrative writing projects. Here's how the project works. Students are placed in groups of 4-6. Each student creates a fictional character, describes him or her using the first person, and makes his or her character interact with the other students' characters within the context of the shared story. Depending on the level, the characters live together as roommates (Actively Engaged at College) or work together as colleagues (Actively Engaged on the Job) within the collaborative narrative. Each week, I ask students to plan one episode of their story with the help of their groupmates. For homework, I ask them to write the current episode in the story, eliminate all avoidable errors using the Virtual Writing Tutor, and submit it to me for points. Writing that contains avoidable errors is penalized for not having applied the necessary revision strategies. The following week, I ask students to read what they wrote to their groupmates. I encourage them to use the VWT's text-to-speech function to help them with their pronunciation. In this way, they get to practice a more target-like form of English in a meaningful and social way.

For more advanced levels, I ask students to create a blog on Blogger and write listicles, glossaries, article paraphrases and hypertext narratives related to their fields of study. Again, I require students to eliminate error all avoidable errors using the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker and paraphrase checker to avoid plagiarism. Each blog post is peer-reviewed by two or more fellow students and submitted to me for a grade. Of course, if the Virtual Writing Tutor misses some of their errors, I provide feedback -- but only after they have eliminated many of their errors using the online grammar checker.

That's how I use the VWT. Perhaps you have found another way to use the Virtual Writing Tutor. I would love to hear how you do it. Send me a message when you have the time.

Best wishes,

Nicholas Walker
The Virtual Writing Tutor