211 – Its importent to get you’re grammer write; and ProWritingAid Will help with that,

Interview with Chris Banks and Nathan Wrigley

DEAL ALERT – 20% off ProWritingAid plans when you click on this link.

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Writing is important. It’s one of the greatest inventions in the history of humanity. In fact, it may very well be the most important. After all, the collective wisdom, gathered throughout history, is mostly written down so we don’t have to remember it.

But we can all agree that not all writing is equal. For example, if you were to compare my doggerel to the poetry of Shakespeare, I’m pretty sure that I can guess which you’d prefer to read! Bless him, he tried, but you cannot argue with my superior style!

Most of the writing that we create and read has nothing to do with prose. It’s the news that we consume, the recipes we crib from, the information that we study and the emails / letters that we use to communicate.

In these situations, it’s important to write in a clear and understandable way. Errors in grammar, spelling and structure stand out and spoil the flow of what you’re trying to get across.

So step up ProWritingAid to the rescue!

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Whilst some writing can be more cavalier with their grammar, spelling and style, much of what we write cannot. It’s no use sending something poetic to your employer or a client if what they expect is brevity and accuracy.

ProWritingAid could be your new weapon of choice. It’s a really, really comprehensive tool which tackles just about everything you could possibly need from a virtual assistant.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know what all of the features of ProWritingAid do, but I am going to list them out as a way of demonstrating that this is not some shiny new tool with no meat on the bones! It’s a fully fleshed out piece of software with heritage and an established user base.

So it’s able to help with the following:

  • real-time editing in just about any situation you can think of, forms, Google Docs, Word, browser extension… basically anywhere that you can type
  • checks for grammar, style, spelling and other issues
  • comprehensive summaries of your writing so you know exactly where you ought to place your attention
  • built-in thesaurus
  • checks for overused words
  • checks for repeated words and phrases
  • sentence structure / length advice
  • readability guidance for…
    • diction
    • cliches
    • pronouns
    • alliteration
    • consistancy
    • pacing
    • plagarism
    • text expansion
    • and more…
ProWritingAid options
ProWritingAid options whilst editing text.

ProWritingAid is one of those tools you did not know that you needed until you try it, and then you wish you’d had it years ago.

In the podcast today we talk to Chris Banks about ProWritingAid. He’s the founder, and so really, really knows what it’s all about.

We start off discussing the product and all the features it offers. This is done in a feature-by-feature format, getting into each of those one at a time, and dissected what they are and how they work. There were too many to talk about, really. So at the end, we had to curtail the chat, which is a shame, but illustrates the point that the software is so feature rich and not a new kid on the block.

We also get into why he built the software; what problems was he trying to solve and for whom?

There’s also a short digression into the security model of the software. Obviously, you’re letting a third-party app read the content you create, and so you might have concerns about where this data is sent to and stored. Chris addresses that.

At the end, we talk about the roadmap and what is in store in the future of ProWritingAid. Is the company a viable option for the future, in other words, are they profitable and able to honour the investment that new customers make?

Really nice chat, with a really nice guy about a really nice product!

Any, yes, I used ProWritingAid on this post, but I confess to not following 100% of the suggested improvements, because I’m stubborn!

Mentioned in this podcast:

DEAL ALERT – 20% off ProWritingAid plans when you click on this link.

ProWritingAid WordPress plugin on Github.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.
[00:00:21] Hello there and welcome to the WP Builds podcast and happy new year 2021. If like me, you had some time off during the last couple of weeks, I hope that you enjoyed it and managed to recharge your batteries. This is episode number 211 entitled. It's important to get your grammar, and pro writing aid will help with that.
[00:00:44] It was published on Thursday, the 7th of January, 2021. We are WP Builds a WordPress specific podcast network, and we'd be very happy if you had it over to WP Builds.com to see what you can see over there. We've got heaps of WordPress related. Content, perhaps the best way to keep in touch with what we do is to go to WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe and fill out the forms.
[00:01:09] In that way, we will be able to email you and keep you abreast of anything that we create. There's also links on there to our YouTube channel and our various friendly Facebook groups. So that's WP bills.com forward slash subscribe. Whilst you're there have a look at some of the links in the main menu, perhaps the deals link.
[00:01:28] If you're interested in deals in the WordPress space, we've got a whole ton of them over there. And if you're interested in advertising on the WP Builds podcast and getting your message out to a WordPress specific audience. Click on the advertise link a little bit like AB split tested. Do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time?
[00:01:47] Like in a couple of minutes, use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is that it works with elemental Beaver builder and the WordPress block editor. You can check it out and get a free [email protected] Okie dokie. What have we got in store for you this week?
[00:02:09]This is a really interesting offer piece episode because it's not entirely related to WordPress. It is Chris banks talking to me about a tool, a SaaS tool that he's created called pro writing aid. Now this is going to be for anybody who struggles in any way with writing content, because this tool is a remarkable one size fits all tool to help you with your grammar, your punctuation, your spelling.
[00:02:35] Your style and a whole lot more on the podcast. Chris tells us why he developed this tool and also what it can do for you. Now, you may be interested to know as well that Chris has very kindly offered us 20% off pro writing aid. And in order to avail yourself of that, you can click on the link in the show notes and be taken to a landing page specifically for WP Builds listeners.
[00:02:59] It's one of those tools that no matter how hard I try to explain to you how good it is and how many options there are, you're going to really have to go and take a look at this for yourself, because it really does try to tackle a whole corn utopia of different things related to writing. So if you are writing and you feel that.
[00:03:17] Any aspect of it could be improved. I would highly recommend listening to today's podcast. Hear what Chris has got to say. And like I say, click on the link in the show notes. If you're interested and you can get 20% off pro writing aid, I hope that you enjoy the podcast. Hello there. Welcome to the WP Builds podcast.
[00:03:35] One small. Thanks for joining us today. We're going completely off piece today. We're having a real tangent moment because we're not really talking about WordPress, although we will. We'll delve into WordPress aspects in today's subject, but I'm joined today by Chris banks from pro writing aid. Hello, Chris.
[00:03:53] Hi, Nathan, how are you doing? Yep. Very good. Thanks. Now, before, before we get into this, I'm going to very quickly describe what pro writing aid is, and then I'm going to get Chris to correct my errors, because that's what it's all about. Pro writing aid as a tool. I like that. By the way, I think that was pre-writing aid as a tool to assist you to improve your writing.
[00:04:15] So come at it from a grammar point of view or a punctuation point of view, or a spelling point of view, or just a style point of view, pre-writing aid enables you to retrospectively go back and improve the writing that you've already done. So how did I do? Yeah, I think that's a pretty good summary. We look at it as an AI powered writing coach.
[00:04:36]So the idea is that to help you, as you're writing, it's there to remind you of all those things that you learn in school, but then forgot that reminds you of all those things you've read in books about writing, but then not being able to apply to your own writing easily. And I think that's the perfect thing, right?
[00:04:53] Is it's giving you help and learning advice on your writing, which is exactly what you need. It's interesting that you said that, things that you'd forgotten at school, I unfortunately was educated in the era in great Britain where. It grandma was supposed to be delivered, by osmosis, you were supposed to imbibe the knowledge of grandma all by yourself.
[00:05:12] I'm not joking. When I say that, I really do feel that grandma was off the menu for quite a number of years. And so I had to relearn grammar when I became one. What would I wish to do some writing? Because it kept, became painfully obvious that those people around me were doing things.
[00:05:27] And I honestly didn't know what I was doing, but how does it work? What I mean by that is what are we looking at? So it's obviously based upon a computer and a screen, perhaps mobile devices can be thrown into the mix as well. I'm not sure what's the process look like on your computer. So what do you do?
[00:05:43] So I think the key thing is we try and fit into wherever you're writing. So we have plugins for things like word, we have desktop app. But most importantly for your list and probably is that we have a Chrome extensions are a Firefox. And edge, which just plugs into your browser and then we'll give you help and information wherever you're writing.
[00:06:06] So if you're writing a blog post in WordPress then you'll start to see highlights appearing, and that will correct grammar mistakes. They'll give you style suggestions as well, which I think is really important. So there's a kind of the typical suggestions that a copy editor would make. Just to trim down your writing and make it a little bit more punchy.
[00:06:29]So we convert what we call things like hidden verbs. So that's where you've taken a verb and turned it into a now and then use the weak verb. So a good example is make a decision instead of decide or make an announcement that sort of announce. So we just convert those automatically for you effectively and say, it's best to use this price.
[00:06:51]So people tend to say, it's like having a kind of friendly figure, looking over their shoulder, prodding them saying, Oh, you can approve this. What about this? So that's how it works. And wherever you're writing, it follows you around. So I think that's the important thing as well about learning and improving is it's having that constant feedback.
[00:07:12]So a lot of people will have it in their email and they say, Oh, I never even thought about changing that. But as a user, you then start to improve wherever you're writing. Yeah, I think that's a really good way of describing it in my case, it alerted me to the fact that I'm basically verbose.
[00:07:29] I choose too many words and I'm not economic with what I write. Very often it will highlight the fact that you just don't need this. You don't need this or this. And I crossed them out and it reads perfectly well after the fact. So nice. I think everybody is because. If you think about the communication you do, majority for most people is verbal.
[00:07:51] So you're talking, and in talking, you have this time constraint while your brain catches up with what you're saying. So often you add in extra words to give yourself more time to think. And so then when you create these patterns that allow you to more time. So when you start writing, you start doing exactly the same thing.
[00:08:12] Subconsciously. So you're adding all of this extra words or these extra words that you don't need. And that's what we're doing is trying to say, actually, you don't need all this stuff when you can mitigating. And in the written way you can cut it all out and it becomes much easier for your reader to read it much faster for them to read it easier for them to understand.
[00:08:35] Yeah. And what's interesting from my perspective is that I literally don't see it. I do not see the errors that I've made when I've read it back until I switched it on. And then it becomes blindingly obvious what, which words I've overused and it's things. W just the repetition of it is extraordinary.
[00:08:52] And despite the fact that you're constantly alerts me to the fact that I'm doing it, I still managed to do it. So it's great. The UI is such, and let's come at it from a WordPress point of view. And then we can maybe touch on the UI of other things. If you are. Lucky enough to be using WordPress and you have a Guttenberg switched on.
[00:09:09] There's a really nice, probably somewhat accidental feature that pro writing aid makes use of, and that is to say that each time you hit return on your keyboard you begin a new block and you'll be familiar with this. If you've edited anything in Gothenburg, you write a sentence or two sentences, whatever hit return, and you're into a new block and pro writing aid works via the Chrome extension on a block by block.
[00:09:32] Block basis. That is to say, if you've written three sentences in one block, you get this handy little icon which pops up bottom, of the block that you're in. And it may show a sort of different color indicating the severity of things that need to be changed. And what have you. And you simply click on that and it will alert you to various things.
[00:09:51] Alternatively, you can just look out for kind of things that are underlined in various different colors. So for example, there might be things underlined in blue. Or yellow and they will be indicative of certain things that need to be changed, be it grammar or spelling, or what have you, do you want to just talk us through that process?
[00:10:09] What do we see as we're actually editing it? What are the cues that you've provided for us to enable us to quickly go through things? Sure. I think broadly speaking, we have two different kinds of teas. So we have what we call the real time checking, which are the underlines that you see as you're typing.
[00:10:26]So what we've done there is we've taken the kind of core suggestions, but the most important things and we've made them available to you as you're typing. Obviously you can turn that off as well. If you don't want to be distracted while you're writing. But for shorter form things, people often like to accept those just as they're going through.
[00:10:44]And then we have a whole range of tools that allow you to go deeper into your writing. So if you're writing. What we call like a higher value piece. So something that you're going to spend a lot more time improving then. If you click on the icon in the bottom then it brings up our full editor and that allows you to run a lot more analysis that look at other things.
[00:11:08] For instance, we'll check your work for repeated words. We'll give you feedback on the structure. You can see readability measures for it all, and there's a range of other reports that will really help you go. In more depth into writing. So again, if you just want quick fixes, then you have to real time.
[00:11:30] And if you will to go more in depth, Then you have this whole other editor that you can use for that. Yeah. And I confess I am not a consumer of any of the, your competitors, what you provide is what I have seen, but I have to say it is astonishing. So as this has just been mentioned, Chris said that if you click on the icon, you get this well, pop-up, let's call it that.
[00:11:53] And it looks a bit like a Google doc or a word document kind of editor. And it. It places, the texts that you're currently trying to edit in a page, let's say, and then the range of things that you can amend. Good grief. There's just too many to mention. There are let's go through them because I believe that some of these are of interest to me largely because I don't understand what they are.
[00:12:15]So what is style? What is, there's an icon labeled style? What does that mean? What indication I'm going to get from that? So that the style is. Some of the things I said about the changes made by copy editors. And then we also look at a range of other things. So the style, a lot of it is really pertinent to people who are writing creatively.
[00:12:38]So I think that's another important thing to make is an important distinction to make is that some of our reports are very much aimed at specific types of writers. So we have ones that are really designed for creative writers who are writing novels. Others are very much used by content writers business writers and academic writers as well.
[00:13:00]So some of the things in the side won't be relevant to everybody. Others will it looks for things like adverbs. So I think that's one that comes up a lot. And then there's that the famous Stephen King quote about the road to helping pay for that. But this is, I think this is a good illustration of my point about.
[00:13:18] When you're writing, the first thing you're doing is just trying to get your ideas down on the page. And then the second part is to go back over those words and make sure that you're using the best words. So when you're doing the first page, you just, it's fine to put down, the first thing that pops into your head, as long as it's conveying your idea.
[00:13:38]And that second phase is where you go down and you go back and strengthen what you've written. I think a good example of this, because what happens is you generally put down later, very colon bird, like run, right? And then you think, actually I want to change the meaning slightly, a little bit of subtlety to it.
[00:13:58] So you say, okay, I actually ran quickly, right? Say you were part of that town. But actually, if you go back to that, you can think actually there's lots of better verbs that I can be using or running exactly the same as run quickly, like rushed, hurried, charged cannoned are all synonyms of that. And they, create a better image and you'll read his mind and Ryan will quickly, like Ram quickly just leaves you a bit yes.
[00:14:28] Yeah. Everybody does that, but it's interesting to look at the number of ads, apps that are used by published authors is very low because they do tend to strengthen that herbs. That's really interesting. Just as an aside on that, in terms of style, you purchase 50 different novels by 50 different authors and they've all got a different style.
[00:14:52]Some of them might be very economic with their use of language. Others might be very prosaic or what have you, D is there any element of AI learning? It does it figure out your style along the way? Perhaps that's a little too too far advanced, I don't know. I think it's interesting because I think one of the worries that some people have before they start using it, as that they'll take away, their voice will make everything generic.
[00:15:19]And I think that, it's fair enough to think that we don't do that. We're creating a positive feedback really with you just ask more questions, but at the end of the day, it's humans producing the writing. So regardless of. Whatever your style is. Most people don't have a style which uses lots of adverbs because it's not good for the reader, right?
[00:15:42] Most people don't eat. Even if you say that they're prosaic, generally they'll still have a very high readability. It's just, they're using different vocabulary that gives that impression of them or Prozac style. They're all still underlying all of these different styles. There are basic rules of writing that will make the, your writing.
[00:16:05] Easy to read and impactful. Yes. I can see why that might be cause of concern for somebody who is, writing is they're living for an example, they don't wish to have their finely tuned hard works on voice squashed over the years, but nevertheless it's like anything else. We do have to have rules that need to be obeyed it's I guess if you're Jack Kerouac, you can throw that all in the dustbin, but if you're somebody else writing a blog or whatever, you need to be readable.
[00:16:30] And understandable. Okay. So that's what interesting thing is though, that, Jack Kerouac, everybody who's a successful writer gets feedback on their writing and changes their writing based on that feedback. So that might be a tool like pre-writing aid, or it might be better readers who are reading through what they've written and pointing out issues with it.
[00:16:52]Was thinking that, like even top level sports kind of coaches. Yes. The best performing people in the world. One of the reasons why they're the best performing people in the world is because they get feedback and they act on that feedback. Yeah, it's a good point. And it is such a gentle little nudge.
[00:17:09]Despite the fact that I said, I seem to be able to completely ignore it, but then we move on. We've got other options here. It takes care of grammar. I don't feel that we need to dwell on that too much. It covers, I guess the basics, it spots your apostrophes full stops and exclamation marks and so on and so forth.
[00:17:28] Yeah, exactly. So we check for hundreds of different grammar mistakes. And I think it varies between, as you say people who haven't been taught grammar. So for instance, you haven't been taught when to uni commerce and when you're doing for me, one of the main problems that I have is that I haven't been a terrible typer.
[00:17:49]So I will type form what I mean to type from and because that both found words most spellcheckers, weren't picked up. But what we do is we look at the context surrounding the word, and then we do what we call contextual spelling. So that we say, this is the wrong word to be using in this.
[00:18:08]Circumstance and it's very easy to do for anybody. It's easy to type like via that when you mean like violent video games. Yes. Suddenly you're like, I really don't want my children watching or playing violent video games. Which has a very kind of very bizarre meaning. Yeah. Slightly purplish color is a verbose and yeah.
[00:18:34] Oh, that's interesting. The voodoo behind all of this though, the actual, can we get onto that a little bit later? Cause you just glibly said we we check the context before and after. Like that's easy for for somebody to just. Program ever so fast, we'll come on to that because I'm really fascinated by the tech stack going on here, but then there's across moving across the menu item.
[00:18:53] There's a thesaurus, obviously, trying to provide alternative words for the one that you've used. The interesting one, and this is where I fall out overused words. I just, I tend to just deploy the same word over and over again. So that's a nice one. I'm guessing it's literally looking for.
[00:19:10] Overused words in the passage itself, not overuse words that it's worked out that you generally tend to use. What it actually does is it looks at phrases and words that inexperienced writers tend to overuse at the end of the day. Yeah, exactly. But and a good example might be the B Often people overuse that they should be using stronger verbs.
[00:19:37] Imagine you using like a, B or is, was in every sentence. Then it creates releasable boring and monotonous writing. Lots of people will say who'd like to start sentences with ING verbs. So you're like taking this into account and seeing as blah, blah, blah. And suddenly you've got pieces filled with, 40% of your sentences start in this way.
[00:20:04] And again, it creates this bad feeling for your readers. So what we try and do is we benchmark against published writing in your particular genre. And we say, okay, if you over use this we can tell because you got an X percent above, what is accepted generally used in publish writing.
[00:20:28] Fascinating. That really is quite astonishing, interesting stuff. And then next door to that, I have literally no conception of what this menu means, but I'm going to say it. It says combo. So that's the advanced one. Yeah. That's why I
[00:20:45] know is because so obviously there's quite a few reports. I think we've got around 20 different reports. And people like to not have to go through all 20, but generally people will have their favorites. So the condo allows you to combine your favorite reports into one so that you can just run it individually.
[00:21:06] Got it. Okay. Yeah, I am. It's just me. And I just tend to edit it on the fly as I've described. So I never tend to dig into the reports. Okay. Then we've got repeats where it will highlight things that you have repeated. And again, I'm going to illustrate my ignorance of the software. There's this thing called echoes.
[00:21:25] I, I can imagine what that might be, but tell us what that is. So okays is similar to repeats, but what it does is it looks for repeats within a certain. Period of time also with a certain number of words. So this creates what we call an echo in the reader's bind. If you've used a phrase that the blank you said at the end of the day, and then you'd use that same phrase two sentences later.
[00:21:50] Then it creates a horrific echo in your reader's mind and it really detracts from your writing. And unless it's one of those things, it's so hard for you as an individual to spot that you've done that because the phrase is activated in your brain already because you've been writing it. Whereas the reader, that phrase becomes activated when they read the first sentence.
[00:22:13] And it's still activated a sentence later and then they read again and I said, hang on a second. I'm just rent that. Yes. So it's a great example of what computers can do very easily, but humans really struggled to do. Yeah. Interesting. Because I see that in email all the time, I tend to consume fairly well.
[00:22:33] I think probably had heavily editorial are used if that's a word content, newspapers and novels and what have you. And presumably somebody has inspected that, but. Doesn't seem to repeat too often in those instances. But in email, I get a lot of this and you can tell that they've got certain tropes that they like to throw out and you're right.
[00:22:52] It if it creates a bit lazy feeling. Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. Okay. And then we've got structure length. I presume we can all understand what that means. Trying to get gauged, some kind of ideal length for certain things. What w what's the. Just the generic structure button, do some just paragraphs and headings and whatnot.
[00:23:11]So this is actually looking at the structure of your sentences and say it has two main functions. The first of which is to look at your writing and say, okay, have you. And again it. Benchmarks for you against publish writing. So it will say you've overused, this type of construction in your sentence.
[00:23:34] So that might be starting sentences with but, or it might be starting sentences with ING words, like we said, with seeing the speaking also on the flip side of that shows your way, you haven't used certain structures at all. As you say you have tend to have these kind of structures that you fall back on all of the time.
[00:23:57] But if you're only using two or three different sentence structures, then it's not adding much variety to your writing. So if you're scoring zero on a specific type of sentence structure, then that's a good hint that you might want to start using that. Okay. So is that prompt you to say why don't you try writing some sentences that, that start like this?
[00:24:21] Okay. Now there are a bunch of other menus and I think we probably could spend the entire rest of the podcast talking about them. I'll just very quickly say what they are. There are there's readability, sticky cliches, which I think is really interesting diction pronoun, alliteration, homonym, consistency, acronym.
[00:24:40]Dialogue, pacing house. And I think fascinatingly, if you're obviously taking content from other people and publishing online plagiarism which is interesting that maybe we could dwell on that one. How do you gauge whether something is plagiarized or not? Are you polling into Google or something?
[00:24:57] Yeah. So it's effectively doing something similar to Google search, but obviously across your whole content. Say the equivalent of doing thousands of Google searches to find out if your writing is plagiarized. And we also have a database of books as well that you might not find all or that we get through as well.
[00:25:21] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's incredibly impressive. The amount of things that it's done, I'm genuinely flabbergasted. In fact, by what it's capable of doing, I presume that the AI that that's behind all of this is something that you kept you awake at night. But before that I was wondering why on earth did you decide to spend probably a significant proportion of your life?
[00:25:45] On this topic, w why grammar and punctuation and writing? Is this something you're deeply interested in? Are you a writer yourself? Came. I came about because I needed it for myself. So I think like you at school, I didn't get much feedback on my writing university, neither.
[00:26:06] And I think the interesting thing about university is that the writing you're doing university. It's very different to the writing you do in the real world. And he, you have writing to show knowledge and university your cheaters already know what you're going to say. So you're F you're aim, therefore, is to sound intelligent.
[00:26:26] Whereas when you then go into the real world, then actually your aim is to transfer knowledge. Your readers don't know what you're going to say. And. They, the aim is to make them understand as easily as possible. And that's completely different way of writing. So I was lucky when I left university and went into business, I had some mentors, I spent a long time helping me to improve my writing.
[00:26:56]So that was great. And then I worked, I wrote research. And I saw I'm a fairly good writer. Brilliant. But then I started writing a novel and I suddenly realized that actually writing a novel is completely different to writing research as well. So I needed something that was going to give me the same feedback died had from my mentors at work put about creative writing.
[00:27:21]And obviously I read lots of books about creative writing and kind of absorb some of that. But it's very hard to apply that to your own writing. It's very abstract. And so I created this tool effectively to help me become a better creative writer. And so that's where we started was in the creative writing community.
[00:27:42]But since then we've expanded and obviously apply the things I learned as a business writer with it, yeah. Extended to inter content and also university writing as well. Yeah. Yeah. It strikes me that when we're at school, we're all learning to write to poetry and stories. And so you're going back to when you're very young.
[00:28:02] And I remember somebody asking me the question, how many poets does the nation need? Do we really all need to be churning out children who are great at poetry? Or do we need to coach them into how to write as you described effective transference of knowledge? So it's really interesting.
[00:28:18] The. The one thing that kind of baffles me is that this tool up to a certain point, it must've been useless. And what I mean by that, sorry, that camera was very rude. There must've been a certain point at which it was basically of no use. You had to build up the technology too, to a certain maturity.
[00:28:36] Otherwise it would suggest things which were banal and pointless and what have you. And so how long did it take to coach the algorithm to get the software to the point where you thought actually, you know what. Inexperienced people can now use this and get fruitful information from it.
[00:28:52] It was actually surprisingly quick to do the first version because we really focused on the things that are easy for computers to do. Say for instance, the repeats report all it's doing is going through texts and looking at four repeated sequences of words. So that's actually quite easy to do.
[00:29:12] Okay. The sentence length again. It's easy to count the number of words in sentences. Things like the readability is fairly easy to do. So we started with a much diminished. Set of reports, but there was still actually quite useful for people. And I think for instance, did sentence length is quite interesting because it gives you a graph for your sentence lines and that visualization, it gives you a different way of looking at your writing.
[00:29:40] Suddenly you can see that way views for really long sentences or in a row, or you can see where you've used a lot of sentences that are about the same length and that creates this kind of monotony and your writing again. Which would be really hard to do in any other way. So those visualizations are quite useful immediately.
[00:30:03] So yeah, there is a lot of functionality in there but it has to be just been built up over time. And my thing is just to iterate, learn. Yeah. And eventually, we've been doing this now for six years. It, it's incredibly mature even at the point when I began using it to two or more years ago.
[00:30:22] Amazing. I was really bold over, and as I said, I'd never come into contact with her, with a tool that purported to do this. And just the flicking of us. It's in my case, logging into the account and then turning on the Chrome extension. Suddenly there's a world of. Oh crisis, data, but it's not to be demoralized.
[00:30:39] It's more of a, and that's the thing. It's not actually doing the amendments for you. It's just making suggestions. Maybe there is a, an option in there. I don't know where it will forcefully override what you've done and say, Nope, this is right. I don't know. But I'm in my case, it's just hinting that I'm an absolute disastrous writer.
[00:30:59] Yeah. And I think that the key thing we're trying to do is bring. Learning resources to where you're writing so that you can learn as you're doing it. And so we've been adding to all of the suggestions helped that gives you kind of extensive examples of. What's the good and bad usages. We have quizzes built in the you can watch videos that will help you as well, because a lot of people relate better to video content.
[00:31:26]So as you're going along, you can learn about the mistakes that you're making, and hopefully through that combination of reading and watching and doing you will then improve. And that's one of the main feedbacks. That we get from people is it's helping them improve as they're working. Yeah.
[00:31:48] That's the thing right there. There's just no. There's no situation in my life where anybody's ever going to be stood over my shoulder because well is I don't have the resources for somebody to stand over my shoulder. Hang on a minute. Like you did at school, your teacher hollows and points things out and underlines things.
[00:32:04] It's just a, it's like a remote teacher in a way, just sitting, hovering and giving you information surprisingly quickly as well. That's the other thing. This is not a. Wait for three minutes and, or press a button. This stuff is happening in real time. So as you type the sentences that you're halfway through, it's beginning to make judgments upon what you're writing.
[00:32:22] Is it absolutely fascinating if you haven't tried it really go and check it out. There is a free version. I understand English only at the moment. At the moment. Yes. Any plans to go elsewhere? Assuming, the Latin alphabet would be the first way to go here and steer clear of Arabic and so on.
[00:32:39] Just for reasons of expediency, perhaps. Yeah, I think Spanish will be our next especially because I live in Spain as well. Okay. Yeah. That would be a happy coincidence. Yeah. Great. That's interesting. So the languages that I can see available are British English. These are all English. So British us, Australian Canadian sizable differences between those is it my imagination or is it just spelling?
[00:33:02] It feels like only spelling, but perhaps not. There's spelling in this phrases as well. So a lot of words are used in different contexts. Depending on the way you live, I always get horrifically confused because I was educated in American schools and then moved back to the UK and say, now I really have no idea.
[00:33:21]Yes. Yes. The word pants comes to mind. Yes. Always a winner. That one. And then you've got general English. What is this? Some sort of hybrid of all of them. Yeah. Yeah. That's basic basically just we don't climb to you kind of thing. Okay. I think I'm on general English. I might have to change that.
[00:33:38]And then we've got this writing style option. I should say that I'm in the settings area and this is fascinating because. I swear, I didn't even know this existed. And so this is interesting. So you've got the style of writing that the categories are general academic business, technical, creative, casual web, and script.
[00:33:56]Again, sizable changes. If I was to go for web over academic, for example, would there be a real difference to be noted? So the main differences as I mentioned before we benchmark against published writing in those areas. Say for instance, with the web, we take in selection of great articles from all over the web and we use those for our benchmarks.
[00:34:20] And you'll also see some rules that change as well. So for instance, with. Creative writing. People tend to use sentence fragments, sentences that aren't actually full sentence, but they use it for stylistic reasons. So we allow those in creative, but we wouldn't allow them in for instance, business and academic.
[00:34:41] Yeah. So you'll see changes in the feedback and the numbers that you're trying to target. A good example might be academic writing. The use of the passive voice is as much more acceptable and sometimes completely unavoidable. So we allow much more passive voice in academic writing that we would suggest is ideally creative writing, for instance.
[00:35:03] Interesting. Okay now onto something a little bit more mundane and technical. The so I'm typing away on my computer. And it's giving me suggestions. Now the sort of tinfoil hats comes out at this point and I start to think. Okay. It's reading what I'm writing, but what I'm writing is highly personal and of a nature that I wouldn't hate for this to be discovered, I'm writing something tremendously important.
[00:35:27] I am in fact, a spy. How does it do this? Where's this, where's the data flowing to? Is it all done on the device itself? Does it go off to your servers and get fiddled with, and then pushed back? How does it all work? I think what I'm saying is how secure is this? Yeah, I think that's a good question.
[00:35:43] And I think it's a valid concern for a lot of people. So we take privacy very seriously. And we have regular security checks by outside companies. We obviously have lots of business clients for whom it's very important. And so we have contracts with them around security and so we will never access your data.
[00:36:05] It's all transferred. Encrypted and we never keep it or store it or use it for anything else. Whereas I know that some other companies that do grammar checking, definitely do that and have that in the privacy policy that they can basically use your writing for whatever they want. So it's important to check that But, yeah, so we are sending your texts to our servers and then a variety of machine learning algorithms on that to give back to the suggestions and then immediately it's deleted as soon as we finished giving the suggestions.
[00:36:41] Oh, okay. So once that document for example is okay, so once the underlining has been done, if you like, and the decisions have been made by the, by your software, then it expunges that permanently. And then what kind of rights over that portion of the desk? Or just deletes it? Yeah. It's a little done just in memory.
[00:37:00] Okay. So we don't store it on the desk or in any kind of Lost in way. That's really important for us. And we do have, we have authors who are like, Oh, I don't want you stealing my writing. Yes. But if you just think of the logistics of it as well, and it would be impossible for us because we're processing literally billions of words every day.
[00:37:23] Wow. Say for anybody to be able to read a school portion of that, to check for something that's good writing that they might be able to take would be. Yeah, logistically impossible as well. Yeah. The, I watch quite a lot of online tutorials, obviously in the WordPress space and, so you literally watching other people's screens.
[00:37:43]And in my case, it's usually WordPress and they are typing into Guttenberg and what have you. And it's really fascinating to me, the proportion of people who are deploying. This technology over time, go back five or six years, as you say, you were just on your own. And then these tools came about yours being one of them.
[00:38:02] And now I see those little icons hovering and people, they obviously don't make use of it on the S on the screencast that they're recording. But my point being that this feels like an area of growth. So I'm questioning you about that. Is your business is it growing if, for example, at the end of this podcast, people were saying.
[00:38:19] Do you know what that sounds like a fabulous tool. Do you have confidence that you'll be around in five, six, 10 years? And what have you? Yeah, we're growing at a really fast rate and I think people are coming to accept this mall and I think it's it is the way that learning is going as well as the future of learning at work is getting this feedback.
[00:38:41] Now, as you say you can't afford to have some base on your shoulder. Who's helping you with everything. But companies can afford to have, one person who's creating a style guide for them. But they then put into pre-writing aid and then effectively every member of the team has somebody sat on their shoulder, making sure that they're adhering to the company's style guide, for instance, it's an investment in your team and your people, because I think, if you're running a team the sending out emails or producing reports. As a manager, you actually find yourself spending an awful lot of time, just correcting simple writing mistakes, right? So if you deploy something like this of your team, then you saved yourself a huge amount of time that then you can do, and you can use for important things.
[00:39:29]And we get that same feedback from people in businesses, from cheap academic professors, I was talking to professor the other day. He was like, Yeah, I'm a professor of physics and English. Isn't my first language, but I just spend all of my time correcting grammar mistakes, and actually giving any feedback.
[00:39:47] Content good was excited. Yeah. Which is the kind of feedback that you want. You want feedback on the content of what you've written, not the grammar. But sometimes the same environment, mistakes that's all that you can fake this, right? Th the waste of that man's or woman's brain power is just like you just hideous, isn't it, Scott got better things to be doing than fussing about grammar.
[00:40:11] Really? It's the content. Oh that's really interesting. Do you have any reach into sort of education? Cause it feels I certainly get the schools that my children are involved with. There seems to be a push towards putting computers in front of children more and more, especially for writing tasks.
[00:40:24] And what have you. And obviously at the moment we're in this kind of lockdown period we're not, we are we're in the middle of the summer holiday actually. So who knows where that's going to go online learning has become a thing. And I wondered if schools on the whole work adopting this kind of technology as well to assist the teaching.
[00:40:41] Yeah, I think, a lot of schools now are using Google classroom, Google docs for a lot of their writing know tools like ours, plug straight into that and give feedback, but you just wouldn't be able to give, as an individual teacher to a large class, I think like contextual spelling ones are quite interesting.
[00:41:01]So for instance, like where you have the word reign as in like the reign of a King as in reigns and the horse, people confuse those all the time. They're spelled differently. They're pronounced the same in English. We'll highlight that and then we'll give the students or the user, an ASCO that explains the difference.
[00:41:21] We try and give you little tricks for remembering the difference as well. How nice. I think that's really important. Yeah. So there's education materials in this as well. It's not just the, the UI showing you your mistakes, that you've messed up so far. There's also sort of education.
[00:41:39] How does that work? Videos, text documents or so on every every time you highlight this little information icon and you click on that and it pops up a window that gives you an article, which videos quizzes. I lost the useful learning materials. That's amazing. It's a fully fledged tool for just basically picking you up off your off your terrible grammar mistakes and plunking you into.
[00:42:02] Decent ground. How expensive is this? What are your sort of pricing models? Do you have multiple tiers? Let's say I'm in a, an agency of 15 people. Does it reduce in cost if I buy more than one license and so on? Yeah, it does say we have a teams version which allows you to all of your team in, and then you get a bulk discount.
[00:42:24] On that. But also importantly, allows you to share things within that team. Say for instance, as I mentioned, you could create a style guide, NSA, for instance lots of companies have specific rules out words that you should initially use. How the company may misspelled for instance so with pre-writing aid, with the essay, you should never put spaces between the predator and writing and aid.
[00:42:48]Same with WordPress. Yes. Yes. Yes. Great ruler. Find prayer and writing an aid with spaces and changes it back to having those spaces. We have that. We have a function in WordPress called WordPress. Dang it, which it just automatically corrects it for you. Sorry, I interrupted. But that's exactly what Ryan said.
[00:43:08]That is incredibly important for teams to have that, I think historically companies have spent a lot of money. Crazy links, style guides that they then want everybody to adhere to. They print them out. Everyone was supposed to read them. They actually are. They just get piled to the bottom of a drawer of your desk and then gather dust for the next 10 years.
[00:43:30]What we allow people to do is create a living and breathing style guide. Then applies it as you're writing. So you're constantly reminded that you need, for instance, some people say you should never say like clients, you should always say customers or Oh, okay. Yeah, I get it. Yeah. The the pricing that I can see on the screen is in pounds.
[00:43:50]Obviously that's internationalized me to figured out where I am probably. So I, Dan mentioned what the price might be in dollars or us dollars or Canadian dollars or whatever it might be, but there is. There is a monthly subscription. There is a yearly subscription, which at the minute is showing is 25% per month off, I'm guessing.
[00:44:09] Oh yeah. And then there's a lifetime deal. Is that lifetime Dale planned to stick around? Or are you thinking then you might say we, we always have a lifetime variant box is 25% off at the moment. Huh? Okay. So that's a limited time deal that I'm seeing. Okay. So caveat emptor, you may not see that deal when you go to the website, but there will be a monthly, yearly and lifetime subscription.
[00:44:35]It's pro writing a.com no spaces, clearly, no spaces is a URL. But but it's all as you would expect. P O w R I T I N G a I d.com and yeah, go check it out. Anything you want to mention? Anything that we missed out, any sort of promo stuff that you want to say? Twitter handles email addresses, where you can be reached, go for it, Chris.
[00:44:59]Yeah I just say it as well. Yeah. We're all writers at the company and we produce a lot of content ourselves and a lot of free content. So even if you don't want to purchase the tool, then on our blog, we have a huge amount of content. Helping people to improve their writing. We do regular newsletters that have a wide range of articles on improving writing.
[00:45:24]And we've recently during the confinement started doing like twice weekly webinars. We bring in guests hosts who are experts in different topics on writing and giving you free training. And so if you go to our website and click on the learn button at the top there, you'll see all of that.
[00:45:41] And that's all three as well. Yeah. I would say that if you are writing yourself, this is totally worth it. But also if you have an agency in your being commissioned to build websites for other people and you feel that there's a chance that they may themselves benefit from this, they're going to be writing, they're intending to be a blogger or what have you.
[00:46:01]You do have an affiliate program, so there may be something in that as well. If you're handing this over to your clients the bottom of the page and the about section in the footer, you can click on the affiliate section just to say, because I don't think we dwelt on it too much. There is the Chrome extension, which basically will unlock anything on the internet.
[00:46:20] It plugs directly into Google docs, Microsoft office Scrivener, which is a really. Cool app for writing, which I bought with the intention of writing a novel, and guess how many words I wrote. Yeah. And then I'll do a whole bunch of other things. They've got an API and what have you, so really fabulous stuff.
[00:46:39] If you're using a rival, maybe pause that one, go and have a look pro writing aid.com. Thank you, Chris for your time. And it's really appreciated. I hope that you enjoy that. It is a really interesting and powerful tool. So if Chris has made any sense to you today, if you've been beguiled by the things that he said, and you're intrigued by what pro writing aid can do for you, be sure to check out the link in the show notes and avail yourself of the 20% offer that he's offering to WP Bill's listeners, which is very nice.
[00:47:10] Indeed. I use it myself. I switch it on whenever I create Google docs and I'm generally browsing on the internet with forms to fill out and so on and I find it enormously useful, the depth and breadth. So if the tool is really rather remarkable, The WP Bill's podcast is brought to you today by AB split test.
[00:47:29] Do you want to set up your AB split test in record time? The new AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes. Use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part it works with ELA mentor Beaver builder, and the WordPress block editor.
[00:47:47] You can get a free demo. Check it out too. At AB split test.com. Okay. We will be back next Thursday for an episode involving David Walmsley. And I, we rotate the episode. One week, we do an interview and the following week David Walmsley, and I have a chat about something to do with WordPress. We're going through the, a, to Zed or a, to Z of WordPress at the moment.
[00:48:10] And we're still very early in the alphabet. So join us for that. Also restarting after the Christmas break, I'll be joined by Paul Lacey and some notable WordPress guests for the live. This. Week in WordPress that happens every Monday at 2:00 PM. UK time, you can find [email protected] forward slash live or in our Facebook group, that's WP Builds.com forward slash Facebook.
[00:48:33] And then of course, we produce the newsletter each Tuesday, following on from what we chatted about in the live that I've just mentioned, you can subscribe to all of [email protected] forward slash. Subscribe. Okay. As is customary, I'm going to fade in some cheesy music. I hope that you have a lovely week and stay safe.
[00:48:53] And all that remains for me to say, is it for now?

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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