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Monday, January 26, 2015

Interview with Nikolas Baron, Grammarly: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Becoming a more effective writer by means of interactive, cloud-based grammar and composition tools has become much easier as adaptive elearning-focused web applications have become more sophisticated. One of the leading innovators, Grammarly, has pioneered new algorithms and approaches for writing enhancement software which are of great use for anyone who must write reports, proposals, and articles.
Welcome to an interview with Nikolas Baron, of Grammarly.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?

My name is Nikolas, and I’m an online marketing manager at Grammarly. We make an online tool that improves your writing by detecting, explaining, and correcting mistakes as you type. Over four million users trust Grammarly with their writing, and it’s my job to keep that number growing. Many of them are students who want to write stronger essays, theses, and college applications. We also have many teachers who are users and need a tool to grade their students’ work and authenticity.

Nikolas Baron,

2.  What is Grammarly? How did it start? How has it evolved?

Grammarly is an advanced writing enhancement software with grammar, spelling, and plagiarism checker. We are currently used by four plus million people around the world. Our biggest users are students wanting to write stronger essays, theses, and college applications and teachers needing a tool to grade their students’ work and authenticity.

Our founders, Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn, who are both ESL learners, started Grammarly in 2008 with the goal of improving lives by improving communication. Alex and Max foresaw an opportunity to create a powerful tool that would instantly and accurately provide writing assistance to the more than two billion native and non-native English speakers around the globe. Since then, our proofreading algorithm has continuously evolved to cover contextual spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. When a mistake is detected, Grammarly offers a suggested correction as well as an explanation of the mistake. To make sure Grammarly can be used wherever you write, we’ve made it available in your browser and Microsoft Office (e.g. Outlook or Word).

3.  How are interactive grammar tools better than they were a few years ago?

The English language has many exceptions to its rules, and writing enhancement software was very inaccurate in detecting contextual errors such as there, their, and they’re. Today, Grammarly can more accurately catch and correct English spelling and grammar mistakes based on deviations from baseline grammar standards. For example, when a user receives feedback from Grammarly with a detailed explanation, they make an informed decision about how and whether to correct the mistake, and Grammarly’s algorithms learn based on that feedback.

4.  How is Grammarly different than other programs? For example "WriteClick" offers automated grammar checks.

Grammarly regularly conducts tests to compare our algorithms against our competitors (e.g., Microsoft Word). Our continuously improving machine learning algorithm always wins. In addition to being more accurate, our Google Chrome extension, Microsoft Office add-in, and web application mean Grammarly is accessible wherever you write. I would also argue that Grammarly provides the most beautiful and intuitive  user experience. Our team obsesses over every shade, animation, and button.

5.  How is Grammarly available? Is it cloud-based and can it be used on my phones (iPhone 6 and Nexus 5)?

Grammarly is available via, through our add-in, and for free via Google Chrome.

6.  What are some of the drawbacks of Grammarly?  Can Grammarly be used for people learning English?

Grammarly is the most accurate automated proofreader, making it a great “second set of eyes” for everything from quick emails to the first draft of your manuscript. It is not, however, a replacement for a human proofreader. To minimize the chances of receiving incorrect suggestions, I would recommend testing it with a text that has not yet been proofread.

Grammarly is a great English-learning supplement because it offers explanations for every change it suggests.To make sure the explanations make sense, we include examples on how to apply the rules correctly.
7.  What are your plans for the future?

Our mission is to improve communication for the two billion English speakers out there. As we continuously focus on creating a seamless user experience, improving the accuracy of our algorithms, and expanding to new writing environments, we inch closer to achieving our mission every day.

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