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PaperRater rates my paper

I must admit I was suspicious of this one–I’ve always been suspicious of nonhuman writing assessments—but I now think PaperRater is a cool tool for students (and adults) interested in getting some feedback on their written work before they submit it for grading or publication.

The free tool requires no registration and offers real-time, 24/7 analysis and detailed statistics about your work’s originality, your word choice, grammar, spelling,style, word choice, readability.  It suggests an overall grade, as well as opportunities for improving your writing.  (The site also offers a random Vocabulary Builder tool, helpful for those prepping for standardized tests or those of us who just happen to like words.)
Developed and maintained by linguistics professionals and graduate students, the site harnesses a few strategies and technologies I don’t completely understand–the power of natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, information retrieval (IR), computational linguistics, data mining, and advanced pattern matching (APM).
Simply paste the title of your paper, your paper, and your works cites in the appropriate boxes.  Select the educational level of the writer–up to post-doc–and the type of paper you are submitting.  Then click on the Get Report button and you should receive a nearly immediate analysis of your paper.
Note: The site advises: Please remove any student names, teacher names, etc. from the top of the paper so that our automated analyzer does not get confused. Also, this tool is designed for high school, college, and above. Middle school writing (or younger) may be returned with an error message.
Here’s what I got back when I submitted a piece I wrote with Doug Johnson a few months back.
The program discovered a grammatical error both Doug and I missed even with our serious proofreading scrutiny.
Our spelling was excellent.  So was our word choice .  But we could have benefited from a greater use of vocabulary. PaperRater found the blog posts in which we shared the piece and suggested that this article was most likely plagiarized. (Note: Unlike programs like Turnitin, with its bank of premium papers and agreements with database vendors, PaperRater’s originality reach is more limited.)
As for style,  PaperRater offered this very granular analysis, followed with explanation:

word usage: verb types: to be (79) auxiliary (46) types as % of total: conjunctions 6% (199) pronouns 7% (224) prepositions 12% (371) nominalizations 3% (104)

sentence beginnings: pronoun (31) interrogative pronoun (7) article (24) subordinating conjunction (8) conjunction (5) preposition (10) The word usage counts are intended to help identify excessive use of particular parts of speech.

Verb Phrases The category of verbs labeled “to be” identifies phrases using the passive voice. Use the passive voice sparingly, in favor of more direct verb forms. The verb category “aux” measures the use of modal auxiliary verbs, such as “can”, “could”, and “should”. Modal auxiliary verbs modify the mood of a verb.

Conjunctions The conjunctions counted by style are coordinating and subordinating. Coordinating conjunctions join grammatically equal sentence fragments, such as a noun with a noun, a phrase with a phrase, or a clause to a clause. Coordinating conjunctions are “and,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “nor.” Subordinating conjunctions connect clauses of unequal status. A subordinating conjunction links a subordinate clause, which is unable to stand alone, to an independent clause. Examples of subordinating conjunctions are “because,” “although,” and “even if.”

Pronouns Pronouns are contextual references to nouns and noun phrases. Documents with few pronouns generally lack cohesiveness and fluidity. Too many pronouns may indicate ambiguity.

Nominalizations Nominalizations are verbs that are changed to nouns. Style recognizes words that end in “ment,” “ance,” “ence,”or “ion” as nominalizations. Examples are “endowment,” “admittance,” and “nominalization.” Too much nominalization in a document can sound abstract and be difficult to understand.

I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my writing this way before. And darn it, I do try to stay our of passive voice.  It looks like we do vary our sentence beginnings.  And, thank goodness, Doug and I don’t nominalize much.
I know I can learn from PaperRater’s analysis.  And I have a feeling English teachers will appreciate this tool for detailed student self-assessment.
What it didn’t catch (IMHB) were our clever analogies and references to popular culture, our sweet parallel construction, our creative approach, our knowledge.
So, according to PaperRater’s artificial intelligence what was our grade?  It was a B.  (Although, the little grade box offers a disclaimer relating to its nonhuman abilities to assess.)
I know we can do better next time.
Or, maybe next time, we’ll submit as undergrads.
Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Great site recommendation. I am a new blogger writing about my MLIS. I think this site will be useful for my papers and for my blog. Nice tip that I can share with my high school students. Thanks, -e

  2. Hiya Joycie,

    You’re a brave woman to have your (our) paper analyzed in public like this! I suspect the grade is a fair one considering you probably got all As on your assignments and I got all Cs on mine, and this makes for B average.

    What were our grammatical error?


  3. Ooops, Doug! I should have asked you first. We had an “a” where we should have had an “an.”


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