Cool tool

KNOW YOUR ENGLISH There are sites to help you on the way Photo: V. Raju  

It has arrived in the mail. Your book-reading boss's “inspirational” lines with that quote in the end that you dread. Boss expects you to discuss it with him in the production meeting. This time it's Walter Winchell's “Nothing recedes like success.” What? Is that a mistake? It's not “recedes”, is it? What does the word mean?

Jump to Punch the word into the box. Look out for the Visual Thesaurus (VT). It's a cool, interactive tool that allows you to see at a glance how your word is connected to its various meanings. In a book dictionary/thesaurus you'll be ploughing through origin, pronunciation, part of speech and usage to arrive at the meaning, and the word may have more than one of that. The visual thesaurus (VT) is a word map. It points to the meaning directly.

Cluster map

Click. A cluster map of the word appears in the larger section of the page. To the right are clear explanations of how the word can be used as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, etc. On the rectangular box above, you'll find the usual stuff: back/forward, a “look it up” area and options for font size, print, share. Once you subscribe, you get to see the example sentences, names of historical figures, phrases and trademarks, spelling checks, suggestions for similar words, related phrases — all connected to your word. The VocabGrabber picks words from any text you're interested in, and will get you lists of the most useful words. It'll show you how to use them in context.

If you're online, VT podcasts pronunciation, helps you launch an Internet search for images or information. VT needs no special software if you are scratching your head about installation/constellation, imaginative/imaginary, childlike/childish or asking “can ‘oversight' have opposite meanings?” Start the search even if you're reading that e-mail on a flight. Want to alert colleagues about “recedes”? Email the word map. The quote has a foreign word? Search for words in Spanish, German, Italian, French and Dutch. There's a 14-day trial period. You need to pay a small amount for a subscription, and can unsubscribe easily if you tire of the find-similar-words game.

Venture into the VT website to go one-up on the boss. You'll learn how the word became part of our speech and writing, and how to teach vocabulary to others. That helps teachers, too. If you'd prefer the play-way method, there is the Spelling Bee that throws you a spelling challenge. Fun! Play around; rotate maps for two/three-dimensional views of the many relationships a word has with others. Free associate!

That is about the word. What if the boss/teacher/editor insists on dissecting your report for grammar/usage/structure errors? That calls for heavier ammo. So log on to for an instant check on your “spotless” writing. For a free trial, paste your paragraphs on the white space. Watch the “result” pop-up in a few seconds.

Once you create an account, you will get the low-down on where you are wrong on the sentences, why it is wrong and how it can be set right. The site boasts 150+ grammar checks (is that all?). If your work is a lift-off from published writing, watch out! The plagiarism detection cell, armed with an Automated Reference Creator, will announce where you “borrowed” it from.

Detecting errors

On the plus side, there are word choice suggestions and the ever-useful spell-check that detects contextual errors. “Spot correctly spelled words used in the wrong context. No more embarrassing typos such as then-than, to-two-too and lose-loose,” says the website.

Heard of dangling modifiers, faulty parallelism, run-on sentences, comma splices, subject-verb disagreement? No? These are major writing crimes, but for which culprits go unpunished. Grammarly too, now integrated to MS Office, lets you off with just an instant report, probably expecting to shame you.

Good. Take advantage of it. Copy and paste your write-up on the given page. Tell this Grammar police why you need this done and get the analysis (and grammar rules you never knew existed) with errors marked in red. It awards marks and gives an overall remark. Like: 62/100, weak, needs revision.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 6:44:02 AM |

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