Joss Whedon turned to Shakespeare. I wrote a Teen Vampire novel instead.

Teen Vampire Hunters Alex Ames eBook Cover

Stumbled up on this FastCompany article about Joss Wheadon’s turn from super blockbuster (Avengers) to mid-budget Shakespeare. Mr. Wheadon of course is known to most as the creator of beloved cult TV classics like Fireflies, Dollhouse and of course his break-through creation Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The article explains in a nice arc why he needed an artsy break after the exhaustive work on the action and effect driven Avengers movies.

I get that, but no Shakespeare for me.

I wrote a Teen Vampire novel instead. In a series of soft launches, Teen Vampire Hunters (TVH) will start to appear on the various digital outlets and eventually, later next week, in a paperback version, too.

TVH is the second novel in the Teen Monster Hunters series around angry Sally Storm and her friends, genius Ryan Montgomery and silent Moe NoLastName in the duties of the Supernatural Investigation Agency. This time the team is thrown into the scene alike an Agatha Christie novel. A gothic mansion, a dog sucked dry, and an asorted group of suspects.

Grammarly vs. ProWritingAid — The Battle of the Tools

As a non-native speaker — and maybe for the English everyman — you are never sure whether you are writing your best English or just English laced with the occasional error in spelling or grammar. Sure, most word processors and even the Internet Explorer have built-in checking tools, but still there is a lot you can do wrong. Specialized tools like Grammarly and ProWriteAid promise to improve your writing. This post will concentrate on a side by side comparison of the tools, for those functions that I use them mostly. I am aware that both have different pricing schema and different features that might be useful for one or the other reader.

A few years back, I bought ProWriteAid in a lifetime license deal and used it ever since. In the last year, though, Grammarly bombed me with advertising, especially online. There is no YouTube watching or Facebook timeline where I do not see the nicely done advertisings. I became curious what the difference might be.

Let’s have a look how these tools play against each other. I concentrate on the three core disciplines grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Both tools offer much more checks on style and habits (like pointing out phrase repeats, sticky sentences that are hard to read, overused word) but that would be too much for a single post.

Just as a disclaimer: this is not an “influencer” blogpost, no money flowed (unfortunately) in the making of this post, I have no relationship with either company except for the fact that I use their products for my writings.

Let’s see how both tools, Grammarly and ProWritingAid, are facing off on the final edit of one chapter of my latest book ”. “Final edit” means for me: everything I could have done with my knowledge of the English language has been done and I am ready to send the book off to the editor. I take the chapter text and feed it to the two tools. Let’s see what happens.

Workflow integration

This of course is a very personal judgement, as it depends very much on how you use the tools in your writing process. Both tools offer a generic interface where you are able to copy and paste your text, do the corrections, and then afterwards retrieve it by the same method.

Grammarly has plug ins to Word and common browsers like Chrome, whereas ProWritingAid lets you load full documents into its application. This is where ProWritingAid shines for me, as it lets me upload my whole Scrivener project and applies the corrections directly into the project. No copy and paste for me!

Clear win for ProWritingAid.

Grammarly: 0 — ProWritingAid: 1

The user interface — both do their jobs

Both tools have the same user interface principle. They show the text with potential issues marked up. And then with an overlay (ProWritingAid) or in a separate screen section (Grammarly) an explainer of the issue and the suggestion how to fix it. By clicking on the suggestion the text is corrected immediately. I can also decide to ignore the issue or to add an unknown word into the user directory so that it won’t show up again. Both tools also have sort of an overview list of all the issues detected for easier navigation. Grammarly is a bit more cleaned up in its approach, but it’s not enough to let me say it wins the contest.


Screen Layout ProWritingAid

Screen Layout ProWritingAid

Screen Layout Grammarly

Screen Layout Grammarly

Both interfaces work fine for a user when it comes to spelling and grammar checks. Let’s call it a draw!

Grammarly: 1 — ProWritingAird: 2

Checking Quality — Grammarly beats ProWritingAid into the ground

 This is the juice of course! How do both tools fare on my chapter from Teen Vampire Hunters? The text is picked from the latest workin-progress of my Teen Monster Hunters young adult series about three friends in the duty of the SIA—the Supernatural Investigation Agency. I took a random chapter which I already edited heavily and Word and Scrivener spelling checks have done their jobs many times. Plus my brain in many endless nightly writing sessions. How I HATE editing!

Some stats first: All in all, both tools together spotted 37 issues in my chapter of 2400 words. ProWritingAid marked 21 issues and Grammarly 27.

The first result that amazed me most: each tool detected in majority issues that the other did not. Only 11 issues were an overlap, detected by both tools. Example: the obvious spelling errors like “intructions” and the propose correction “instructions”. But when it came to language suggestions, the tools run on different engines.

Sometimes they are not even one opinion in the classification of an error. Have a look at the “Whatever – What ever” example from above. ProWritingAid declares it as a grammar issue, Grammarly as a spelling issue.

Let us have a closer look: here are first lines of the blow by blow account of the full result of both tool’s scans (G: Grammar, S: Spelling, P: Punctuation, I left out any personal names findings). In each case, I decided whether to keep the text as is or to take over the suggestion of the tool.

Excerpt of ProWritingAid and Grammarly checking results

Excerpt of ProWritingAid and Grammarly checking results

To keep score, let us count the quality of the findings by adding up the “correct actions”. What are correct actions? Simple:

  • Either the tool has found an issue and I followed the suggestion.

  • Or the tool kept still where the other too had made a suggestion and I decided to keep things as they were (Example: “… Sally said, as the vampire ran away.” Grammarly tells me to remove the comma, but ProWritingAids ignorance is the correct action (only in standard phrases like “as long as” you are adding a comma.)

In one case “ax / axe”, I decided to keep the “axe” as “axe to grind” looks better than “ax to grind”. Grammarly’s suggestion was correct, though, from a spelling alternative perspective. I didn’t add this “issue” into the count.
And here is the tally:

Total “Correct Actions” for ProWritingAid and Grammarly

Total “Correct Actions” for ProWritingAid and Grammarly

By a wide margin, Grammarly scores this very important point: the quality of the check itself. But even then, the loser still made 11 suggestions that were NOT captured by Grammarly. Makes you think, too.

Clear winner: Grammarly

Grammarly: 2 — ProWritingAid: 2


Don’t take the score too seriously, please. It’s a draw in my count, but it’s maybe not a fair count. In the main discipline, Grammarly clearly outsmarted ProWritingAid, so this should count higher. In theory. But for me, the cutting and pasting thing is crazy! I hate it, so I like to use PWA for its great integration with Scrivener, my core tool for writing on my Mac and on the iPad.

In real life this quality of the checks brings us to the main dilemma: Do I need to use both tools to become “close to perfect” in my writings? I leave that decision up to you as there are other factors that need to be considered, which I will inspect in one of my next blogposts.

One other point that may not be obvious: when you run these tools, you start editing over and over again. There were two issues found that made me not only take over the suggestion but made me rephrase the whole paragraph. That was also the reason why the obvious spelling errors were not captured earlier, edit turns to re-edit, messing some things up once more.

But hey, this is a writer’s life!

What's up? That's on!

Long time no post on this site but I took it easy recently. As I replaced a 30 minute train commute (each way, very productive) by an eBike ride (60 minutes each way, sporty, but not productive). So I am missing 60 minutes a day in text production. Plus, the weather is fantastic currently and my evenings are shorter, too. And vacations...

Sounds like a lot of excuses NOT to write. But I am busy. Teen Vampire Hunters, the second installment of my Teen Monster Hunters series, is coming along well and I am in rework mode. The timing, characters and overall story line is fine, just some structural optimization. Followed by two more reviews. Hopefully I'll have that all behind me by end of August, to send it off to the editor. And finally start writing again. 

Next book is still a bit up in the air. I've had some motivation to pick up my second romantic comedy again, a piece I left off at about 80 % because I was unhappy with some of my characters. It's hard these days to write good romantic comedy where your characters are female, and professionally successful, but still you are required to have your heroines fall in love with hanging tongues. The second option is to continue with my science fiction horror action thriller, working title "The Transport". Also maybe in  state of 50 %, but needs a lot of rewrite to differentiate itself from the Teen Monster Hunters. (plays in high school, aliens in the basement, sounds familiar).

Facebook Memories...

Read this article in the New York Times about the FaceBook function that let's you download what FB has stored from you. Thought I'd give it a spin for my private life account, too. 

Facebook Data Dump Alex Ames 2018.jpg

An interesting feeling. Seeing your life spread out on the screen in neat little packages. Of course it is not my complete life. It is not like a diary that follows your emotions, encounters and places in a much more detailed fashion. This is FB, the snapshot of a digital social life of things, events, places and chats between people who you feel connected to in a special digital way. You browse through the different categories that FB provides, a life sorted in neat little drawers. A glimpse here, a recognition there. And many times, pure blanks. After reading through that social stream of concience, we should be posting more. Much! MUCH! MORE!

50+ Singles - Meet someone special today!
— Timeline Screenshot of an Email received December 2016

What a perfectly targeted mail. I am 50+. I am not single, but I presume this shows the true spirit of dating sites...

One word posting: “Huh?”
— A photo of a signpost on a boring green lawn "Creative Green - Gardening and Landscaping"

The timeline, an endless stream of one sentence exchanges with mostly people you don't have regular contact anymore. Most of them around our birthdays. At first (2008 as the earliest entry) text only, later enriched with emojis. 

Is catching up on admin stuff to go into vacations
— December 2008
Is holding hands with a baby that refuses to go to sleep
— January 2009
Strängest of experiences: 31 degrees, Christmas decoration, Tarantino movie about Nazis
— November 2009 (from Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Interesting, too: the list of friends and when you befriended them. Last new friend: already a year ago, the graphic designer Anna for my Teen Monster Hunter cover. Is Facebook dead? Or just social friendships? First friend ever: Markus from Switzerland April 2008.

Even more interesting: declined friend requests. Some colleagues who are fitting for LinkedIn but not for FB. Some complete unknowns, the most obscure one: 毛华军  (November 2014)

Had to press the “Like” button because there was no “Fear” button available.
— January 2011 (after watching a video of an MIT robo dog jumping over a fence)
Finished my Steve Jobs tribute evening - thanks to all Youtube contributors to enable us to remember a great man evolve from 1978 (hilarious video filmed before Steve’s first TV appearance, inquiring the way to the restroom) over the years through Apple, Next and Pixar to the latest and greatest achievements. Hearing the startup sound of my first Apple Macintosh Classic which I had bought from one of my first salaries is still burnt into my brain.
— October 2011 on the evening of Steve Jobs passing
Gave up watching a dreadful movie (Get Smart)
— February 2009

How can a movie with Ann Hathaway be dreadful? Probably Steve Carell! 

101 useful iPhone tips - #34: Today in the office we suspected that the refrigerator light switch was broken so that the light was on constantly even when the door was closed. There is an app for that: switch on the video camera, put the iPhone into the fridge and close the door (for a second or so!).
— Message posting June 2012
I’ve traveled to 89 cities in 18 countries. How about you?
— October 2012

There are even outstanding requests that I sent to people who never answered, oldest from 9 years ago!

Some categories in the friendship section are completely obscure:
"Followee" - a section that includes WTF: Mark Zuckerberg? The Mark Zuckerberg?
"Friend Peer Group" - Established Adult Life 

"Established Adult Life" - Whut? WTF is this? Opposite to "Aimless Youth Party"? Or "Winding down retiree tiredness"?

Santa Fe, a song by Beirut on Spotify.
— August 2012 (after linking Spotify to Facebook)
Jet lag compensation Starbucks visit. Local 21:30 equals 2:30 home equals a blinking 0:00 internal clock.
— March 2014 with the status: Alex is feeling tired at Princeton University
Am I stuck in the 90ies if I still like Jerry Seinfeld?
— June 2014 (after watching my first episode of Comedians in Cars...)
Can’t stop. Won’t stop. I covered some serious distance. Map your runs with Nike+.
4.29-mi run
— May 2015 (Autobot message from my Nike+ App into FB)
4 upcoming tour dates:
Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, Green Day, Death Cab for Cutie
— November 2015 (Autobot message from one of my apps, maybe Bandsintown?)

Frank Sinatra? 2015? Really? Zombie time?

Advertising topics selected for me:

  • Bavaria,
  • The Police,
  • Food truck
  • Compliation Album (I hate! compliation albums)
  • Fast food  (Man, that cinches it together with "Food truck")
  • Pro-Ject  (sic!)  No idea, what is this? A pro-duct of sorts?
  • States of Germany  (Was facebook even around before 1989?)
  • David Grohl
  • Madchester
  • American Folk Music
Estimated location inferred from IP 48.36, 10.848
Created: Wednesday, April 11, 2018 at 12:37pm UTC+02
IP Address:
— Security log entry from today

The security logs show each and every IP address, MAC address plus some attempt of geolocation. BTW: The geolocation shown in the example was more than 1 mile away from my actual location that day.

List of Applications (excerpt):

  • frents - the social library - No idea. Sound early 2000, judging from the clever name
  • - Ah, the now defunct service that helped me discover some beautiful bands
  • iPhoto - Ah, iPhoto, RIP.
  • Shpock - not even by name I have an idea what this was.
  • Music Glue
  • Lookfantastic  - one of these complete unknown applications! No recollection of "linking" this one