When writing a term paper, drafting your resume and cover letter, or posting in the comments section on The Krazy Coupon Lady website, it is imperative that your use proper grammar and spelling. After all, good grammar and spelling helps establish your credibility—if you don't, people won’t take you seriously. While no grammar or spelling software is foolproof, the following free online programs are worthwhile tools to help you proofread and improve your writing:

ieSpell: A word processor's built-in spell checker won’t check spelling and grammar when writing text on the Web. eSpell is a free Internet Explorer (IE) browser extension that spell checks text on the web. If you do a lot of web-based text entry (e.g. web mails, forums, blogs), this program will come in handy. After downloading ieSpell to your PC, the program installs as a new button on your IE toolbar (as well as a new menu item under IE’s “Tools” tab). Enter text on a website, then click the ieSpell button. ieSpell pops up in a dialog box on the screen. Don't worry—ieSpell does not contain spyware or adware and it’s absolutely free for personal use. Click here to download.

Speckie: Speckie is a free, downloadable spell checker for Internet Explorer that works in the same way as ieSpell. However, there a few unique features that distinguish Speckie from ieSpell. Speckie can use one or more dictionaries simultaneously. The program supports more than 30 different languages whereas ieSpell only supports US English, UK English, and Canadian English. Also, Speckie will work with either the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Internet Explorer. Run Speckie in Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8, or 9 on Windows XP, Vista, and 7 (32-bit and 64-bit). Click here to download.

Grammarly: Grammarly is an online proofreading tool that instantly checks grammar and spelling.The program corrects over 150 types of grammatical errors, improves word choice with context-optimized vocabulary suggestions, and helps avoid plagiarism by checking text for originality and citations. According to Grammarly, the program catches 10 times more errors than Microsoft Word. Visit the website here, enter your text into the designated box and click "Start Review." Wait about 45 seconds for the program to scan the text. Grammarly offers a free 7-day trial. Thereafter, it is $19.95 for one month; $39.95 for three months; and $95.45 for a year.


PaperRater: PaperRater is a free online program that offers the following features: plagiarism detection, auto grader, spelling and grammar check, style and word choice analysis, readability statistics, title validation, and a vocabulary builder tool. To use PaperRater, visit the PaperRater website here and enter your text into the designated box.


The New York Times Search Function: Here's a handy trick my college journalism professor taught me: if you are unsure about a certain writing issue (e.g. whether the word "web" is capitalized or whether the phrase "around the clock" is hyphenated), enter the word or phrase in question in the search box at nytimes.com. Since The New York Times uses top notch editors and is a stickler for following Associated Press Style grammar and writing guidelines, it's a relatively safe bet to follow whatever The New York Times does. For example, when I entered the word "web" in the search box on nytimes.com, I saw in the search results that every New York Times article capitalized "web". While this method is far from foolproof, it can be helpful when you have no other resource by which to check your work and want to get a quick answer to your writing question.


The "Write" Stuff: Free Online Tools to Help Proofread and Improve Your Writing