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White Smoke English Writing & Proofreading Software Review

December 9, 2008 | Leave a Comment

First Impressions of White Smoke Proofreading Software

I found WhiteSmoke very easy to install and get started with. It checks the grammar, spelling and readability of everything that you write (it will do this whilst running in the background, or you can load up the program directly). It’s a bit like a very advanced and more intelligent version of Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker.

I liked the way it automatically checked my typing in not only Microsoft Word but also in emails and when leaving comments using web forms. It caught a few potentially embarrassing typos before I had a chance to hit “send” or “submit”…

Testing white smoke

I tried running a few pieces of my regular writing through white smoke to see what it would say. This passage came from a piece I was writing for my blog The Office Diet:

Now you know what calories are and you know how to figure out how many are in your food … you just need to know how many you should be eating.

white smoke suggested putting a comma after the words “calories are”, and when I clicked to find out why, I was told:

Explanation: This sentence requires a comma to separate its clauses and improve clarity.
Definition: Two coordinated clauses should be divided by a comma.

So far so good: I agree that the sentence is improved when rewritten as:

Now you know what calories are, and you know how to figure out how many are in your food…

The next suggestion, however, was to put a full stop after “out” and before “how”, which would make the sentence:

Now you know what calories are and you know how to figure out. How many are in your food …

This time, when I asked why, white smoke explained “Two distinct sentences have to be divided by a full stop [period].” However, these were not two separate sentences, and putting a full stop here would lose meaning. I suspect the use of “figure out” (which is quite informal or colloquial) confused the software.

My frequent use of bullet points, rather than conventional paragraphs, also caused a few issues:

  • It suggested putting a period after the first bullet, but not after others. (Conventional advice is that you do not need to use periods for bullets consisting of short phrases, but if you do use periods, you should be consistent.)
  • white smoke believed that “Your weight” and “Your activity levels” should be “You’re weight” and “You’re activity levels” respectively. Again, I suspect the use of bullets and fragments rather than full sentences caused this confusion.

Sometimes, the software didn’t recognise what role a particular word was playing in a sentence. In the following example, the word “fast” is an adjective modifying “food”, but white smoke believed it was a verb:

They found that those who skipped breakfast tended to eat more fast food.

I was advised to “Change ‘more’ to ‘faster’”. I can understand where the confusion came – “more fast” would be poor grammar if the sentence was “I ran more fast than Billy.” But my sentence was correct as it stood.

Enrichment Suggestions

white smoke makes a number of enrichment suggestions which can help improve the flow or style of your writing. For example, one of these came up for me when it recommended changing “And” in:

And your muscle mass is also important

to “Furthermore”, “In addition”, or “Moreover”. I would probably have picked one of these if I’d been writing a more formal piece, but for a blog post, I don’t think starting with “And” is a problem.

Verdict

I enjoyed using the white smoke software, and found it was particularly good at spotting typos as I wrote. It could seem a little intrusive at times (a small window pops up in the right hand side of the screen as you type, when the software is running), so I usually turned it off when writing fiction or informal emails as I tended to get a lot of warnings about these!

There were a few occasional slips when the software didn’t understand the meaning of what I’d written, but so long as you don’t just accept every suggestion automatically, these infrequent mistakes shouldn’t cause too many problems.

I think it would be an excellent piece of software for:

  • People learning English as a foreign language
  • Students writing academic essays
  • Anyone producing a formal business-related piece (perhaps a report, or a job application)
  • Freelancers writing for print or traditional markets

You might find the white smoke software frustrating if:

  • You mainly write fiction or poetry (especially if you use a lot of dialogue or your style involves breaking grammatical rules)
  • Your emails and other non-fiction writing tend to be very informal
  • You use a lot of bullet points or other sentence fragments
  • You’re already very confident about your spelling and grammar

Overall, white smoke is a very easy to use, intuitive piece of software, and considerably cheaper than paying a proof-reader to check your work!

From: http://www.dailywritingtips.com/whitesmoke-software-review/

WhiteSmoke 2009 Review | Grammar Correction | Proofreading and Editing Writing Software

November 2, 2008 | Leave a Comment

WhiteSmoke 2009 is an innovative proofreading and editing tool with a single aim – to help you write better. Whether you simply want to compose well–written emails to family and friends, or you need professional results for business and corporate settings, WhiteSmoke consistently delivers

WhiteSmoke 2009 New Features

New GUI

WhiteSmoke 2009 introduces a new GUI with an improved workflow. Central to the new design is the presentation of WhiteSmoke‘s suggestions and corrections. Replacing the pop-up menus of WhiteSmoke 2008, the user now receives corrections and suggestions in-line with the text, just like when a text is edited and proofread manually.”Our beta group is very pleased with this new development, which brings a more organic and ‘real-life’ feel to the writing and editing experience,” notes Liran Brenner, VP R&D at WhiteSmoke. Other changes include the placement of the additional writing tools (English Lessons, Templates, and the Dictionary) above the text area, and more intuitive placement of the “Check” and “Apply” buttons.

Style Checker

WhiteSmoke 2009 introduces a new collection of style checking features. The WhiteSmoke Style Checker includes WhiteSmoke‘s patented Text Enrichment, a unique technology that has established WhiteSmoke in a field apart from competitors, as well as a range of new features that address overall writing style. Users will be notified of incomplete sentences, use of slang and IM speak, and informal sentence structures. These additional style checking features make WhiteSmoke 2009 a great leap forward from previous versions of WhiteSmoke, and consolidate the WhiteSmoke mission of creating an “all-in-one” writing tool.

Grammar Checker

WhiteSmoke 2009 introduces new grammar algorithms and updates to existing algorithms. Key new detections include confusions between countable and non-countable nouns (much/many, less/fewer), comparative/superlative mismatches (more nicer, less nicest), and recognition of run-on sentences. Updates to existing grammar algorithms have further improved the precision of WhiteSmoke’s corrections over a wider variety of possible sentence constructions.

whitesmoke 2009 business version review

With the WhiteSmoke 2009 Business Writing Version you can’t go wrong with any document you send out! Our online software corrects any potentially embarrassing grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes and takes your text to a new and more professional level with text enrichment suggestions relevant to the business world. The integrated dictionary-thesaurus, idiom database, and optional multi-language translator [Now Free] are complemented by 600 document templates that all-in-all provide you the best English writing package available!

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whitesmoke 2009 Creative version review

Do you feel like you’ve got a burning desire to be a writer but afraid you still need to brush up on some writing basics? The WhiteSmoke online grammar and writing software is the all-in-one solution that caters to all your writing needs! It will correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes in any short story and essay you write. It will also provide you with text enrichment suggestions to enrich your writing with synonyms and extra adjectives and adverbs. The integrated dictionary-thesaurus, idiom database, 600 document templates, and online English lessons complete our unique all-in-one writing tool made just for you!

Buy Now Price: $99.95

Get a free dictionary + ESL Online Video Tutorial Courses + Business English Video Tutorial Course

whitesmoke 2009 General Writing version review

Writing has never been more accessible than with the groundbreaking WhiteSmoke grammar and writing software. Whether you are a middle school student, about to hand in your first college thesis or already deep in the world of work, our software provides an all-in-one software package that caters to all your writing needs. Starting with grammar, punctuation, and spelling corrections all the way up to text enrichment suggestions of synonyms, adjectives, and adverbs, the WhiteSmoek English text enhancer does it all. Together with a built-in dictionary-thesaurus, idiom database, 600 document templates, and an optional multi-language translator, WhiteSmoke is just the writing tool you need to “Write Better – Right Now!

Buy Now Price: $79.95

whitesmoke 2009 Bio-Writing version review

Completing those patient progress forms or filing lengthy medical supply orders can be tedious and even embarrassing if sent out with mistakes. The WhiteSmoke online English grammar and writing software answers to all your needs as it corrects grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. It goes even further by offering text enriching synonyms, adjectives, and adverbs – all suited to medical jargon. Completing this package are the integrated dictionary-thesaurus, 600 professional document templates, and the optional multi-language translator. All in all, WhiteSmoke is the best all-in-one writing solution to make you “Write Better – Right Now!”

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whitesmoke 2009 Hi-tech version review

The Hi-Tech Writing version of WhiteSmoke is an excellent writing solution for Hi-Tech and IT professionals. Like all versions of WhiteSmoke, you get full access to our advanced grammar checker and spell checker, as well as the style checker, which provides text enhancement suggestions to improve your writing. The dictionary-thesaurus and the spelling database of the Hi-Tech Writing version are tailored for the specific writing needs of Hi-Tech and IT professionals.

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whitesmoke 2009 Executive version review

If you are an executive manager who just doesn’t have time for editing emails and business proposals, then WhiteSmoke’s English grammar and writing software is the solution you’ve been waiting for. The Executive Version includes the text enrichment capabilities of all other WhiteSmoke versions (business, creative, legal, medical, and general), and WhiteSmoke’s world-leading grammar, spelling, and punctuation correction. These core features are backed by a one-click dictionary-thesaurus, and over 600 professional document templates. WhiteSmoke’s all-in-one solution is the best bang for your writing buck!

Buy Now Price: $249.95

Whitesmoke 2009 Business English Video Tutorials

WhiteSmoke‘s Business English Video Tutorial Course is based on a comprehensive and highly interactive method to help you learn the “ins and outs” of Business English. The course is based around a series of real-life business scenarios, which help you acquire the necessary communication skills through actual business interactions. There are achievement tests to help you track your progress, and detailed case studies to help you get the most out of your Business English learning experience.

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Whitesmoke 2009 ESL Online Video Tutorials

WhiteSmoke‘s ESL Online Video Tutorial Courses are based on a comprehensive and highly interactive method to help you learn the “ins and outs” of English as a second language. The courses are based around real-life scenarios, which help you acquire the necessary communication skills through actual interactions. There are achievement tests to help you track your progress, and detailed case studies to help you get the most out of your English learning experience.

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The Writing Process – Guide to effective writing for Technical Writers

October 18, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Introduction

One of the more difficult tasks facing IT people is finding the best way of putting across technical information in a nontechnical way.

Nontechnical writing is often the most difficult type of communication for IT people (“techos” as they are sometimes known) to do well. This is because such writing calls for communication between people with widely different backgrounds.

Nontechnical writing takes technical information and translates into ideas that can be readily understood by people who are perhaps skilled in other areas or other disciplines.

Nontechnical writing presents a situation much like that involved with translating a foreign language. When you are speaking to someone who shares a common background and language, they can fill in the gaps and make up for mistakes in your communication. However when speaking to someone who has a different background and speaks a different language, they cannot make up for gaps and mistakes, and need additional explanation.

1. The Writing Process

This is a very important section for people who have not spent half their lives learning the many techniques of writing good, easy to read prose. While there’s no real substitute for those years, by applying some basic principles the result might be quite good.

1.1. Clear & effective communication

A subject as large as this could fill a library, but as big a subject as it is, there are some general guidelines which can be applied to help you write more readable reports.

If you are serious about becoming a better writer, you’ll take the following guidelines to heart and practice them. They were mainly put forward by the English writer George Orwell in his book Politics and the English Language (1947). Taught in university courses, practised by experienced writers everywhere, they can be considered some of the “tricks of the trade”.

By implementing the techniques outlined in this document you will be able to use language as an “instrument of expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought”.

1.2. No tired figures of speech

It is a fact that when communicating, people often use expressions and clichés that have become overworked. They may once have been full of impact, able to grab a readers attention with the freshness of their imagery. But after 1,000 uses, they are past their “use by” date and deserve to be retired. Take the time to think of new ways to express familiar ideas and your writing will benefit.

1.3. Short not long words

Never use a long word when a short one will do; use “timely” not “auspicious” or “opportune, use “set” rather than “predetermined”.

Short words tend to be more specific or concrete, making the message more definite. Short words also usually have more impact.

Use a specific, concrete word instead of a general, abstract one. Instead of: “We should request management to do something about their high overheads”, say “Let’s ask John, Susan and Peter to suggest five ways of cutting departmental costs”.

Examples of general (usually long) versus specific (mostly short) include:

  • stringed instrument/guitar.
  • transport vehicle/car.
  • public service department/Queens land Transport.
  • entertainment/movie.
  • science/biology.
  • sporting event/Olympic Games.

Specific words help by allowing the other person to see a clear meaning, general or abstract words tend to obscure meaning.

1.3.1. Economical & precise with words

Economical. if it’s possible to cut a word out without losing the meaning, always cut it out. For example to write: “You can begin to down load the data to the hard disk of the computer by loading the diskette into the diskette drive and selecting “down load” from the Utilities menu which is found in the System Administration area..” Is not as economical as: “To down load the data to the PC, insert the diskette and select “down load” from the Utilities Menu”.

They both get the same meaning across but the first includes extra words which add nothing to the clarity of the statement, but which the reader is obliged to plough through nevertheless. In this example it isn’t necessary to tell the reader where the down loaded data will go or where to insert the diskette or even that the Utilities menu is in the System Administration area if this section is dealing with the System Administration area as a whole.

The rule of thumb is, don’t make people read more than they need, they get in the way, waste time and cause irritation when done to excess.

Precise With around 500,000 words (not including technical), English has perhaps the largest number of words of any language. With such a variety, try to choose the words which best express your thought. Many words have only slight differences in meaning; i.e. assisted, benefited, served, helped. Or meritorious, illustrious, distinguished, significant, renowned.

The best way to achieve precision is to:

  • Think carefully about what you’re saying, and
  • Have a broad enough vocabulary. A good way to build your vocabulary is to make a point of looking up words you don’t know and perhaps using a thesaurus when writing a document.

1.3.2. Active not passive

Always use the active voice where possible. Active voice has more impact than passive voice and is usually more concise as well. For example it’s better to write: ‘use the active voice’ than to say: ‘the use of passive voice is to be discouraged’.

Notice the diluted effect that the passive voice creates. An enormous amount of what is written in organizations suffers from this problem. Why? Partly through habit, partly through a desire to lend authority to the words and partly to hide a lack of real understanding of the subject. Half-baked or incomplete thoughts tend to be expressed this way.

1.3.3. Everyday English not foreign, jargon or scientific

Except in situations where these are specifically called for, everyday English should be used rather than foreign, jargon or scientific words (i.e. not used for the sake of appearing knowledgeable). As a general guide, choose words that are likely to be understood by the largest number of people unless you are writing for a highly specialized readership.

It is often more difficult to use a common word when the concept is normally described in technical terms. Never assume that people know the meaning of technical words unless they have specific training (i.e. a computer science graduate can be expected to know computer jargon, but the accounts clerk who is actually using the software cannot be expected to understand computer jargon.

1.3.4. Prefabricated language

Orwell also pointed to the habit many people have of using “prefabricated” language. Rather than making the effort to think of new ways of describing things, most people lazily continue to use the same old expressions they’ve been using for years. For example: ‘At this point, the weekly invoice run is initiated and without further ado will run until finished.’ Contains two pieces of prefabricated language; “at this point” and “without further ado’.

The result of overused expressions is that the message may not get through since the reader has tuned out after encountering too many overworked phrases. Original sounding language helps get the message across by sparking the reader’s interest. In the above example, you could say: ‘The weekly invoice run now commences.” Not using prefabricated language also leads to the economical expression of ideas.

1.3.5. Present tense not past/future

Unless it specifically applies, use present tense. Say “Pressing accepts the default value” rather than “Pressing will accept . .” (future tense). Another example, “use active voice in the present tense” rather than “the use of passive voice in the future tense is to be discouraged’.

Using present tense makes the message sound more immediate. The reader unconsciously thinks if it’s happening now, it’s worth knowing. If it’s happening in the future, let’s wait until it happens. If it’s already happened, it’s history.

1.3.6. Avoiding overstatement

This general guideline applies to all communication. In an attempt to strengthen their message, many people resort to overstatement – words that convey an exaggerated view of a person, event or situation. If someone says “You never help me with my work” they invite a reply like “Of course I help you, what about last week?’.

When a speaker exaggerates it usually makes the other person defensive – all of which gets in the way of clear communication. It’s better to limit yourself to simply stating the facts, it shows that you’re being fair and mindful of the other person’s feelings.

1.3.7. Adapting words to the reader

To help the other person perceive what you’re saying as interesting and intelligible. Certainly, using precise specific words adds interest as mentioned earlier, but you can also add interest by being concise and colorful in your phrasing.

Another way to add interest is to use colorful, non cliché expressions. For example, to describe an experience as being “electrifying” is colorful but commonplace, to say it was “like touching an electric fence” adds color and freshness, making it both more interesting and entertaining for the listener/reader.

1.3.8. Never barbarous (advisory only)

Note: This section is for general interest only. It is included for the sake of completeness. Despite the fact that opportunities to use “barbarous” language in reports are limited, it is still worth mentioning since it is perhaps the most corrupting use of language seen today.

Orwell makes the point because he was appalled at the way governments would use terms like “collateral damage” to describe the deaths of innocent people, or their own soldiers being killed by “friendly fire” (mistakenly killed by their own side), or “ethnic cleansing” used to describe genocide.

Notice that barbarous terms are abstract, they don’t have a down-to-earth meaning. “Collateral damage” would become horrifying if the meaning was made concrete by showing the victims as real people – perhaps one’s own husband, wife or children. “Ethnic cleansing” sounds almost harmless but its real meaning is barbaric when you imagine it happening in your street, to people you know.

Why is it done? Usually as a way of legitimizing or “selling” acts of barbarism to people who would otherwise object. As an exercise, the next time a war occurs in which Australia or it’s allies are involved, listen to the way in which the events are described in the media. The words are carefully chosen to persuade us that the war is necessary because “we” are right and “they” are wrong. People often forget that there is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to why nations go to war. It is up to governments to “sell” the idea by glorifying our own cause and demonising the enemy’s.

1.4. Non sexist language

Care should be taken to avoid sexist (or nondiscriminatory as it is legally known) language.

As a general guide:

  • Make no gender assumptions – avoid using language which assumes a person’s gender. Today, there are very few jobs where a person is always male or female. Instead of saying “he/she” or “they” when mentioning a person, refer to their job title or function, i.e. “the data entry clerk” or “the user” or simply as “you”.
  • Don’t get carried away with removing apparent gender bias in language. With the best of intentions it can mutilate language. For example a “manhole” cover is the generic name of the object and to call it a “personhole” cover obscures it’s meaning and leaves itself open to ridicule, whereas “access” cover is acceptable.
  • Further information – if in doubt, consult the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Equal Opportunity in Public Employment Act relevant to your state.

1.5. Writer’s block

Common causes of writer’s block include:

  • Internal censor – imaginary, internal critic, speaking with the voice of teachers, parents or other authority figures. The censor makes us reject what might have been written before the writing process has a chance to get under way.
  • Fear of failure – originates also from authority figures. It makes us see writing as difficult or risky. It generates anxiety and lack of self-esteem (I’m a hopeless writer!)
  • Perfectionism - having unrealistically high standards, not setting realistic goals.
  • Procrastination - you begin by sitting down to make a start. After a time you’re thinking of all the things you could be doing – some of them quite important which should probably be done right away. Next thing you know, you’re doing that something else and thinking “Well I’ll get back to that later”. This is the gentle art of procrastination whose basis lies deep in the heart of human nature.

1.5.1. Preparation

The problem is often that you’re expecting to hear the finished product being dictated in your mind by that mysterious process called inspiration. But before the words will start to flow you need to know a lot about the subject. So if you are experiencing writer’s block, it’s generally a sign that you don’t yet know enough about the subject. Spend some more time preparing and getting to know the subject well.

1.5.2. Make a start

Another tip is to lower your expectations about the quality of output at the beginning and just write what you do know even if it sounds half baked. The important thing is to start the flow of words one way or another. Concentrate on getting as much down as possible with the intention of going back and correcting it later. It doesn’t matter at this stage how bad it sounds, no one else need see it. Anything you write now can be changed later in the light of a better understanding of the subject.

1.5.3. Review the reference material

If that doesn’t help, go back and review the reference material you have prepared. A lack of reference material as discussed in the previous chapter is the source of writer’s block. It highlights the importance of thorough presentation to the success of the documentation.

1.6. Environment

Most people work best in a quiet, comfortable environment, as free as possible from interruptions and distractions. Easier said than done in many work places, particularly when the telephone never stops ringing and coworkers frequently want to chat.

It is important to arrange a time and a place during the working day where you can work in a quiet, interruption free environment, since you need to be able to concentrate and follow a train of thought for an extended period.

1.7. Routine

Get into the habit of writing everyday. It helps to reinforce the writing process and to overcome writer’s block.

The process of writing involves using the part of your mind that performs the enormously complex task of turning ideas into language. Unless you use this acquired skill regularly, it falls into disuse. It gets rusty and won’t work properly. It’s similar in some ways to physical fitness. Just as regular exercise keeps a person fit, writing something every day helps to keep your writing faculties in good working condition. Schedule a period each day to work on the documentation and do everything you can to stick to the schedule. If your other commitments make it difficult to allocate time on a regular basis, discuss the matter with your manager with a view to reorganizing your work load.

1.8. Ergonomics

Since writing involves sitting in one position for long periods, certain ergonomic factors need to be considered. These include the following:

1.8.1. Chair

Provide yourself with a chair that gives good lumbar (lower back) support. Try to avoid slouching in the chair for long periods as this places strain on the lumber vertebrae.

1.8.2. Screen

The screen should be on or around eye level and not closer than around 40 centimeters. Screens (liquid crystal flat screen types excepted) do emit a small amount of radiation. While no definite proof exists that this radiation is harmful to humans, many people do report degrees of discomfort and eyestrain. Common sense would suggest trying to minimize your exposure. Using an earthed radiation shield is recommended. The intensity of radiation coming from a screen decreases rapidly the further away the screen is. Therefore, position the screen to be as close as it needs to be to allow your eyes to comfortably read the words on the screen, and no closer.

Adjust the brightness to be just bright enough rather than brighter than necessary. If the brightness needs to be high to overcome reflected light from windows, either rearrange the screen away from the direct light, or arrange blinds. All of this helps to minimize eyestrain.

1.8.3. Regular breaks

Occupational health guidelines recommend taking a break every hour by getting up and walking around. This not only helps your circulation and eyes, it also clears the mind.

1.8.4. Keyboard

Your wrists should not need to be bent while using the keyboard. Studies show that Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) can occur where a keyboard operator, over a long period, constantly types with bent wrists. The strain is due to the tendons which pass through the wrist from the lower arm to the hands becoming inflamed because they are being stretched and constricted as they pass through the narrow aperture in the wrist known as the Carpal Tunnel.

Avoid this possibility by making sure the keyboard is not too high. Either adjust the seat higher up, or arrange for a lower desk or a keyboard drawer which fits under the desk top, or a wrist support pad.

White Smoke 2009 – Computer Make Your Text Grammatically Terrific

October 15, 2008 | Leave a Comment

After several years of research and development on the promising idea of an intelligent writing tool for correcting and enhancing a user’s text, White Smoke 2009 says thet can deliver it. Featuring a grammar checking engine that detects a wider range of errors than any other commercial grammar checker, and a range of other tools to create an all-in-one writing solution, White Smoke 2009 says it is the ideal software application for writers, copy editors and at-home Internet users who are concerned with creating error-free texts.

Community is the Key

“The real secret behind White Smoke’s technologies is our user base. Our users give us constant feedback, and a very wide variety of texts for analysis – without this interaction, our algorithms would not be so advanced,” states Liran Brenner, VP R&D at White Smoke. “Our users make a passionate community, and have stuck with the product throughout its development due to the great potential it brings to written communications. White Smoke’s writing technologies level the playing field, allowing English as a Second Language speakers, and those of us who simply need a good editor for our writing, to confidently write error-free texts.”

White Smoke writing technologies are based on natural language processing (NLP) technology. The program works by analyzing an entire sentence, understanding the structure, and making corrections and suggestions based on a combination of grammar rules and complex statistical models. This approach is unique, and was a factor in leading Business 2.0 to include White Smoke as one of its “31 Best Business Ideas in the World” of 2006. The latest release, White Smoke 2009, is the complete fruition of the White Smoke idea – an intelligent and dynamic tool for writers; a tool that works alongside any text-based application.

Hilla Ovil-Brenner, White Smoke CEO, says, “I am proud to say that White Smoke 2009 is a very mature product for professional writers, and for people who just want to write correct English in their emails and instant messages. Now that we have launched White Smoke 2009 with its advanced grammar checking and style checking features, we hope to reach out to a wider audience, especially writing and copy editing professionals, and writers of English as a Second Language. The new Hi-Tech Writing profile is also aimed at high tech and IT professionals, another niche that needs professional text editing and enhancement. We at White Smoke truly hope to revolutionize written online communications by bringing quality English to everyone.”

White Smoke is a company in the field of English writing technologies with a focus on products that enhance and correct grammar, spelling, and writing style. White Smoke products are based on natural language processing (NLP) technology, featuring unique and patented artificial intelligence algorithms for text analysis. As well as the White Smoke 2009 desktop software, White Smoke makes its technologies available through other channels, such as a browser-based text editor, and specialized OEM versions designed for integration with 3rd party service providers.

See the White Smoke website for further information

English Tips for ESL Learners

October 12, 2008 | Leave a Comment

English can be a challenging second language.  It’s a big language with a daunting amount of vocabulary.  Much of that vocabulary is confusing or contradictory, with homonyms that sound the same but are spelled differently, and inconsistent spelling rules.  Regular verbs in English are fairly simple to conjugate, but there are many, many irregular verbs.  When the rules and exceptions have been mastered, you still must learn English idioms, phrases which mean more than the literal translation of their words.

English Vocabulary

English is a living and evolving language with a rich, diverse history.  Much of English has its roots in Latin, and this gives the language a certain order and predictability.  English, however, has borrowed from dozens of languages over the years.  This wealth of diversity makes the study of English an endlessly fascinating challenge.

Homonyms

One of the toughest challenges in building an English vocabulary is differentiating between homonyms, words which sound the same but have a different meaning.  Sometimes the spelling is the same.  A “vault” is a safe or strongbox.  “To vault” is to jump over something.

Often homonyms are spelled differently.  Here is a list of a few common homonyms.  There are many more.

It’s – It is.
Its – Belonging to it.  This is an exception to the usual rule about using an apostrophe to indicate possession.

Led – Past tense of the verb “to lead.”
Lead (pronounced “led”) – a soft, heavy grey metal.

Break – To badly damage something; a gap or interruption.
Brake – To stop.

Higher – With more height.
Hire – To employ.

Peace – The opposite of war or strife.
Piece – Part of something.

Spelling Rules

English spelling can be distressingly inconsistent.  “Stuff,” “tough,” and “Ralph” all end with the same sound.  “Ambitious,” “vicious,” and “shoes” just about rhyme, while “tough” and “plough” sound very different.  To make matters worse, spellings vary in different parts of the world.  “Plough” is the British spelling for a farming implement that would be called a “plow” in the United States.

Here is an example of a mnemonic device for remembering spelling.

I before E, except after C,
or when sounded like “ay,” as in “neighbor” and “weigh.”

This covers many situations.

I before E – this covers words like “relief” and “grieve”

except after C – this covers words like “conceive” and “receipt”

or when sounded like “ay,” as in “neighbor” and “weigh” – this covers words like “freight”

However, there are still exceptions.  The past tense or plural form of words ending in “cy” will be “cied” or “cies.”  Examples include “fancied” and “emergencies.”  There are many other exceptions, including “conscience,” “ancient,” “glacier,” and “society.”

Plurals

The rules in English for creating the plural form of nouns are fairly simple.  Add an “s” to the end of the word.  If the word ends in “y,” change the “y” to “ies.”  If the word ends in “f,” change the “f” to “ves.”  There are, however, many exceptions.  Here are a few examples.

Singular    Plural
mouse    mice
moose    moose
goose        geese
cow        cows or cattle
child        children

Verbs

The English language has many irregular verbs.  The most significant example is the verb “to be.”

I am hungry.
You are hungry.
He is hungry.
I will be hungry.
Yesterday I was hungry.

Many verbs have an irregular form in the past tense.  Here are some common examples.

Present    Past
catch         caught
come        came
do        did
fly        flew
freeze        froze
get         got
hide         hid
send        sent
sleep        slept
take        took
tell        told

Idioms

An idiom is a common figurative expression.  An idiom will usually be recognized immediately by a native English speaker, but the meaning may not be clear to someone from another culture.  Here are some examples of common English idioms.

A bit much – excessive; too much

A little bird told me – someone told me, and I don’t want to say who

A penny for your thoughts – what are you thinking about?

About-face – a complete change of direction or opinion

Made of money – has plenty of money

Make a mountain out of a molehill – make a small problem seem much bigger
Much ado about nothing – a lot of fuss about something insignificant

Packed like sardines – extremely crowded

Pain in the neck – something annoying

Paint the town red – go out partying and drinking

Put your foot in your mouth – say something inappropriate or embarrassing

Tall order – something difficult to achieve

Tall tale – a story that is exaggerated and untrue

Think outside the box – think creatively, without limitations

Tongue in cheek – something spoken “with tongue in cheek” is not meant to be taken seriously

Baby boomer – an American or Canadian born just after World War II

Egg on your face – you look foolish or embarrassed

Elbow grease – hard physical work

White Smoke ESL Software Review

October 4, 2008 | Leave a Comment

White Smoke ESL Software

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