Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

Microsoft’s “ESL Assistant”


Microsoft Research has created an online “ESL Assistant” that is specifically designed to help English Language Learners find and correct errors in their writing.

After you copy and paste the text into the “box” and click “check,” the application identifies potential errors and provides options to correct them. It shows a pie chart highlighting what percentage each option is used on the Internet to help the writer choose, along with multiple examples of how it is used.

It’s designed to identify and correct common ELL errors that would not necessarily be identified by the correction features in Word.

It’s in an experimental period, so it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely worth a try. I’ll see how our Intermediate English class students like it when we come back from Spring Break.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I tried this as soon as I read your article. It was not very impressive. It uses the internet as a reference point for grammar errors. That’s like using Weekly World News as a reference point for journalism.

  2. Larry,

    This is an interesting tool. I agree that my students would benefit from using it, despite it’s imperfections. Hopefully, at some point, Microsoft will restrict the corpus to sites that are at least somewhat edited. I was shocked to find that “trying make” and “trying to make” were split 50-50, with millions of examples on both sides.

    Still, I think it would be helpful for students to use with a grain of salt. I also like the idea of looking at samples of student writing as a class using it, to show that it isn’t always right.


  3. I enjoyed reading your article. I am a language teacher and developer who runs a free grammar checker called It follows a pedagogical approach that teaches students. Please take it to task and let me know what you think of it.



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