Developed and maintained by a single non-native speaker, Typely is proving to be a seriously popular new proofreading tool.
Typely is a free proofreading tool that focuses on usage rather than grammar. Promising to find typos and common mistakes in users' writing, Typely also offers stats and analysis on their text, such as how difficult it is to read or how 'ordinary' their vocabulary is.
"Typely is precise," says creator Romeo Mihalcea. "Existing tools for proofreading raise so many false alarms that their advice cannot be trusted. Instead, the writer must carefully consider whether to accept or reject each change. We aim for a tool so precise that it becomes possible to unquestioningly adopt its recommendations and still come out ahead — with stronger, tighter prose."
Heard about the lean startup? Well, this is as lean as they come. Mihalcea, who released Typely last summer, is the sole developer and maintainer of the tool.
"The application is completely free and the code is well tested before being pushed into production - two important aspects that helped with eliminating the need of a support or marketing team," he explains.
What's the gap in the market?
Mihalcea developed Typely after observing the number of 'false positives' thrown out by other proofreading tools.
"It was a constant struggle to accept or reject the recommendations of some tool trying to be too smart for its own good," he complains. “The majority of proofreading tools work by reporting just about everything that doesn't adhere to their set of rules. I find this to be restrictive and working against your creativity 99% of the times. Writing is an art and you can't define constraining rules for it. You shouldn't."
Instead, Typely works by inclusion, not by exclusion - meaning it will only complain of 'mistakes' that are part of its database of carefully-selected patterns. Anything else, outside that list, will simply fall through. "There's not too much artifficial intelligence at play here, and this allows it to be sharper and more reliable.” Mihalcea says. "Better to be quiet and authoritative than loud and unreliable."
Success so far
Typely has recieved attention from a host of tech-focused sites such as HackerNews, Reddit, BetaList and ProductHunt. Mihalcea reports that it's widely used by journalists and authors who, although already grammar-savvy, are trusting it to report on other usage mistakes such as redundancy, jargon, clichés and sexism.
“The feedback so far is awesome and encouraging," he says. "I've received requests to collaborate on projects for Mozilla or to make it available for use inside education systems in many countries. I'm overwhelmed and working hard to make various integrations possible and to take Typely to the next level.”
Interestingly, Mihalcea is not a native English speaker. Typely was developed as a personal tool to help improve his own writing. “It's funny because I usually get mocked for this but I have friends, programmers, who are working in the medical industry without any medical background. It's just a matter of applying a lot of logic and constraints, and testing with reproducible results and mathematics. Everything is a set of rules. What matters most is the quality of those rules.”
Mihalcea's biggest challenge so far has been to integrate Typely's big list of features without overwhelming users.
“I'm a UX freak myself and I love simple but powerful designs," he says. "With Typely, the user gradually discovers new features. The initial impression screams simplicity but that slowly fades away once you start adventuring. Your text starts talking back with various metrics and reports.”
Another challenge was how to bring it to the public in an easily digested package.
"Typely started as a personal tool initially, without any goals other than using it to blog or do PR. Someone posted it on HackerNews and it went viral from there. I only had a webpage with the tool itself - no pitch, no message…no nothing. Luckily, the HackerNews community is very technical and the feedback received there was of great help in really shaping my future releases and forcing me to concentrate more on the initial impact and message of the website."
Mihalcea now aims to make Typely available to global education systems, by opening it up through various APIs and integrations.
“I'm not planning to take over the world because it's hard for me to see too much into the future!" he laughs. "It may sound like I have no clear goals but, in reality, I'm just taking it one step at a time by releasing updates, fixing bugs and listening to my community for new ideas to integrate. The goal is to make Typely profitable and hire new people, to create a team and grow it into a better tool.”
For the near future, he promises that "a big update" is coming soon, which will introduce premium features such as plagiarism checking and collaboration tools.
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
“Keep it simple, don't overdo it and respect your community. Don't be afraid to reach out to people; many love to help.”