email writing · expressions · idiom · Telephone tips · vocabulary · writing tips

Looking Stuff Up in An Effective Way using Easy & Fast Digital Tools

… to check whether your English is correct

When you write an email or chat with someone in English, for work, study or fun, you don’t want to ask a native speaker to proofread what you’ve written.

Often there is no time for someone else to check it.

Besides, you will never learn how to write good English independently if you always have to ask another person.

Don’t worry, there are many digital tools out there now with which you can check your English.

We talked about some of them in this article about writing tools. For example, I showed you how to use Grammarly, Hemingway and a thesaurus.

Check Spelling and Expressions

Now we’ll look more closely at how you can check your spelling and use of expressions.

First of all, it sounds too simple, but Google is your best friend.


Most people use Google only to search for information.

But you can do many more things with it.

I’ll show you three scenarios of what you can find with Google (and some other simple tools).

1 Looking for a specific word

You don’t know a word for something or are not sure of the right word.

Step 1: If you know the word in your native language, translate it in Google Translate.

Step 2: Maybe there are a few different words in English, so you need to decide which is the right one. So what you’ll do is you use a(n) (online) dictionary to check how you use the word. Use a learners’ dictionary or a good other dictionary that has example phrases. Look for the kind of phrase and meaning that you need. If this doesn’t help, go to step 3.

Step 3: Type the phrase that you want to use in Google Search (the normal Google page). Use quotation marks (“”) so you get the words in the order that you need them. See if anything comes up.

Here is an example of how this works in practice:

Suppose I don’t know which word to use when I drank my glass of water (or my bottle of whiskey – just kidding) too quickly. Now I keep making these annoying movements in my neck and throat.

I do know the word in my native language, which is Arabic, so I go to step 1: Google Translate.


Then step 2, check it in an English-English dictionary, just to make sure this is the right word (because Google does make mistakes, you know).


Oops! Now I see in my dictionary that I can use hiccup also as singular. I want to see how the word is used, in the singular or the plural. So I’d better check step 3.

Here we are: I typed “have the hiccups.”


Just to be sure, I also try “have the hiccup.”

have hiccup

How do I know that have the hiccups is the right phrase?

A There are many more search results for have the hiccups (see at the top of the page in the screenshots): 170,000 against 43,100. If there are more results of one phrase, that is probably the correct one.

B The phrase “have the hiccups” has results from a medical advice website, and from two dictionaries. The phrase “have the hiccup” has no results from dictionaries, but only from gossip websites and a website in Japanese. Dictionaries have far fewer mistakes in them than gossip websites or websites in a foreign language, right?

It should be easy for you to choose between the two which is probably the correct phrase.

2 Checking the spelling of a word

Easiest thing in the world!

Step 1: Download Grammarly for internet. Let the program find your spelling mistake and make suggestions. Grammarly works in Word Programs and also on almost any message that you write in other software and apps.

Step 2: Still not sure about your spelling? Just check it again in Google Translate or in a dictionary.

Example of how to check spelling of a word:

Let’s say I’ve forgotten how to spell aggressive. Is it with one g and two s-es? Or with two g’s and one s? I’m confused.

Step 1: Type the word. Grammarly will correct your spelling if you wrote it with one g, for example.


Grammarly corrects it.

Step 2: If you want to check it again, look it up in your dictionary.


Yes, it is with two g’s!

3 Checking an expression or idiom

And, most importantly, how it’s used.

Step 1: Try to reduce the idiom to its general form. This means that you don’t want to include names or pronouns or other details when you look up your expression.

Step 2: Try a dictionary first. Also read the examples that are given. Still not sure? Go to step 3.

Step 3: Google the phrase for more examples.

Here’s an example of how you check your idiom.

I think I want to use an idiom that says we are up against a lot of problems today, because I think it means that we are facing a lot of problems.

I’m not sure about the idiom “to be up against,” though.

So I’m going to check it.

Step 1: I reduce the idiom to “up against.” (I could also use “be up against.” That would work too.)

Step 2: I insert the phrase into my dictionary.


As you can see, the second definition gives the meaning that I was looking for, and it also has an example sentence with to be up against a lot of problems.

Step 3: Now I’m just going to do a tiny extra controlling, which is to see whether this idiom is used at all, or whether it’s just something that you only find in a dictionary.

up against

You see, great results. I find the phrase “up against a lot of problems” in many quality resources. Quality resources are dictionaries, books and professional websites.

What I learnt from searching was also which verb I can use with up against. If you just look at the page again, you can see that you can use “come up against” or “be up against.” So with come or be.

You could now also do an additional search for “come up against a lot of problems.” Or: “be up against a lot of problems.” But probably you won’t find it necessary.

Good luck researching your words, idioms and sentences in your emails and chats.

Still have questions about the subject of this post? Let other learners know in a comment.

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