Writing Aid Dutch - Supporting Students’ Writing Skills by Means of a String and Pattern Matching based Web Application

Margot D'Hertefelt, Lieve De Wachter, Serge Verlinde


Students at universities and colleges in Belgium and abroad often experience difficulties with writing (academic) texts in their native language (De Wachter and Heeren, 2011; Dugan and Polanski, 2006; Gray et al., 2005; Napolitano and Stent, 2009). This is reflected in many initiatives that are being developed specifically to support students’ writing skills, among other the development of electronic writing assistance systems. Many of these systems are based on Natural Language Processing techniques, such as parsing. In this paper, we will argue that writing aids do not always have to make use of NLP techniques in order to analyze texts in a detailed and accurate way. We present an online writing aid, Writing Aid Dutch, which marks possible areas of concern in students’ texts on three levels: (1) text structure and cohesion, (2) style and (3) spelling and provides users with individualized feedback. Writing Aid Dutch uses a lot of data and analyzes texts using complex queries and string matching techniques. Initial user experiences have been very positive so far. From February 2014 onwards, the effectiveness of the writing aid will be investigated in a one-group pre-post test design.


  1. Berckmoes, D., Rombouts, H., Hertogs, K., 2010. Taalstimulering academisch Nederlands voor studenten aan de Universiteit Antwerpen. Monitoraat op maat. Rapport derde jaar, september 2008 - augustus 2009 (Language stimulation academic Dutch for students at the University of Antwerp. Report third year). Linguapolis/University of Antwerp.
  2. Bonset, H., 2010. Nederlands in voortgezet en hoger onderwijs: hoe sluit dat aan? (Dutch in secondary and higher education: how does it match?). Levende talen magazine, 97(3), pp. 16-20.
  3. Dale, R., Kilgarriff, A. 2011. Helping Our Own: The HOO 2011 Pilot Shared Task. Proceedings of the 13th European Workshop on Natural Language Generation, pp. 242-249.
  4. De Smet, M. J. R., Broekkamp, H., Brand-Gruwel, S., Kirschner, P. A., 2011. Effects of electronic outlining on students' argumentative writing performance. Journal of computer assisted learning, 27, pp. 557- 574.
  5. De Vries, H., Van der Westen, W., 2008. Talige competentie in het hoger onderwijs (Linguistic competence in higher education). In: S. Vanhooren, A. Mottard, eds. 2008. 22ste conferentie Het Schoolvak Nederlands. Gent: Academia Press. pp. 115-120.
  6. De Wachter, L., Heeren, J., 2011. Taalvaardig aan de start. Een behoefteanalyse rond taalproblemen en remediëring van eerstejaarsstudenten aan de KULeuven (Entry-level academic language skills. A needs analysis of language problems and remedy of first year university students at the University of Leuven). Leuven Language Institute/University of Leuven. Retrieved from https://ilt.kuleuven.be/ cursus/docs/Behoefteanalyse_TaalVaST.pdf.
  7. Dugan, R. F. Jr., Polanski, V. G., 2006. Writing for computer science: a taxonomy of writing tasks and general advice. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 21(6), pp. 191-203.
  8. Flesch. R., 1948. A new readability yardstick. Journal of Applied Psychology, 32, pp. 221-233.
  9. Fontana, N. M., Caldeira, S. M. A., De Oliveira, L. C. F., Oliveira Jr., O.N. 2006. Computer assisted writing. Applications to English as a foreign language. CALL, 6(2), pp. 145-161.
  10. Gikandi, J. W., Morrow, D., Davis, N. E. 2011. Online formative assessment in higher education: a review of the literature. Computers and Education, 57, pp. 2333- 2351.
  11. Graham, S., Perin, D., 2007. Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools - A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Available at: http://www.all4ed.org/ files/WritingNext.pdf (Accessed 12 September 2012).
  12. Gray, E. F., Emerson, L., MacKay, B., 2005. Meeting the demands of the workplace: science students and written skills. Journal of science education and technology, 14(4), pp. 425-435.
  13. Jansen, C., Lentz, L., 2008. Hoe begrijpelijk is mijn tekst? De opkomst, neergang en terugkeer van leesbaarheidsformules (How understandable is my text? The rise, downfall and comeback of readability formulas). Available at: http://www.kennislink.nl/ publicaties/hoe-begrijpelijk-is-mijn-tekst (Accessed 1 January 2014).
  14. Kinnunen, T., Leisma, H., Machunik, M., Kakkonen, T., Lebrun, J. L., 2012. SWAN - Scientific Writing AssistaNt. A tool for helping scholars to write readerfriendly manuscripts. Proceedings of the 13th conference of the European chapter of the association for computational linguistics, pp. 20-24.
  15. Leakey, J., 2011. Evaluating computer-assisted language learning. An integrated approach to effectiveness research in CALL. Bern: Peter Lang.
  16. Naber, D. 2014. Language Tool Style and Grammar Checker. Available at: www.languagetool.org (Accessed 1 January 2014).
  17. Nadashi, T., Sinclair, S., 2001-2014. Spell Check Plus. Nadaclair Language Technologies. Available at: < http://spellcheckplus.com> (Accessed 1 January 2014).
  18. Napolitano, D. M., Stent, A., 2009. TechWriter: an evolving system for writing assistance for advanced learners of English. CALICO Journal, 26(3), pp. 611- 625.
  19. Peters, E., Van Houtven, T., 2010. De weg naar materiaalontwikkeling is geplaveid met behoeftes (The way to material design is paved with needs). In: E. Peters, T. Van Houtven, eds. 2010. Taalbeleid in het hoger onderwijs. De hype voorbij?. Leuven: Acco. pp. 71-85.
  20. Rymenams, S., Verlinde, S., Marx, S., Rosselle, M., Gerard, L., 2012. SOS-français: conception et évaluation d'un didacticiel d'aide à la rédaction interactif (SOS-French: development and evaluation of a didactic aid in an interactive environment). 3e Congrès Mondial de Linguistique Française. SHS Web of Conferences, 1, pp. 377-393.
  21. Sytsma, S., 2002. The basics of experimental design. Available at: http://courses.washington.edu/bio480/ Basics_of_Experimental_Design.pdf (Accesses 20 November 2012).
  22. Taylor, H. G., Paine, K. M., 1993. An inter-disciplinary approach to the development of writing skills in computer science students. Proceedings of the SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, pp. 274-278.

Paper Citation

in Harvard Style

D'Hertefelt M., De Wachter L. and Verlinde S. (2014). Writing Aid Dutch - Supporting Students’ Writing Skills by Means of a String and Pattern Matching based Web Application . In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education - Volume 1: CSEDU, ISBN 978-989-758-020-8, pages 486-491. DOI: 10.5220/0004948704860491

in Bibtex Style

author={Margot D'Hertefelt and Lieve De Wachter and Serge Verlinde},
title={Writing Aid Dutch - Supporting Students’ Writing Skills by Means of a String and Pattern Matching based Web Application},
booktitle={Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education - Volume 1: CSEDU,},

in EndNote Style

JO - Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education - Volume 1: CSEDU,
TI - Writing Aid Dutch - Supporting Students’ Writing Skills by Means of a String and Pattern Matching based Web Application
SN - 978-989-758-020-8
AU - D'Hertefelt M.
AU - De Wachter L.
AU - Verlinde S.
PY - 2014
SP - 486
EP - 491
DO - 10.5220/0004948704860491