To find out more about After the Deadline, go to www.afterthedeadline.com. You can try it out, download it for free, and find out why it's called "After the Deadline."

After the Deadline

by Jennifer Donovan

Computer science alum builds a better spell-cheker


Writing is often the bane of technical folk, and Raphael Mudge '03 was no exception. "I worked at the Air Force Research Lab in Rome, New York, and they had very strict guidelines," he says. "So I wanted to do something to improve my writing."

He thought it would be nice to help other people write better, too. So he put his software development skills to work on a grammar- and spell-checker designed specifically for web-based content. The result is After the Deadline, a plugin that checks for spelling, misused words, grammar, and style in WordPress, one of the most popular packages for publishing blogs.

Style? Mudge is first to admit that After the Deadline shouldn't be used to edit The Complete Works of Charles Dickens. It's based on "plain language," a style the federal government uses to make writing useful and easy to understand.

"It actually works extremely well," he says, though it is not universally admired, particularly by lovers of the passive voice and the word "utilize."

"I have had people say, ‘Your software shouldn't tell me not to do this because I want to sound smart,'" says Mudge. "I tell them ‘No, you do not sound smart; you are making it hard for the reader to understand."

Most users who have tried After the Deadline think it's great, including Matt Mullenweg, the founder of the web-software company Automattic, which operates WordPress.com. Automattic bought After the Deadline in September.

"When I first tried After the Deadline I was blown away; it was so much better than other checkers I'd used, and it was by one guy building this thing that solves a problem other folks have teams of PhDs trying to solve," Mullenweg said.

In addition to buying Mudge's business, he also hired Mudge, who jokes, "I haven't had a real job since I left the military, so I had to start a company and get it bought."

Now he is improving After the Deadline and hopes to make it available in languages besides English.

"I have been having the time of my life," he says. "It's a fun problem." It's also satisfying to know that he's helping people writer cleaner, more effective copy.

As for his own prose, Mudge is modest. "People expect my writing to be perfect, but I invented the tool because I needed it," he says.