You have heard me allude to a writer’s toolbox. We have included so far, that a writer’s experience and the books they surround themselves with into this arsenal. This week we will go a bit deeper. We will look at the tools you can use to help improve your writing after it’s written. No one wants their submissions to be rejected based on poor grammar and other errors.
Before we begin, I’d like to say that anyone who wants to be a successful writer needs to be willing to invest in their trade. If you are not serious enough to spend a little bit of money, then you are not serious about being successful. I thought I had it all figured out, but it wasn’t until I failed miserably that I saw the importance of using all the following tools I’m about to introduce to you.
Our first tool is Spellcheck. A successful writer is one who takes pride in their work. A successful writer reads what they write, edits it, and rewrites it until it is correct. There is not much worse than a submission that is laden with errors. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation are the big three. You do not have to have a degree in English to be proficient in your writing. Some tools can help you polish your project. Then, with time you will learn from your mistakes and commit them less.
Microsoft Word Spell Check is our first friend. It is built into Word and helps you correct as you go. As I write this I can see misspelled words; it even auto-corrects on occasion. It also gives you suggestions to improve your grammar and cues to insert or delete punctuation. It’s a handy tool that is free to use. But it does not catch all errors. This will take us to our next tool.
Grammarly is spellchecker on steroids. This program will show you additional errors that Word Spell Checker may have missed. Its basic plan is free to use, but it will not alert you to critical grammatical mistakes like weak sentence structure and clarity issues. Grammarly can be tied into Word as an add-on and you can turn it on and off as needed. I mainly have mine off as I am composing. I turn it on when I am editing.
Ginger is like Grammarly. It can also integrate with Microsoft Word. You may be wondering why there is a need for three spellchecks. Ginger functions, for me at least, as a failsafe. What Grammarly does not catch, Ginger does. And vice versa. While Ginger is not as detailed as Grammarly, its function is the same. It is also a paid service for premium features.
Google Docs is just one final check. It’s not necessary, but to be entirely sure I caught everything I will copy and paste my Word document into Google Docs then run a quick spell check. There have been several times that it will pick up on a misspelled word that both Grammarly and Ginger missed. Google Doc is free with your Gmail account.
I have addressed plagiarism in a previous entry. If you need to copy someone else’s work for you to be able to write, then stop right here. Close the browser and give up. There is nothing worse, and I mean nothing, than to steal anybody’s work and try to pass it off as your own. That is not writing. Not only is it naïve it can get you into some serious legal trouble.
Under most circumstances the minute you write something you become the copyright owner of it. Now, that does not mean ideas. Plenty of people have written on the benefits of spellchecking, that does not mean that I am committing plagiarism by writing about it. If I had googled it, opened a site and took the points from there and used it word for word, then that would get me in hot water.
You are smart, and I don’t think any of you deliberately plagiarize. For your protection, this tool is for you. It helps you from inadvertently pirating someone’s work.
Copyscape is a site that will take an entered passage and tell you if it exists in the form that you have written it. It will also show you where that phrase exists. This can come up, especially if you are writing technical articles, SEO articles, and especially research articles. It is common to complete a thought only to find that someone else has expressed that same thought. When you use Copyscape, you can prevent a catastrophe later by merely changing a few words to make the idea your own. Copyscape is a paid service. You pay into an account and each search costs just a few cents.
Word Density Analysis
Finally, to fine-tune your writing, or if you are working on specific projects that require Search Engine Optimization, then these final tools will be of assistance to you.
SEO Book’s Keyword Density Checker will search your document and display, based on the parameters you set, how many times each repeated word or phrase is used. It is a free service. All you have to do is copy and paste your document into the field provided and search.
HOTH is a tool that will give you information about a particular word and how much that word is used on the internet. This can help you with SEO as well as provide you ideas about what other words or phrases that surround your keyword to give you a greater advantage of being recognized by search engines.
Readable is, just as its title states. It searches your article and will tell you the reading level of your writing. Once you complete your search, your document will be multi-colored highlighted. Each color represents a different issue. It assigns your work a grade and a list of the reasons behind it. For example; syllables and letter count of words, passive voice, and adverb count. Remember, as Stephen King says, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Readable gives you a few free searches. After that, it is a small monthly subscription.
I have refrained from giving you the cost of each service, not to be a nuisance, but prices are always subject to change. I don’t want anyone reading this a year from now and depend on an amount I stated, only to find it is higher. Regardless, these tools will be beneficial to your toolbox. Each of them will help you demonstrate the professionalism that you want your work to reflect.
All in all, your writing is what you make of it. I believe that no one has it all together. Anyone can make a simple mistake, even an English scholar. And to rely on just Microsoft Word spellcheck leaves you open to revisions or denial letters galore. Take writing seriously, invest in yourself and put forth the type of work that will be attractive to a client. The less work they have to do with editing, or paying an editor, will keep them coming to you. They will see how serious you are about submitting work right the first time and rely more on you, the successful writer.