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How to Effortlessly Polish Your Writing

Proofreading tools

Being a blogger, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I love to write. Before I created my website, I was always proofreading emails and documents for my managers and coworkers. My mom was an English teacher, so there's likely a bit of writing engrained in my DNA as well.

However, it is difficult to proofread your own writing. Reading your own work over and over makes it hard to see errors that others with fresh eyes can easily spot. Unfortunately, we can't always go to our colleagues to proofread every email, document or other written correspondence we create.

Here are the tools I use to proofread my writing as well as a few other tips that can be used to catch errors that would be hard to notice otherwise.

Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word isn't as robust as the other tools I will be listing below, but it is a great starting point. I like to use it as a base to type up my writing, use the spell check and then use the other tools below to polish it up even more.

Grammarly was my first non-Microsoft Word proofreading find. It allows you to either type right into the program or upload a document. There's no need to select any buttons to tell it to start checking your writing because it starts looking for errors right away. I haven't used the premium version before; I have only used the basic (free) version. The basic version catches all critical errors and lets you know what those are. It does note if there are advanced errors in your document, however, it does not provide those details; I'm assuming that's how they get people to sign up for the paid version. What I do when I see those advanced notes is narrow down exactly which sentence(s) have those errors and use one of the other tools below to find out exactly what the errors are.

This tool does have apps that allow it to run on a desktop for Mac users as well as a plug-in for Chrome. I have used the plug-in on a PC and it was fantastic for proofreading emails. I was using Outlook at the time and all my errors were automatically flagged.

I use After the Deadline in conjunction with Grammarly often. It is a straightforward tool that provides great proofreading suggestions. Because there isn't a paid version, no editing suggestions are ever hidden.

Slick Write is similar to After the Deadline but it does include a few more features. It gives you information on sentence flow, statistics on words used and a word associator tool. I've noticed that it does provide different suggestions from After the Deadline at times, so it's a great one to cross-reference.

Ginger is a tool that can be downloaded to a PC. For those who use a Mac, such as myself, they do have extensions for Chrome and Safari, which is what I use. I'm not sure if using the Chrome extension limits a few of the functions so I want to make the readers aware of this since I haven't used it on a PC before. The extension reminds me of the one available on Grammarly.

What I love about Ginger is the sentence rephrasing tool. Once you enter a sentence into the tool, you can look up suggestions for others to consider using instead. Sometimes there is one suggestion and other times there are multiple. It's such a helpful feature when you are stuck on a sentence!

Because this tool works as a pop up that takes time to load, it's not as quick as I would like. It gives basic grammar and spelling suggestions, however, it is not as robust as the other tools listed above. The reason why I am listing this tool is because of the fact that it is so basic and sometimes you do need something that just skims for grammar and spelling errors.

This is a fun tool. It proofreads an entire document for grammar and spelling. It even calculates how well you rate on word choices, your usage of transitional phrases and other interesting breakdowns. The reason why I consider this a fun tool is that you get an overall letter grade on the document, so it's neat to see your improvements over time.

I know that the thesaurus is not a shiny new tool, however, it is my favorite and one that I keep open at all times when I am proofreading so I have to include it. I don't recommend using it to swap out words for more complicated, unfamiliar ones; it can make any document harder to follow. I recommend using the thesaurus to avoid redundancy in language, to find more accurate words and to learn other synonyms.

Here are a few other proofreading tips to try:

  • Keep different goals in mind when proofreading. For example, do one review with the goal of looking for overuse of certain words. Another example would be to do a review with the goal of ensuring that the same tense is consistent throughout the entire piece. Keeping each review separate allows for a more honed in focus.

  • Do a separate content check. The focus here is making sure the content is thorough, accurate and makes sense. I always assume the reader doesn't have a background in the information I am presenting and I fill in the blanks from there.

  • Take a break from looking at the write-up. Sometimes it is impossible to find errors that are staring us right in the face if we don't take a break.

  • Read the document out loud. When we read a document out loud, we are slowing down and carefully focusing on each word. It's hard to accidentally skip over words when you do this.

  • Print out the document. This is always my final check. Looking at the document in a different format always helps me to find those final errors that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed.

  • Don't forget to proofread headings and titles. It's easy to skip over these since they aren't structured into the main bulk of the work.

What helps you to proofread your own writing? Please comment below!

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