Grammar checking apps, like spellcheckers, can be useful writing tools to help indie authors make their self-published books the best they can be, but if you rely only on those for help, you'll miss enough critical errors to upset your readers. To help you self-edit more effectively, Hayley Milliman of ALLi Partner Member ProWriting Aid provides this handy list of errors that will sneak past a grammar checker- and points out the important difference between a grammar checker and an editing tool that works at a macro level.
Grammar checkers, such as the one built into your word processor, are great. They can catch mistakes like misspelled words or misplaced commas. As a writer, I run a grammar check every time I submit a piece of work or send an email.
Nothing makes you look more amateur than silly, easily fixed mistakes.
But those basic grammar checkers are just scratching the surface. It’s possible, common even, for writing to be grammatically perfect and still contain many writing issues. It might be awkwardly constructed, or repetitive, or inconsistent.
Likewise, while a grammar check will catch outright spelling errors in your work, it only assesses your writing at a micro level and won’t be great at catching things that are wrong in the wider context.
As a writer, it’s important to get an assessment of your work on a macro level so you can catch issues like readability and get an understanding of the primary actions you need to take to improve your work.
An editing tool can help you identify the key places you can make changes to better your writing.
7 Classic Errors to Watch For
Here are seven errors your grammar checker won’t catch, but an editing tool will.
Most clichés aren’t grammatically incorrect, so your grammar checker won’t pick up on them. However, using clichés in your work can make your writing feel trite and unprofessional.
Nothing turns a reader off faster than a proliferation of clichés.
An editing tool will highlight any clichés in your work so that you can reimagine them into a less hackneyed phrase.
There are many words in the English language that sound alike but have different spellings. These words are called “homophones” and they can trick even the best grammar checker.
The sentence “He lost his patience” means something entirely different to “He lost his patients,” but both are grammatically accurate.
Your grammar checker won’t be able to identify and fix these pesky errors, but an editing tool knows the difference.
Every word in your writing should be there for a reason. Redundancies occur when you’re adding quantity to your text, but not quality. Perhaps your character is going through clues with “careful scrutiny” – that’s a redundant phrase, because it’s impossible to scrutinize anything uncarefully. You could cut the word and the meaning of the sentence would not change. Or maybe your villain plans to “entirely eliminate” the inhabitants of a Metropolis. If he planned to “eliminate” them instead, the meaning of the sentence remains the same.
As long as the sentences themselves are grammatically correct, your grammar checker won’t pick up on this cardinal sin of writing.
#4: Readability Score
Your grammar checker isn’t concerned with how difficult to read your writing is, but you should be. Readability scores reflect how easy it is for someone to read and understand your work.
While your target readability score will change depending on the type of writing you’re doing, you’ll want to conform to basic readability score guidelines to make sure your work isn’t alienating your audience. For fiction writing, you’ll want to be near grade seven in order for your work to most resonate.
You can’t calculate readability on your own (and neither can your grammar checker), so you’ll want to use an editing tool to get this important metric.
#5: Repeated Word and Phrases
Your grammar checker is designed to look for mistakes in spelling and punctuation. It’s not designed to offer commentary on your prose.
One of the most common errors in writing is repeating a particular word or phrase.
If you’ve ever edited your own work, you likely know what I’m talking about: every sky is “cobalt blue,” every person “scampered” from one place to another. Since these errors aren’t technically grammatically incorrect, your grammar checker will not highlight them. Using an editing tool can spice up your writing by identifying these repeats and helping you change them.
#6: Sentence Length
Good writers vary the writing of their sentences to make their work more interesting to read for their readers.
Sentence length variety adds a musical quality to your writing.
Grammar checkers couldn’t care less about the length of your sentences. While your grammar checker may offer a word count feature, it doesn’t have the capability to analyze or report on your sentence length.
Use an editing tool to get an analysis of your sentence variety and to see a visual representation of your work.
#7: Vague Words
As a writer, you should always aim to be as clear and concise as possible.
Vague and abstract words get in the way of this goal. Vague words lack specific information. For instance, if I say that I will be “slightly late,” it’s open to interpretation whether “slightly” means five minutes or twenty. An editing tool will highlight any instances of vague language so that you can replace them with more specific words.
A Better Solution
As you can see, while grammar checkers are certainly useful, there are many serious writing errors that they can miss.
Before you send you work off to your editor or client, consider using a tool like ProWritingAid. A grammar checker, editor, and writing coach all rolled into one, ProWritingAid offers 25 comprehensive writing reports that check your work for everything from, yes, grammar and spelling to vague words, overused phrases, homonyms, sentence length, and more.
- Did you know that ALLi members get 20% off ProWritingAid Premium? (One of many good reasons to join ALLi!)
- Premium users get access to integrations with MS Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, Open Office and more. Here's how to choose your license.
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