As a professional writer for over twenty years, I have been using a small set of tools that helps me improve my writing. Whether I’m writing a new blog entry, commenting on a LinkedIn post, updating my resume, or writing the first draft of a new book, one or more tools help spot errors in my copy.
The primary tools at my disposal include these:
- Microsoft Word. I’ve been using Microsoft Word since the mid-1980s when DOS and Word 1.0 fit on a 360k floppy disc with room left over for several documents. A few years ago, I considered stopping using Microsoft Word in favor of other word processors. However, Word is the mainstay of the major publishing houses (John Wiley, McGraw-Hill, Cengage Learning) with detailed requirements that include the use of customized template (.dot) files, Track Changes, and more. These features require that authors use Microsoft Word and nothing else. And to Microsoft’s credit, Word for Mac has improved significantly over the past couple of years.
- Microsoft Word spell check. While I turn on real-time spell check, I generally just do batch spell checks on sections of chapters (or entire chapters) to correct spelling errors.
- Microsoft Word grammar check. I used to use Microsoft Word grammar check, until I started using Grammarly a few years ago. Now I just keep the MS Word grammar checking turned off.
- Grammarly Premium. I use Grammarly Premium as my primary grammar and readability tool. Grammarly Premium is integrated into Brave Browser, so it checks most of my browser-based writing such as email, short LinkedIn postings and comments, and most free-form text fields. Ironically, it does not (yet) work with WordPress, so as I write this, Grammarly is blind. Often I will copy my blog post directly into the Grammarly desktop tool and check my grammar there and manually make corrections in my blog posting. The nice thing about Grammarly Premium is that it works on all of my devices, although in slightly different ways. A disadvantage of Grammarly is that it cannot process large chapter files; I manually have to copy large blocks of text (20-30 pages) into Grammarly manually and then transcribe my corrections into my manuscript.
- ProWritingAid. This is the latest tool in my collection, having learned about it from Stephanie Newell. I have the ProWritingAid extension installed on the Brave Browser on my MacBook Pro. Interestingly, ProWritingAid checks my WordPress (Grammarly does not), and most other web-based input. It’s interesting to see Grammarly Premium and ProWritingAid working on the same text side by side.
Having recently watched a video by Stephanie Newell, I’m considering turning off real-time spell checking in Microsoft Word, as it may prove a distraction while I write. I do wonder, however, whether doing spell checking later might leave me puzzled on whether I’ll remember what I was thinking and if I will make the proper corrections. My Word spelling and grammar settings are shown below.