Use The Right Tool

Should I use an online grammar checker, or a live, human editor?

If you write, and I mean seriously write, the answer is a resounding YES!

(I’ll wait, while you gasp!)

You see, it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional author, blogger, student or creator of newsletters, you are better off using an online editor than NOT using one:

  • An online editor can help you refine your skills and your knowledge base, in that you are constantly being educated by the changes your program makes; and an educated writer is, more often than not, a better writer.
  • As you begin to get ‘comfortable’ with your online editor, you gain confidence in your writing; an attribute that literally shows within the body of your work.
  • An online editor also helps to ease the anxiety of sharing your work. Be it an outline, a rough draft, or your final document, you will feel more at ease in showing your work to friends, family, and most of all to your readers, publishers and other professionals.

For too long, each of us has had to fall back on the old maxim, “Everybody makes mistakes”. No matter how true that may be, it can still make a person feel a little deflated, when we hear those words coming out of our own mouths or said to us by a trusted colleague regarding our own work. Even when an error is pointed out to us by a hired professional reviewing our work, those words, “Everybody makes mistakes” can sting a little, relegating our mind’s ingenuity to something ‘commonplace’.

So, if I am a real-live, flesh-and-blood “editor”, why am I extolling the virtues of an online editing program?

It makes things easier on both of us.

  • The editor-author relationship is less ‘bogged down’ by the fundamentals of the English language, or with the petty disagreements over spellings, capitalizations, and punctuation.
  • The “Flow” or understandability of your work becomes much clearer. Did you realize that for every error in a text, the mind of the average reader has to slow down, even if for just a fraction of a second, to mentally ‘correct’ that error? Obviously, the bigger the error, the bigger the misunderstanding, but this disruption can distract some readers to the point where they don’t understand what you are trying to convey.
  • With increased confidence comes increased understanding. As mentioned previously, An online editor also helps to ease the anxiety of sharing your work. When you’ve allowed others to preview your work, you’ve already pre-navigated the minefield of exposing your work to others and (hopefully) done so to people who have honestly and faithfully expressed their ability to grasp the context and message of your work, meaning that editors (such as myself), proofreaders, and publishers have less cause to surprise you, with continuity problems or inconsistency issues.
  • For many people in this country, English is a second language. If you’ve ever studied a foreign language, you realize that while sometimes you can translate word-for-word, all too often communication breaks down, because the phrasing is different than it is in English. Never mind such things, as tense and conjugation; the arrangement of words changes from English to foreign language and back again. Some of the better online grammar checkers do quite well in suggesting corrections to syntax.

If you are beginning to scratch your head at some of the terminology I’m using, you’re not alone. Thankfully, you do have online editing programs available to you; I’m not going to be listing them or linking them here, in this article. There are plenty of advertisements and review blogs out there, for you to browse through and make your choice, and I do hope you take your time to do so.

In your selecting an online editing program, you must keep in mind; there ARE things that online editing programs either cannot do or can be detrimental to, in your writing:

  • Programs are algorithms. A series of formulae designed to compare data against a specific set of rules. If your editing program detects something outside those parameters, it’s going to say it’s wrong. But, sometimes writers intentionally write words and phrases outside of those parameters. Conveying language barriers, dialects, learning disabilities and youth all bring new words, phrases, sounds and meanings to the written page, generally confounding an online editing program.
  • Yes, you can ‘force’ your program to ‘accept’ alternative spellings, but bear in mind; when you add any new spelling to your dictionary (out of convenience, say, for repetitive use) that spelling will remain in your dictionary. That means, if you accidentally misspell that word in other documents, your program will miss it.
  • YOUR ‘writing style’ is just that; your writing style! There are words and phrasing and vernacular that are unique to YOU. A good, human editor not only ‘gets’ this, but completely understands and comprehends this. Many literary classics of the past 100 years wouldn’t do well, in modern online editing programs, as the program will want to change many words. If you are writing in your own voice, style, or that of another society of dialect, these are notifications which could bog a writer down to the point of the writer starting to IGNORE notifications. Dangerous, to say the least, in that a missed mistake is going to stay there until it is discovered, hopefully before publication.
  • We all say things the way WE say them. Even I am fully aware that I often phrase things in my own unique way, sometimes to even emphasize my point. Just as I previously mentioned, an editing program doesn’t have the cognitive ability to comprehend your intent, and is unable to properly ascertain whether portions of your document need rearranging, rephrasing, or restructuring for clarity’s sake. A one-on-one relationship with a live, experienced editor can help you to see areas where others might get confused or potential dilemmas occur.
  • A professional editor can also help to refine your ‘brand’, and seek out areas of your work that can help in the promotion of your writing or the writing of your promotion!
  • Editors and proofreaders are your last line of defense, before a book goes to publication; especially if you are self-publishing! Still, even employing an editor prior to sending your work to your publishers will help you to be aware of any possible -and costly- problems, saving face.

Whichever your choice, your editor should be an advocate for your work. We are not here to judge; only to inform you about what we see and find in your work, and to help you achieve your best image possible. We are your pre-publication brand ambassadors!