How to cheat your way to error-free content
We grow up being told cheating’s not the right thing to do.
On the whole, this is very true. But in some circumstances, it’s ok to break the rules a teeny tiny bit every now and then and ‘cheat’ at some things, such as making sure your copy is spot on.
Not everybody’s a writer and not everybody finds it easy to pick up on every single mistake in their copy, especially if they’re extremely close to it (i.e. draft five and still counting…) and are working under pressure (i.e. that email needs to be gone within the hour).
Unless you’re a professional proof-reader or have a copywriting or editing role, it can be really tricky to weed out copywriting mistakes, from the glaringly-obvious typos, to misplaced commas and those classic apostrophe mistakes that often catch people out. Does an apostrophe belong in 1980’s and is it three years’ experience or three year’s experience?
Fortunately, there are lots of handy content-editing tools out there that non-writers and writers (we are all only human after all!) can use to guarantee error-free content. Here’s a round-up of some of them:
Slick Write – is an online spell checker that’s free to use and also checks copy for grammatical and other stylistic errors. You can either try the demo or crack straight on with using it by clicking the ‘Start Writing’ button.
1Checker – is, by its own definition, ‘a University of Cambridge spin-out, specialising in Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies.’
There are six different variations of 1Checker – for online, Mac, Windows, Windows 8, Word Plugin and Outlook Plugin – as well as a range of document templates. Free to use, it checks spelling and grammar and enhances text readability.
Grammarly – tunes in to the most frequent writing mistakes. When you first log in, there’s an option to personalise Grammarly in line with your writing needs. This tool, which fixes critical grammar and spelling errors, checks punctuation and contextual spelling and works across the web, is free.
There’s also the Grammarly Premium package, which costs $11.66 a month when billed annually, that carries out advanced checks, such as style and document-specific proofing for business, academia materials etc. It also analyses the structure of sentences and can detect plagiarism.
WordRake – does exactly what its name suggests. It tightens, tones and clarifies your writing. Click the ‘rake’ button and watch the in-line editor ripple through your document, suggesting edits to remove clutter and improve unclear phrasing, just like a live editor.
It’s ideal for giving your first drafts a second or third polish quickly and relatively easily. You can try it for free for seven days or pay from $129 a year for it, depending on if you’re using it with MS Word, Word or Outlook.
ProWritingAid – claims to be a grammar checker, style editor and writing mentor. It’s programmed to fix style issues, eliminate spelling and grammar mistakes, find the right words and help writers learn from their mistakes. You can try it for free (and get a self-editing guide as a thank you) or purchase it for $60 for a year; $90 for two years; $120 for three years or $210 for life.
And here are two other content-editing tools you may find useful too…
Flesch reading ease test – use this tool to assess the readability of the document you’re working on. Text with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) is straightforward and easy to read, with short sentences and words of no more than two syllables. Usually, a reading ease score of between 60 and 70 is considered acceptable/normal for web copy.
To access it, make sure you’re in Word and then select tools>spelling and grammar>options>select the ‘check grammar’ box and then the ‘show readability statistics’ box. Once you’ve run your spell checker through your copy, a box will pop up that looks like this…
Hemingway App – named after the master of literary brevity himself, this free tool is designed to ‘make your writing bold and clear.’
It isn’t an in-depth grammar checker or writing coach, like Grammarly, but is a minimalist and powerful tool that can help improve your writing style. Using colour coding, it highlights complex sentences and common errors in yellow; dense sentences in red; lengthy words in purple; adverbs and weakening words in blue and passive tense phrases in green.
I’m sure you’ll see from this post that there are all sorts of content-editing tools out there. I’ve tried to focus on the tools that are free to use and, if they’re not free, at least offer a free trial, so that you can test them before you fork out anything for them.
Whether you write for a living, writing’s part of your role or you write for enjoyment, these tools are extremely useful for everybody (me included!)
Are there any content-editing tools you use that I haven’t mentioned that you’d recommend to others? I’d be interested to know what they are. Let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy (error-free) writing!