Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes.
Even the best writer misses things, and it’s hard to know what to improve when you’re editing your own work. Whether you’re a blogger, or an author, you’re going to need a little outside help, but the problem is that unless your friends are really good at editing, outside help can get a little expensive. There’s no excuse for not knowing the rules of grammar yourself, but even if you know then, sometimes you’ll miss mistakes in your own writing.
I wrote a year or so ago about how you can turn MS Word into a machine for hunting down passive sentences, and that’s a great trick, but sometimes people need more help than Word’s capable of offering. Luckily, for those of us who need proofreading help on the fly, or on the cheap, there are a few options out there.
Hemmingwayapp is a very simple proofreader which focusses on readability. It hunts for passive phrases, adverbs, and harder to understand sentences and then highlights them in colour so you can see the areas you need to work on. It also rates your writing on a grade readability scale, so you know what level of education would be needed to read what you’ve written. This could come in handy if you’re writing Young Adult works, or ones targeted towards a very general audience. It’s free online (although they’re working on a paid desktop version), but you need to erase the text which is there now and replace it with your own text. (Something they don’t tell you anywhere on the page.)
Editminion is a very simple free online proofreader that processes and highlights issues in the chunks of text you copy-paste into it. Editminion hunts for passive sentences, weak words, adverbs, and a lot of the more common traps that weigh down the writing of newer writers, and displays them in a report at the bottom of the page. It’s no frills, and expects the reader to know why those words might be an issue already, but if you’re just looking for something simple and quick, it’s not bad.
Slickwrite is a free proofreader similar to Editminion, but more fully featured. It not only goes over style issues, but allows you to see your sentence structure and word variety in color-coded text. You can also configure it in more detail than Editminion to look for exactly the areas you’re concerned about in your own writing like legalese, overwriting and weak descriptions. If you want more detail, but don’t have a credit card, this might be the site!
Proofreadbot is a paid site, but very economical, with the average cost being around one cent per proofread document. So, for the $5 minimum, you get 500 proofread documents, which is pretty economical, especially considering it checks your document against 3173 different rules of grammar and style. It also has a nice long page explaining every one of those rules that you’ll pretty much have to see to believe. According to the site, “The report groups results according to style, grammar, punctuation, statistics and plagiarism.” With each issue in your document highlighted, and then if you click on the highlighted text it will tell you what’s wrong and offer to explain why. (Check their sample report to see it in action.) I guess when you’re checking 3173 rules it’s hard to color code them, but I wouldn’t have minded them categorized by type in some way instead of a screen of red highlighted blocks. Still, other than being free, you can’t get more grammar help for the price they charge!
Grammarly is a professional grade online proofreader that goes through your documents and finds areas of concern for you to look at. It’s a pay site, but has a 7 day free trial, and options for monthly ($30/month), quarterly ($20/month) and yearly subscriptions ($12/month). It’s very highly rated, and gives you a lot of information about your writing, but requires you to give them your credit card information to start your “free trial”. If you feel you need a lot of detailed help, but can’t afford a human editor, this might be one way to go.
And that’s it! Online copyediting software will never replace a good human editor, but they can help you strengthen your writing and make reading it a much smoother experience.
P.S. If you need some material to test out some of these options on, you might consider using Write or Die to generate it.
P.P.S. If anyone knows of a great site I missed, please let me know in the comments!