Am I the only one who can’t proofread his own writing? If the title got your attention, the answer is probably a resounding “no.” Proofreading is an art. With three simple tools, you can improve your skills.
First of all, proofreading is boring. Face it. You’re not learning anything new from the content. After all, you’re the one who wrote it. Plus, you have to read s-o v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. No skimming through sentences as you would when reading other content.
Secondly, you’re anxious to publish the work so the rest of the world can enjoy it. The longer you spend proofreading, the longer you postpone the thrill of being done. After all, it’s often been said that writers don’t like to write. They like to have written.
Third, your brain gets in the way. When I proofread my own content, my eyes see what my brain meant to write. If I read the content aloud, I have better success. But still, my mouth tends to say the words that are rolling around in my brain and not what’s actually on the page.
I have found an answer that works for me. Not only does it provide results, but it makes the process border on fun.
The Trio to Improve Your Proofreading
Head over to Grammarly.com and download the free browser extension. On their homepage, you see examples of the tool in action. As you compose in your browser, Grammarly flags spelling and grammar errors. It also offers suggestions for better wording. All this happens in real time.
With Grammarly, you don’t even have to proofread to catch many of your errors. The error detection happens automatically.
Read Aloud (the Extension)
Let’s return to the original problem. If my eyes don’t catch my writing errors and if reading my content aloud doesn’t work well, what will work? The answer: Listen to someone else reading my content.
I use a free Chrome extension called “Read Aloud.” Download it from the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, the icon in your toolbar looks like a small bullhorn. Right-click on it and choose “Options.” You will be able to choose from a variety of voices, speed, and pitch.
When you are ready to proof-read, highlight a block of text, right-click, and choose “Read Aloud” from the list. It’s that easy. My ears immediately pick up on anything that doesn’t sound right.
“Read Aloud” finds the obvious errors and anything else that would sound “wrong to your ears.” Maybe you overuse a word or phrase. Your ears will catch the pattern. After all, sometimes a sentence sounds OK to you or me but is not quite grammatically correct. Hemingway App steps things up a notch. It goes beyond error detection and improves the clarity of your writing.
Ernest Hemingway gave us such powerful works as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. His style of short and powerful sentences was something he learned as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star.
Hemingway App helps you write in the same powerful style as the legend. The process is simple. Compose your text as normal. Then, copy and paste it into Hemingway App.
Check Your Ego
Hemingway App flags sentences as “hard to read” and others as “very hard to read.” The site flags “passive voice” quicker than your 11th-grade English teacher.
Don’t try to impress Hemingway App with complex words. It suggests simpler alternatives. The site also points out adverbs and encourages the writer to minimize them.
In the sidebar, notice the statistics. Hemingway App counts characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. It expresses “readability” by school grade level.
The site requires no login. It does not save your work. My advice is to compose in your normal word-processing software first. Then, copy/paste into Hemingway App.
The first attempt
When you visit Hemingway App, highlight and delete the sample. Then, paste your own text. Get ready for a surprise. If you think your English teacher’s red pen was bad, this is worse. But, you get to make it better!
Look at the highlighted items. Reword and watch the color disappear as you make the edits that result in crisp, clear writing.
Over time, you’ll gain a sense of what Hemingway App likes. You’ll see fewer “red marks” when you paste your work.
Still, the site flags me for sentences it thinks are too hard to read. But when I satisfy the site, I have to admit the writing is better. It’s easier to understand and more enjoyable for me to read. And if it’s more enjoyable for me, it just may be more enjoyable for others to read as well.
Writing is important…now more than ever
I went to school during a time when the only people who read what you wrote were you, your mom, and your English teacher. I entered the workforce during a time when the only outlets were books, magazines, and newspapers. Only “writers” published.
Today, anybody can start a blog and do it for free. Instantly, anybody with something worth saying can write for anyone who thinks it’s worth hearing. That’s a huge shift and a huge responsibility. It’s also a huge opportunity. Today, we’re all writers.