Good writing skills are essential now more than ever. We live in an era when anybody who wants to write can start a blog and tell their story to anyone around the world who cares. College admissions often hang in the balance of a well-crafted essay.
Make no mistake, good writing is a skill honed over time. No software program is going to crank out the next great American novel. However, technology is an excellent tool for detecting errors. The fun part of writing is the creativity, the sharing of ideas. The drudgery of writing is the proofreading.
To make matters worse, proofing one’s own work is hard. Our eyes see what our brains mean rather than what our hands key. This area is one where technology becomes a time-saver. Proofreading in Microsoft Word is about to get easier with two tools.
Three tools from last year and two new ones
A year ago, I introduced you to three tools. Each was designed to help with proofreading. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Grammarly, Read Aloud (the extension), and Hemingway App are quick, easy, and free ways to detect errors or questionable writing and provide suggestions for improvement. Each one is a tool I use when composing from a web-based tool.
But what about if you are in the Microsoft environment? Microsoft has added a pair of tools that give the Word user much the same capabilities as the trio just mentioned. To access these functions, you’ll need Microsoft 365. Microsoft is moving exclusively to an annual subscription service. It also renamed its suite from “Office 365″ to “Microsoft 365.”
Yes, last year, I talked about a Chrome extension called “Read Aloud.” While the name is the same and the function is as well, what I refer to here is a new feature in Microsoft Word.
While my eyes see what my brain meant, my ears hear exactly what I typed. “Read Aloud” does what the name implies. It reads your text aloud and does so with a natural-sounding voice. To find it, open Word and click the “Review” menu on the ribbon. Look for “Read Aloud” near the left end of the menu.
Place the cursor where you want to start and click the “Read Aloud” button. Sit back and listen to your creation. When something sounds wrong, it is wrong. Click the same button to stop Read Aloud. Fix the problem. Replace the cursor and click “Read Aloud” so it picks up where you left off.
Open Word to the “Home” tab. Look to the far right-hand side of the ribbon for “Editor.” It appears just to the right of the “Dictate” menu. The icon resembles a pencil with three, short, blue lines.
Clicking the Editor button brings up a list of seven criteria. Editor scores each of the seven with the number of errors it finds. The menu includes spelling, grammar, clarity, conciseness, formality, punctuation, and vocabulary. Click on a criteria and Word highlights the exact errors or provides suggestions within the text.
Word adds a less obvious but more helpful alternate location for Editor. Go back to the “Review” menu. On the extreme left-hand end, look for a section marked “Proofing.” There, you will see the Editor, a thesaurus, and a word count.
Personally, I still prefer Hemingway App to Word’s Editor because of the number of options it offers. Hemingway App underlines misspellings as you compose, just as Word does. But, Hemingway App also flags passive voice, overuse of adverbs, and text that is hard to read.
Writing is creative. Proofreading is a chore. Let a few simple technology tools ease the pain.