As a proofreader, children’s author and owner of an editorial agency in the UK, I am a lover of words, and I believe that business owners should always strive to perfect their company’s written communications
. Of course, I will always argue that you should ideally get a professional proofreader to check any text that you produce before you publish it, whether it’s online or on paper.
However, I am also a lover of tech and I appreciate that there are some very useful programs available to assist with spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and various other aspects of writing.
In this article I will share some of the best programs, websites and plugins available to assist you with your writing, starting with the most obvious: Microsoft Word.
Sure, other word processing programs exist, but MS Word is still by far the most widely used software for creating text documents on a computer. It is also useful for proofreading for two main reasons: its spellcheck tool (which is now called Editor) and it’s Track Changes function.
When you type in MS Word it will flag up spelling and grammatical errors as you type by putting a red squiggle under the offending text. You can also click on the Editor button to run through the document and clean up any mistakes that it finds.
Be wary, though, because sometimes MS Word gets it wrong. English is a very complex language, and a computer can’t match the human brain when it comes to detecting nuance and context.
Track Changes is the single most important tool for proofreaders and editors around the world. By turning this function on, any changes you then make to your document will be highlighted clearly using red mark-up.
If you delete a word, a balloon will appear on the right-hand side of the screen to show you. We take it for granted these days, but it truly is an indispensable tool that revolutionised the proofreading industry.
It’s hard to imagine life before it, when you had to rely on printing documents out and using BSI symbols!
While I am a huge fan of Microsoft Word, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of online word processors such as Google Docs. The major advantage of Google Docs is that you can edit a document online, and other users can see your changes and comments in real time.
This is particularly useful in business, of course, where multiple people may need to check and sign off a document before it’s published. Google Docs’ equivalent of Track Changes isn’t as good as Word’s, because it uses strikethrough rather than balloons to show you what has been deleted, but I expect they will update this at some point.
It’s an undeniably strong program for proofreading, though. I should point out that Office 365 provides an online version of Word as well, which has the same real-time functionality as Google Docs and also uses strikethrough rather than balloons at this point in time.
There are myriad writing assistant tools on the market with new ones popping up all the time, but Grammarly is by far the most populark, with over 10 million people using it each day.
There is a free version that detects spelling, grammar, punctuation and conciseness issues, while the premium version delves much deeper, helping you perfect all aspects of your writing including clarity-focused sentence rewrites, tone adjustments, plagiarism detection, word choice, formality level, fluency and additional advanced suggestions.
It is probably overkill for most business owners and can often overcomplicate matters, but for those that take their writing seriously and want to perfect their craft, Grammarly is well worth considering.
PerfectIt is a paid-for program that works as an add-on to Word and speeds up the writing process by automating lots of checks for you.
So if you’re producing formal documents such as contracts, technical documents, proposals, articles, books and reports, PerfectIt can check various aspects of the document on your behalf, such as checking consistency, house style rules, locating undefined abbreviations, and ensuring UK, US, CA or AU English is used throughout. This frees up your time to focus on your words and their meaning.
Ludwig is a superb program and one of the most useful ones available for improving your writing.
If you have written a sentence and have doubts about whether it reads well or means what you want it to mean, you can search for it on Ludwig and it will tell you if it’s the best way to write it, offering you contextualised examples taken from reliable sources.
So it’s essentially a grammar search engine, and like any good search engine it’s a very quick way to find answers to your questions.
These are just five of many useful proofreading programs available online. While I would argue that nothing will ever beat using a professional proofreading company, these programs among others are all worth considering if you want to perfect your written English.