Maybe you have a relationship problem with writing like I do. After I write something and go over it once more, I can barely stand to look at it again. My mind glazes over and I no longer can see what I’m trying to say or how I said it.
A day or two later, I will take another look. Errors jump up off the page and slap me. It is a humbling process and hard, which is why so many of us hate writing and avoid it anyway we can.
It’s also incredibly important to get right, because people do judge us on our email communications, proposals, contracts, blog posts, website content and social media updates. In my experience, communicating well and often translates into more business. Blog posts and newsletters have helped me form relationships with my readers that now function as a reliable source of referrals for my business.
I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad and with the large classes, we got away with doing surprisingly little writing and the professors and teaching assistants did not have time to give writing pointers on the writing we did do. I have to admit that it was not until I got to graduate school that I realized that we were expected to write and rewrite our papers multiple times to get them ready to turn in, especially when we were writing for publication. It was then I realized just how painstaking it was to write well.
That’s why I’m always looking for a way to do it better and easier.
Recently, I stumbled on Grammarly in a search for a tool that would detect duplicate content on a website I was working on for a client. I downloaded the free version of Grammarly and uploading a few suspect blog posts and it went to work showing which posts were problematic. As it turns out, Grammarly is a super helpful editing program.
Later, I got a pleasant surprise from having Grammarly installed on my browser. It was working away in the background checking my spelling and grammar when I wrote anything online, like blog posts, for example. So I started to rely on it to check for pesky problems with grammar and punctuation in my day-to-day writing.
Thanks to Grammarly, I recognize my biggest issue is commas. My most recent weekly report from Grammarly told me I had missing commas in 50 compound sentences and 50 missing commas after 50 introductory clauses. I know, I was shocked too.
But Grammarly offers context, too, by counting counted my words written that week: 28190! (It was a busy week!) I am in the top 1 percent of Grammarly’s most prolific clients ☺
Usually Grammarly’s suggestions are on on the mark and will clean up writing to be more direct. It points out my tendency to overuse bland words like “really” and “great” and suggests I try to be more descriptive. Grammarly hunts down instances of passive voice, which I had not realized was such a problem for me. Passive voice works for tech tutorials, but deadens other types of writing.
When Grammarly catches spelling, grammar or punctuation errors, it lets me know, and I can choose to fix the mistakes by clicking their suggestion, or I can select to see the passage in an editing window before I make changes.
However, Grammarly isn’t mind reading. It makes assumptions about what you are trying to say. It will make suggestions that won’t work under your circumstances. You need to know enough about grammar and punctuation rules to override Grammarly when needed. (Even with Grammarly, and seeing my writing improve over the years, I send each post to my editor to work her magic before sending it out.)
Grammarly’s free version caught so many of my sloppy errors that I purchased the upgrade, which works on the desktop within Microsoft Word if you have a PC which I unfortunately don’t. I can upload the content in Word to Grammarly to check it, and it also checks for 250 other mistakes.
Watch out commas, here I come.