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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tool up to improve your writing!

In my work at Grammarly, I keep an eye on writers and analyze the tools they use to enhance their English and improve their work. I use this collected information to inform the product strategy team, so that they can stay on top of current trends and provide intuitive solutions for our end-users.

These days, everyone’s a writer, so it’s important to set your writing apart from everyone else's by making it as polished as you can. Luckily, there are several tools online that can help you clean things up and put your best work forward. Here are some of my tried and true solutions for editing that novel, document, or report.

Read up! A writer is a reader, first.

First, and most importantly, writers must read—think of it as subliminal research. You pick up on important things that will help improve your craft every time you read, so you should consider putting some time into reading about writing and grammar. This way you’re bound to improve by default. If you’re not a fan of reference books, there’s plenty of information on the web that’s incredibly easy to read. Blogs like the New York Times After Deadline are a great way to sneak in these bite-sized elements of style.

Write-up! Pick your writing tools and get to writing.

A good word processing program is key for any writer. Whether you’re using Word, Scrivener, or Google Docs, these programs can point out misspelled words and sentence fragments that you might otherwise overlook. Each offers their share of pros and cons, so find something you like and stick with it—or keep looking until you find what works best for you.

While I’m not as impressed with Internet Explorer, you can find a wide variety of apps and browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome. Most of these are free and can give you that editing edge:

- Grammar Apps and Extensions for Chrome
- Firefox Add-ons

Buddy-Up! Another set of eyes will do you good.

The internet is open 24/7, so finding someone to look over your work at any hour is very likely—well, if you’re connected to the right people. Join a few writers’ groups, critique groups, or editing groups on your favorite social network—Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn—all have plenty of writers eager to connect with you. By actively participating in these groups, you can almost guarantee an extra pair of eyes when you need it most. Be prepared to return the favor, though, especially when the help is given freely.

Sometimes, all you need is an hour or two away from your project, to give it those last editing touches. You can come back to it fresh and ready to look at it objectively—you’d be surprised at the number of mistakes that will jump out at you after you’ve had a break and time to clear your head.

Wrap it up! Cover your assets.

Before you press publish, consider using a plagiarism checker like the one at Grammarly—not because I think you’re intentionally trying to take credit for someone else’s work, but because if you’re reading (like you should be), you may have been subconsciously influenced by another writer’s words. You might have accidentally quoted something you read earlier. This last check will give you the opportunity to further edit your work or consider properly quoting the source, adding credibility to what you’ve written.

Like everything, practice makes perfect, so the more you write and use these or any other editing tools, the easier it will get. Don’t give up, there are lots of people rooting for you, and technology will always be there to ensure your success.

This is a guest post written by Nikolas Baron

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