Last fall I started what I thought would be a weekly feature on my blog called “Write Right Monday Night.” I hoped to provide useful information on grammar, word usage, and other writing topics. Honestly, though, it just gave me a platform to air my grammar grievances. I figured I had a bottomless well of language pet peeves to draw from.
Due to a handful of life changing events, plus my reluctance to follow my self-imposed weekly schedule, the idea fell by the wayside. The last few entries were lame attempts to put something (anything) out there that was related to writing.
Fast-forward six months and I have some interesting things to share, so I am resurrecting Write Right Monday Night. It will not be every Monday night, but only when I have something that I think will be useful for my blogger friends or anyone with a love for the English language.
Last week I took a one day course in SEO and Social Journalism for Small Businesses at the local Community College. Along with a lot of other useful information and strategies, the instructor offered a list of online resources, including several that will analyze your writing and help you improve it.
This may not be news to some of you, but I had never used these sites before. I found them fun to play around with, as well as informative. I don’t always make the changes they suggest. My writing isn’t perfect, but sometimes I like it just the way it is. And while I’m sure these sites can improve someone’s writing, just like autocorrect, they are not perfect. I copied my blogpost In Sickness and in Health; In Polish Sausage and in Sauerkraut into one of them and it told me that the words kraut, jitterbug, and DJs were misspelled. My point is, they are simply tools, not something that should be followed blindly.
Here are three that I enjoyed using:
This is a very bare-bones looking sight. Copy or type your text in and hit edit. It will list some statistics about the writing and highlight “weak” words, passive voice and other items to watch for. One thing I found annoying is it highlights homonyms with a caution to make sure you’ve spelled them right. This means that every instance of there, they’re, their, and your, you’re, and see, sea, among other words are highlighted. I understand why, but come on!
They want you to download the app, but you can see a demonstration using your text. It highlights spelling errors and offers grammar and style suggestions. Clicking on each item that is highlighted provides an explanation of the perceived problem, as well as suggested changes. I say “perceived” problem because in my case, it identified the phrase “happy couple” as a cliché. In my post the phrase was entirely appropriate, but I guess it was helpful that it was pointed out to me. I’m not sure I could write anything without at least one cliché, so I’ll choose to ignore it!
I really like this one. Not only does it do the same job as editMinion, it also gives an overall readability rating and highlights sentences that it considers are difficult to read. It points out and offers suggestions for words and phrases with simpler alternatives. Simpler isn’t always better, but it is helpful to be given real options.
While these writing sites may offer help when you need it, remember they are just tools in your writer’s toolbox. Your unique voice is what makes your writing yours. If there is a creative reason for you to break the rules, rummage around in that toolbox for a sledgehammer – and go ahead and break them!