Am I the only one who can't proofread his own writing? If the title of this article got your attention, my guess is the answer is “no.” With three simple tools, you can improve your skills.
The problem for me is my brain gets in the way. When I proofread my own content, my eyes see what my brain meant to write. If I read the content aloud, I have better success. But still, my mouth tends to say the words that are rolling around in my brain and not what's actually on the page.
Improve your proofreading
Head over to Grammarly.com and download the free browser extension. On their homepage, you see examples of the tool in action. As you compose in your browser, Grammarly flags spelling and grammar errors. It also offers suggestions for better wording. All this happens in real time.
With Grammarly, you don't even have to proofread to catch many of your errors. The error detection happens automatically.
Read Aloud (the extension)
I use a free Chrome extension called "Read Aloud." Download it from the Chrome Web Store.
Once installed, the icon in your toolbar looks like a small bullhorn. Right-click on it and choose "Options." You will be able to choose from a variety of voices, speed and pitch.
When you are ready to proof-read, highlight a block of text, right-click, and choose "Read Aloud" from the list. It's that easy. My ears immediately pick up on anything that doesn't sound right.
Ernest Hemingway gave us such powerful works as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. His style of short and powerful sentences was something he learned as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star.
Head over to HemingwayApp.com and you’ll take your first step towards strong, clear, powerful writing. The process is simple. Compose your text as normal. Then, copy and paste it into Hemingway App.
Hemingway App flags sentences as "hard to read" and others as "very hard to read." The site flags "passive voice" quicker than your 11th-grade English teacher. It flags complex words and suggests simpler alternatives. The site also points out adverbs and encourages the writer to minimize them.
In the sidebar, Hemingway App provides helpful statistics. The site counts characters, words, sentences and paragraphs. It expresses "readability" by school grade level.
When you visit Hemingway App, highlight and delete the sample. Then, paste your own text.
Get ready for a surprise. If you think your English teacher's red pen was bad, this is worse. But, you get to make it better!
Look at the highlighted items. Reword and watch the color disappear as you make the edits that result in crisp, clear writing. Over time, you'll gain a sense of what Hemingway App likes. You'll see fewer "red marks" when you paste your work.
Writing is important … now more than ever
I went to school during a time when the only people who read what you wrote were you, your mom and your English teacher. I entered the workforce during a time when the only outlets were books, magazines and newspapers. Only "writers" published.
Today, anybody can start a blog and do it for free. Instantly, anybody with something worth saying can write for anyone who thinks it's worth hearing. That's a huge shift and a huge responsibility. It's also a huge opportunity. Today, we're all writers.
Technology has changed our reach. If your aim is to write something good enough for the whole world to read, doesn't it make sense to let technology help you craft the message?
Frank Buck is the author of Get Organized!: Time Management for School Leaders. "Global Gurus Top 30" named him #1 in the Time Management category for 2019. Dr. Buck speaks throughout the United States and internationally about organization and time management. You can reach him through his website: FrankBuck.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrFrankBuck.