Grammar checkers

Very much like spell-checkers, many writers dismiss automated grammar checking as either something the experienced writer shouldn’t need, or as a menace to the English language, contributing only to a general deterioration in literacy standards.

Despite these negative viewpoints, the grammar checker can still be a useful tool when doing a word check, provided its use is combined with a sound understanding of how it contributes to your writing and its limitations.

Firstly, any writer needs to understand that doing a word check using a word processor’s grammar checker is not, and never will be, a substitute for thorough proofreading of your writing and having a fundamentally firm understanding of grammar and language in general.

Grammar checkers can be excellent tools for helping to catch those silly typos that come from finger trouble, like repeated words or missing or double spaces and can generally contribute to keeping the quality of your writing high.

You should bear in mind that the grammar checker is merely a piece of inflexible pre-programmed software, based upon preset rules and algorithms, to word check what you have written with what it believes is correct English. One particular downfall can be a tendency to suggest correction of long sentences. While in some cases, a long sentence may be misplaced, there are times when a well constructed and well paced long sentence is entirely appropriate, despite what the grammar checker may recommend.

Some critics have also highlighted a tendency for these checkers to confuse the subject-verb relationship and it’s suggestions should always be taken as such: merely suggestions for you, as a writer, to decide whether or not you agree.

Every writer should understand what the automated grammar checker can provide in the way of assistance, but a healthy appreciation of its limitations should also prevail. Much like the spell-checker, the use of a grammar checker should always complement your own editing, revising and proofreading regime. It should not replace it.

Thesaurus

The thesaurus tool in your word processor is a powerful time-saving piece of your toolkit that you should use often. It is simple in concept and provides you with a means of ensuring you use just the right words that will set your writing off nicely.

One of the most annoying things a reader can see is single words or phrases repeated unnecessarily and often. By using a thesaurus, you can make sure you vary the vocabulary you use without altering the meaning. In fact, by using a wider vocabulary you will add meaning and feeling to your writing that may have been missing otherwise.

Take a look at our reference books page for a few of our recommendations on what thesauruses and other reference books are out there to help you.

Find out about proofreading and editing.

Find out about spell-checkers.

Find out about homophones.