Have you ever seen this joke or a similar one?
If you’ve read any of my bios, you might recall that I’m a mechanical engineer by degree. While this joke is not accurate for many engineers (including my husband), I can tell you that it is accurate in my instance. I am horrible when it comes to spelling. Always have been, always will be.
And now I’m a self-proclaimed Literary Engineer.
Um . . . I think I have a problem.
Oh, wait—I’m an engineer. I can solve problems!
When I started to become serious about publishing my first book, I learned through my research that there are many readers who are passionate about an author’s ability to use proper grammar and spelling. That’s fair, after all. I can personally overlook a few errors in books (probably because I don’t notice them), but I have to admit to instances where an abundance of errors killed my enjoyment of the entire story. I knew I wouldn’t be in the camp of more errors than not for my own books, but I’m a big fan of eliminating distractions during the reading experience. I knew I had to pack my toolbox with some industrial grade spelling and grammar tools.
My aunt is a professional proofreader, so she does my final copy editing. It’s a huge relief to have a person I trust take a last crack at my books, but I still want to try to make the job a bit easier for her. I need to get better at catching my own mistakes. Because that’s the thing—in most cases I know what I’m supposed to write, but my fingers don’t always keep up with my brain. Except for spelling. When it comes to spelling, my brain is usually wrong.
I currently write almost everything in Word before I publish—be it a novel or a blog post—so the built-in spell checker is a huge help. However, it does not catch everything. For example, there are a few words I always seem to mix up, even though I know there is a difference and what that difference is.
- quite and quiet
- breath and breathe
- choose and chose
- heel and heal
These are just a few of the words always I seem to always mix up, so after I finish my manuscript I do a search for these words and correct any I have wrong.
Up next are the words that have multiple variations and different meanings depending on how you use them. For example:
- someday and some day
- awhile and a while
- anyone and any one
Then there are words I didn’t have to use often in my job prior to writing, so I have difficulty remembering the rules. Sometimes I inherently know which to use, but I’ve never stopped to think about why. Writing novels has forced me to slow down and consider proper usage of words like:
- farther vs further
- burned vs burnt
- blonde vs blond
- were vs was
Most of the time I do a Google search of grammar sites when I need help, but there is one other tool I’ve come to depend on: Grammarly. You can install a plug-in for Word that will catch the errors spell check won’t, but I never was able to get that working properly on my end. But no worries, because I can copy and paste into my Grammarly account.
Most of all, I love that it installs (for FREE) on Chrome. This means I have a powerful tool checking my spelling and grammar for everything I do online: blog posts, comments, Facebook posts, Tweets, etc. There is a green circle in the bottom right-hand corner of text boxes which changes to red with the number of possible errors found.
This has saved my bacon many times! I want to look just as professional in my online endeavors as I do in my novels, but I can’t pay my aunt to proof everything I type (nor is it possible for her to do so). As a result, Grammarly has become a very important tool for me.
I realize perfection can’t be achieved, but I’m hoping these tools will correct enough of my errors to keep the grammar police off my back :) Just please don’t expect me to ever learn when to use whom rather than who. Seriously.
Feel free to share any tools or sites you’ve come to depend on in your writing—I’m always on the lookout for additional tools I can use! And, I highly recommend giving Grammarly a shot if you haven’t already.