Online Proofing Pros & Cons

I may have mentioned before that I am a member of a writers group in southwest Florida. We meet monthly and traditionally have invited other in or around the writing profession to make presentations to our members. In May, the presenter was a woman who bills herself as The Book Doctor.

During the Q&A after her presentation, she was asked if she had used online proofreading programs. She said she had but found them less than helpful.

Having said that, here is another take. There are a number of proofreading tools available online, some free, some for a fee. There is Grammarly, Paper  Rater, Ginger Software, and others. I selected Slickwrite partly as a lark.

The process is simple. I copier a nonfiction piece of 1,900m words I had written, go to the Slickwrite site, paste my piece into their window and click on “Check.” What you get is shown in the screen capture below.

slickwrite screen captureDifferent parts of speech are underlined in different colors. Adverbs and adverbial phrases are underlined with green; prepositions or prepositional phrases with blue; clichés with yellow although there is some duplication As you mouse over the section in question, a balloon appears telling why it is being questions, e.g., “Wordy or redundant phrase.” Click once more and a footer elaborate on the “error” and offers a suggestion or two.

So did it help? Yes it did. I’d had two acquaintances read the selection and they found nothing to criticize or revise. But letting Slickwrite do its thing, at least caused me to question some of what I had written. So, for example, “I read in a newspaper….” Became “I read a newspaper article….” I did examine each adverb more closely with Stephen King’s dictum running through my head: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”

So it’s probably more line editing than content editing, but the highlight sort of made me come up with support for what I had written, so in that case it helped. But just to double-check, I then went and copied and pasted a more famous piece of prose and Slickwrite’s analysis is shown below.

gettysburg slickwrite


Have any of you experience with online proofreading tools?




About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
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