View Full Version : computer editing program's? Do they help?

04-12-2012, 10:35 PM
I have a question regarding editing, I am someone that struggles signifigantly with my grammar skills. I have recently gone back to college and I am currently in freshman English. I understand the importance of a well written piece and I do try my best to produce that for my readers. I have read, put down, and then re-read my novel over and over and I still fear that I am missing my grammatical errors. I can not afford to hire an editor at this time. What I am wondering is if anyone has used a comuter editing program in order to edit their manuscript, besides good old spellcheck. I have had family and friends read my manuscript but no one that has the time or skills to edit the whole novel. Are these programs worth the money or should I stick to a human editing source? Thank you.

04-12-2012, 10:46 PM
They're better than nothing, or skills which are not what you wish and need them to be, but they're also not very good. At least that's the scuttlebutt around here.

There are too many variations in correct speech for any program to comprehend all contexts, so a lot that's perfectly fine as it stands gets flagged as errors. Other errors slip past.

However, the free grammar check on most word processing software is a good starting point. It would have caught the comma splice in your first sentence. (I hope that's not mean of me to note. I'm not trying to embarrass you, just give an example of the program's capability.)

Editing for grammar and writing mechanics only is something every writer should master unless there's a reason he or she can't, like a learning disability. If I felt I had weak skills in this area (instead of weak skills in other areas, which I have plenty of), I'd probably buy a high school or college grammar book and literally go through it at whatever speed I needed to understand and be able to apply everything in it.

For instance, learning the grammatical rules for when you need to have a comma and why is pretty basic, yet a lot of people (including many here at AW) never attempt to learn it.

Maryn, hoping you can hook up with someone who's good at this

04-12-2012, 11:10 PM
Hi Maryn, thank you for your advice. No, it was not mean of you, I am aware that this is my weakness. I am not sure if my learning disabilty has anything to do with it. I have tried to study the grammatical rules and for whatever reason it does not stick with me. I actually wrote a quirky little poem about my lack of grammar skills. I will keep at it, I guess that is all I can do is to keep trying my hardest and eventually my hard work will pay off. I am pretty sure this whole response if filled with comma's that do not belong, sigh... :)

I know that it is holding me back and it is very frustrating.

04-12-2012, 11:13 PM
Hi Maryn, thank you for your advice. No, it was not mean of you, I am aware that this is my weakness. I am not sure if my learning disabilty has anything to do with it. I have tried to study the grammatical rules and for whatever reason it does not stick with me.

Studying the rules doesn't work for most people.

Reading a lot will help; read everything, novels, magazines, comics, cereal boxes.

If you're using a handbook for English--say The Little Brown Handbook, or A Writer's Reference, use it, but don't try to memorize an actual rule. Look at the examples.

If your prof offers to read drafts and conference with you, take advantage of the offer.

Learning to revise is often more helpful than deliberately trying to learn grammar.

04-12-2012, 11:37 PM
WHie the grammar checker is a good starting point,you might want to get a couple of grammar books that you can refer to when you are uncertain.

There also are some online grammar checkers that may give another opinion.

The probalem with any grammar checker is that there are different rules for different situations. Without understanding the rules the user is lost.

04-12-2012, 11:53 PM
The advice from the previous posters is sound. Grammar checkers are mainly valuable for business letters, official reports, straightforward documents etc. Novels can be so idiosyncratic in their language that a computerized grammar program is useless or, in some cases, even damaging. Human eyes are the best, and yours will become better the more you read and study.

04-13-2012, 12:36 AM
I think studying the rules is vital, and that it's impossible to really learn as much as you need to know without studying the rules. It is necessary to study them in a structured manner, not simply as standalone rules without context, but this is why God created good English textbooks.

I doubt any of us would have passed English class without studying the rules. Reading is also a big help, but I've yet to see reading alone be sufficient.

Grammar check programs are very helpful if, and only if, you study the rule each time it flags a mistake. It isn't enough to be told you're wrong, you have to know why. A good grammar check program, such as the one in Word, will give you the rule.

Even when the grammar check program is wrong, the rule will still explain things in a way that lets you know it's wrong.

Jonathan Dalar
04-13-2012, 02:51 AM
I find the grammar editor wants to correct my grammar to the incorrect more often than not. It has constant issues with my correct usage, forcing me to ignore the "mistakes" on an individual basis. I always leave it on when I write, for those times I skip or miss something, especially if changing thoughts in midstream, but I usually end up ignoring it.

The best advice I've heard is to read it out loud to yourself - several times - to make sure it sounds correct. That will usually catch many mistakes, at least the most egregious anyway.

04-16-2012, 06:25 PM
When using the grammar programs, be sure to adjust the settings for your style. As others here said, they won't catch everything, but you'll get a useful start.

...Learning to revise is often more helpful than deliberately trying to learn grammar.

Yes! There are books, web sites and newsletters with practice exercises. Learning styles vary, but working through the changes yourself is usually a good method.

04-16-2012, 06:39 PM
I hired an editor. I pay $50/hour and she's fair. If you're interested, I can give you her number.

04-16-2012, 10:32 PM
When using written material to help you improve, remember to consider the quality of the work you're reading. My local newspaper is pretty bad. I've thought of offering my proofreading services, but figured doing so would be snooty, and besides, I still make my own mistakes. When I catch a mistake in the paper, I try to remember to point it out to my kids so they don't think the mistake is correct.

Amy (who is wondering what grammatical errors I may have made in my post)