Never Rely On A Grammar And Spell Checker

You Can't Rely on a Grammar Checker

Self-publishing has given the freedom of expression to all of us who wish to use it.

It has probably brought thousands of manuscripts to life that were lying in a bottom drawer gathering dust.

Many manuscripts had been posted off to literary agents, over and over again, only to be rejected as many times.

But finally, these stories made it into print and ebook and are now available to readers.

Some authors have built a new business for themselves from self-publishing.

For others, they have used it as a means to get their one and only book into the public domain.

For whatever reason, self-publishing can only be described as a resounding success for all types of authors.

Grammar and spelling errors

For readers, however, there has been one downside.

Many books and ebooks, which are available for sale on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere, often contain basic English grammar mistakes and spelling errors.

These can be very annoying for a reader. If there are too many mistakes, a reader will give up on the book, no matter how good the story may be.

Too many little bad apples can ruin the flow of the reading experience.

Often referred to as typos, most of the mistakes I come across are very similar in kind and are made because writers place too much trust in online and automatic grammar and spell checkers.

While online grammar and spell checkers can do a very good job of highlighting errors and making suggestions to improve a text, there are errors that will still always slip through.

No online spelling or grammar checker is perfect. In fact, far from it.

However, grammar and spell checkers are extremely useful aids when you are correcting your writing. They find a lot of mistakes and potential grammar improvements you can make.

But they are definitely not human proofreaders. There will always be contextual spelling mistakes, run-on sentences, and misused words.

 

The top 10 errors that will often slip through

The most common errors I see fall into the following ten categories. These are all errors that cannot be detected by online grammar and spell checking.

If you are new to self-publishing, the following checklist may be helpful in finding errors when you start proofreading your final text.

Yes, a premium or free grammar correction tool, or even Microsoft Word will find many mistakes.

But no online grammar checker will find all mistakes and errors. To find them, you need your eyes and your writing skill to help you when you proofread.

 

1. Wrong Tense Usage

In the middle of a scene set in the past, it is very annoying to find one stray sentence in the present.

It was warm, with a gentle breeze. She sat on a towel on the hot beach sand and opens her book.’

2. Incorrect pronouns

She crossed her legs and thumbed through the pages of his book.

3. Homonyms

Their weren’t many people left on the beach, but there sandcastles stood waiting to be washed away by the incoming tied.

4. Mistakes In Dates

1814 can be typed in error to 1914 or eighteen-fourteen to nineteen-fourteen.

No spell checker will notice this inconsistency.

5. Compound Words

Spell checkers often don’t understand the problem with bath room when it should be bathroom, or that snow flake should be snowflake.

6. Possessive Pronouns

Its, it’s, her, hers, their and theirs must be the most common errors, and are difficult for a grammar checker to detect when used incorrectly.

Only accurate human proofreading will find these errors.

7. Repetition

Grammar checkers can detect errors involving the same word used twice in a row, but won’t recognize the same phrase or sentence used twice.

Be careful when using cut, or copy and paste when writing, as this can easily as this can cause errors in a text.

8. Omissions

Grammar checkers often miss highlighting a word that is missing, such as the, in the following phrase.

She went to South of France for her vacation.

 

9. Wrong words

Affect and effect are easily confused and misused, and marshal and martial are entirely different words.

But a spell checker will rarely notice the error.

 

10. Character Names

Catherin, Catherine, or Katherine?

There is nothing more annoying than the spelling of a character’s name changing through a story.

However, a spell checker will mark all of these variations as correct.

 

The only reliable checkers are human eyes

The only way to avoid mistakes including the ones noted above is to check carefully.

Forget about having trust in a word processor’s grammar and spelling correction tools or any other tool you use.

Premium checkers like Grammarly, Prowritingaid, and Ginger Software are a fantastic help in checking a draft manuscript.

You can use them for an overall scan and check before you start proofreading.

But then, your eyes and logic need to get to work.

Yes, self-publishing is very close to a fully automated process, but writing and writing well are not.

You should certainly use grammar and spell checkers to help you improve your text.

But then you need to take one more important step.

Nothing will replace the eyes of a meticulous proofreader, a red pen, and a keen knowledge of grammar, usage, and accurate spelling to produce a high-quality text.

E&OE

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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