Auto-Checkers versus an Editor

Happy Friday, everyone!

I’ve been giving some thought to a common habit that others have pointed out to me: a reliance on automatic editing software, such as Word or GoogleDocs’ spellchecker,  or sites like Grammarly.

I should preface this by saying that I’m in no way condemning their use – that would be purposelessly elitist – and in fact, it’s remarkable what they can catch and they grow in sophistication as time goes on. They’re built on algorithms designed to catch specific errors in spelling, grammar, format, and – lately – concision and other weaknesses, and other software out there can, additionally, check for plagiarism and citation issues. Often, they’ll even correct the error for you without you having to break your flow, and many sites now have even a basic version built-in. It’s great to not have to know the spelling of every single word you’ll potentially use, and for those of us who are creative writers, the ability to add our own unique spellings to a personalized dictionary is a godsend.

“So Taegan, why can’t I just use Grammarly and be done with it?”

“What’s wrong with Word’s spellchecker?”

Well, until we reach the singularity, the fact is that auto-checkers will not catch everything. All algorithms have their limits, and are only as strong – and flexible – as we create them to be. For example, a sentence can read as correct to the auto-checker but does, in fact, contain an error, even if that error is no more than a poor stylistic choice. Here’s an easy one – ‘I had too coffees today.’ – where the ‘too/two’ (homophone) mix-up is obvious to us, but neither WordPress, Google Docs, nor Word picked up on it. Also consider how strange the following looks: ‘the Weather today Is beautiful.’ Not marked as incorrect, but it sure looks untidy to you and I.

The level of sophistication required to learn and check all the nuances of the written word equivalent to the human brain and eye requires more memory and programmer-power than most software can realistically maintain for the average consumer; frankly, for most of us we only need a limited percentage of the auto-checker’s power. That’s one part of it.

However, there’s a second, less obvious reason: it’s a great way to exercise your brain! The more practice you get with reading over your own work and recognizing your pet problems (and pet words), the better you’ll be at catching them. It’s always nice to learn more, isn’t it? Of course, not everyone has the time to do that. That’s where your editor comes in – your second pair of eyes. By all means run an auto-checker of your choice (please do – it’ll save your editor a headache!), but don’t necessarily trust it with your life or your promotion. They’re no match for a well-trained human.

Food for thought on a beautiful start to what’s hopefully going to be a beautiful, productive weekend. Enjoy it, everyone!

Warm wishes,

~ Taegan

PS – My plan is to post on Fridays, to give you things to think about and work on over the weekend. Let me know how it works for you!

The People Everyone Should Know

Have you ever heard the old saying that everyone should know a policeman, a doctor or nurse, a lawyer, a mechanic, and an accountant? It’s good advice. There’s been variants over the years – some would include a tailor or a plumber, for example, and nowadays it’s handy to know a photographer or someone in IT – but I’ve never seen a list that includes a writer or, more importantly, an editor. It’s a shame.

I can see a couple of arguments for why one would think it’s not important.

The first argument stems from a perhaps not unfounded overconfidence that I, too, am guilty of: “I’m really good at English. I don’t need anyone to look over it for me.”. It’s one of my favorites. True, you may have a high proficiency in the written word, but we all make mistakes and mistakes are not confined to spelling or grammar. Having a second pair of eyes can catch something that you missed because you’ve been staring at it too long, or offer a different perspective. Even if no errors are caught, it does wonders for your peace of mind.

The second is more of an oversight – “Come on, Taegan, why would you need an editor if you’re not a writer?” – a misconception of what an editor is and who they work for. When we hear the term ‘editor’, unsurprisingly it conjures images of a bespectacled individual hunched over stacks of loose-leaf manuscripts with a pencil, or a title given to someone tasked with collecting articles or photographs or short writings into periodicals or anthologies. These people work with Authors. These people are Very Busy (read: inaccessible) and only take on Serious Work.

The funny thing is, everyone is a writer, and all writing is serious if you want it to be. And you should want it to be. This is particularly true now that technology has become deeply-rooted in our lives and pushed for greater communication skills (you may have heard the term ‘soft skills’, too). If you are involved in the job market to any degree whatsoever, at some point you will be writing something, be it your personal resume and cover letter to a new job, or website copy for your business or blog. This doesn’t even touch on folks like me who – *shudder* – write for a hobby or a living.

Think, instead, of an editor as ‘a second pair of eyes’ – a second pair of very good, trained eyes who aren’t going to mince words, because they want your work to be the best it can be. They’re not just once-in-a-lifetime contractors, either. Having a good editor on your side is the same as knowing a good mechanic – it’s just a different type of tinkering. And just as you take your vehicle in regularly for maintenance or yourself to the doctor for a checkup, periodically checking in with your editor is a good habit to form, even if it’s just for a resume review. Don’t let silly mistakes lead you to miss out on opportunities or form a bad impression of you.

The written word is everywhere, and you use it much more than you think. Considering it is so often our digital fingerprint or a first impression, wouldn’t you want yours to be the best it can possibly be? Wouldn’t you want an editor you can trust on your side?

I thought you might.

Warm wishes,

~ Taegan

Mark Your Calendars!

 

Afternoon, everyone!

It’s a beautiful February day here in the Southern US. I don’t know about you, but for me the new year doesn’t truly feel like it’s arrived until the first buds of spring appear, no matter if it’s nearly two months past January 1st!

It’ll hardly surprise you that as a writer and editor, I’m fond of office supplies, stationary, and organization. By January’s end I’m typically stocked-up, and in typical New Year’s resolution -fashion I’m ready to conquer the year. I want to help you do the same.

What was your New Year’s resolution? Find a new job? Open your own business? Finish that memoir or novel? Start your post-graduate degree? Whatever it is, I’m here to help. This blog is designed to not only provide tips and tricks to keep you on track, but also give you the opportunity to sign up to receive exclusive advance notice of special deals that interest you. Throughout the year I’ll be offering various editorial rate specials to suit your needs – simply visit the ‘Contact’ page or use the contact tab on the left to sign up!

Warm wishes,

~ Taegan

Copyright (C) Leslie Smith 2017