Pitfalls of Grammar Checkers

Grammar checkers, sometimes known as spell checkers, have the power to correct typos (misspelled words) and grammar errors in your writing. These days, you can find grammar checkers with almost anywhere where you can type words: word processors like Microsoft Word, online apps like Google Docs, and even online browser extensions like Grammarly.

But while grammar checkers can be for zapping typos in your texts or personal messages, don’t over-rely on them in your professional writing. Grammar checkers are not enough when self-publishing a book.

Your self-publishing author career relies on you building a team of editors and other professionals to assist you and your book. In this endeavor, it’s good to understand why computers are yet to replace human editors, and why it’ll likely stay this way.

Here are some pitfalls of grammar checkers that you can fall into when you rely solely on them, instead of hiring an editor.

Grammar checkers can miss grammatically correct errors.

You may use the wrong word, and because that word doesn’t cause a grammar issue, your grammar checker won’t flag the culprit.

Assume that you have a character named Mr. Petersen, not Peterson. You may write this sentence:

“Mr. Petersen will read the proposal and get back to you by Friday.”

Here’s a rewritten version that uses a different but incorrect spelling of his last name, but doesn’t trigger my grammar checker:

“Mr. Peterson will read the proposal and get back to you by Friday.”

See the difference? What if a reader notices that you spelled the same character’s name two different ways? You may get a bad review for poor editing.

While modern grammar checkers may flag the most misused word choices, you must check between the gaps for mistakes that the grammar checker misses, because you know your manuscript better than your computer.

Grammar checkers can interfere with your writing voice and style.

How many times have you typed a real word, only for the grammar checker to flag it as a typo?

Grammar checkers can wrongly flag new words, alternate spellings, and uncommon names. Names can be a particular sore point, as it’s not a good feeling when your software claims that your first or last name is spelled wrong.

You can address these situations by adding words to your app’s personal dictionary, or right clicking the word and selecting “Ignore.” Even then, your checker’s inaccuracies can distract you with its misplaced colored underlines.

At worst, grammar checkers can nudge you to “correct” sentences and push you from your personal style and toward the app developer’s biases. A skilled writer knows when to put style over “correctness,” and grammar checkers can sabotage these decisions.

Even the best editor needs a second pair of eyes.

Here’s a saying among lawyers: He who represents himself has a fool for a client. You can say the same thing about authors without editors.

Editors who publish their own book have an editor too, because they know that even the best editor needs a second pair of eyes.

A writer can be vigilant with using a grammar checker while editing. That said, a writer’s proximity to the work is a double-edged sword, as it’s easy to pass over mistakes that a second reader might spot.

Do yourself a favor and get a second reader to double-check your edits. And sometimes, even more.

Grammar checkers can’t do high-level editing.

Maybe you are the best grammar checker in the world, and you can check your writing perfectly. That’s not enough.

“Editing” can refer to different levels. Typically, a grammar checker only handles mechanical editing / light copyediting, checking for spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Other levels of editing include:

  • proofreading to check what the manuscript will look like in print and ebook formats
  • heavy copyediting to correct non-grammatical errors and inconsistencies, such as style and word choice
  • line (or substantive) editing to check the tone and flow of paragraphs and chapters
  • fact checking to uphold creditability in non-fiction books and verisimilitude in novels
  • developmental (or structural) editing to revise a book’s more “macro” elements, like chapter order and the book’s big ideas

Some professional authors hire one editor for most of these editing levels. Others may hire separate roles, such as a developmental editor alongside a copyeditor.

You may also need other readers that don’t necessarily edit, but help you shape your story. For example, you can hire a sensitivity reader to check your manuscript for potentially offensive and inaccurate content, like with race or indigenous culture.

No matter what, even the most well-used grammar checker can only handle a narrow section of editing. For other levels, you must get an editor or other reader.

While technology is pivotal to the modern writing process, no app or tool can replace the human touch of an editor.

When you give your book to an editor, don’t think of it as admitting failure, but as your showing respect to your professionalism as an author and your manuscript’s potential.

Leave the grammar checker for your personal Facebook profile and give your book an editor.

What’s your experience with spell checkers and grammar checkers? What are some other pitfalls you can think of? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Self-Publishing News: 4.28.2021

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“Thanks to markets like Amazon that have made it easier than ever to access books, authors no longer have to wait to be given a green light,” writes Beth Jordan in this recent article for StudyBreaks.com. Jordan briefly covers the history of the longstanding family feud between traditional and self-publishing forms, with the rise of the digital and Internet age as well as the market forces creating additional challenges for the more established institutions even while going indie seems easier and more reliable than ever–with all of this making the page. Jordan also covers some of the other finer points of the debate, including why authors might or might not choose to go indie, and how different pros and cons can influence an author’s relationships to their community of readers … as well as other authors. Says Jordan,

[L]amenting one’s inability to sell books or to be traditionally published can become a dangerous, unproductive spiral because there are many reasons an author’s book might not be selling — most of the reasons likely coming down to marketing, visibility or the book’s quality. While the frustration is understandable, publishing a book through traditional means is unlikely to fix the situation as Amazon and other companies continue to out-compete the traditional publishers.

Jordan covers shifting market shares, the powerful role competition plays in decision making, and some suggested steps towards boosting visibility. All in all, this article makes for a great, ahem, all-rounder when it comes to entering or revisiting the key points of why we do what we do, and how. We can’t think of a better way to kick off this week’s news!

Five is a solid, memorable number, and it’s neither too long nor too short a quantity of listed items to ensure peak performance. So when Josh Steimle writes for Entrepreneur online that “A successful first book could even become a quality revenue stream of its own, paving the way for future writing endeavors” and that this process “can be accomplished in five easy steps,” you can be sure we’re going to sit up and pay attention. Steimle’s points, which include straightforward suggestions to research, plan, and begin executing a marketing strategy well before your book’s publication date, have the force of “common sense” behind them–only, as we know, that isn’t entirely common in the way it probably should be, all things being equal and communication being free of the current status quo. The nice thing about Steimle’s article, too, is that he also touches on some suggestions, including those for advance copies and incentives by way of free content, that often aren’t talked about as often as they could be, or should be. This is the kind of specialized information that indie authors might not instinctually know going into self-publishing for the first time, and which can really make a difference.

Another totally unintended “five” that converses comfortably with our last news item: Last time we covered the news in self-publishing, we included a previous article by Forbes contributor JJ Hebert, “5 Low-Cost Marketing Strategies for Your Self-Published Book.” This time around, Hebert is writing to authors (or potential authors) of “business books” in order to encourage them to use a self-published book as a kind of brand launch or relaunch–a way of sending your thoughts and your way of doing things out there into the world, and to establish yourself as a person of authority on matters pertaining to your field. As Hebert puts it, “writing and publishing a book is the ultimate credibility booster and business growth tool because the book will position you as an expert in your field, and you will become the go-to person for your particular topic.” But making sure your book sticks its landing and isn’t a wasted investment of your precious time and money (and since time is money, on to the nth degree) has to be a top priority, and Hebert has a nice list of straightforward suggestions in order to make that landing the stickiest possible stuck thing it can possibly be. Hebert does have a toe firmly in the waters of self-promotion here himself, given that he is CEO and founder of a self-publishing platform himself, but that doesn’t mean his tips aren’t worth taking a good, long look at. We happen to think he practices exactly what he preaches, and what he preaches seems to be effective enough to make us stop and look–and when it comes to marketing, that’s half of the battle won right there.

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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

Self-Publishing News: 4.13.2021

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This article from Amy Rosen for Toronto’s The Globe and Mail is everything we needed over the last couple of weeks: a dash of joy, and the solid affirmation that we’re not alone in looking for and publishing information on a new generation of platforms that have evolved in the post-print newspaper age. (Not that we don’t love print or newspapers! As with all new and wonderful things, these new ways and means will eventually, if they haven’t already, reach a new and happy balance with the old, and all will be welcome tools in the race to learn about this wild world of ours.) Writes Rosen, “From knitting and kneading to photography and illustrating, PDFs, e-books and other downloadable guides are surging in popularity. Selling DIY digital downloads is becoming the modern-day way to let your creative and entrepreneurial passions fly.” Rosen highlights one of the earliest DIY sources of such self-published projects: “On Etsy, makers sell digital downloads of face-mask designs, knitting patterns and printable 3-D gift boxes. No middlemen, no shipping, no waiting.” If someone hasn’t already immortalized that statement in needlepoint, one of us most definitely will––it’s our ethic, down to our very core. Rosen also covers the story of a cookbook author whose digitally downloadable new PDF ebook may “lack the cachet of the printed book,” but whose $5 download fee “translates into far more money per purchase than she’d receive with a traditional book deal.” She also points the way to numerous other kinds of creatives who have used the various ebook self-publishing methods available to them to take advantage of the pandemic-driven surge in experimentation and craftiness. This article is an injection of pure inspiration for those of us casting about for our next simple-but-productive project.

Entrepreneur.com has published many other thought-provoking pieces on self-publishing in the past, and continues that trend by hosting JJ Hebert’s recent collection of marketing tips for self-published books. (A list of five has always held an appealing degree of symmetry!) “Writing a good book is one of the simplest ways to establish yourself as an expert on a topic,” he notes early in his article; “Your book can serve as the ultimate business card, both as a way to connect with people and build your reputation.” And of course, he has both plenty of experience and a personal stake in self-publishing. “As the owner of a self-publishing company,” he writes, “I am an adamant believer in the value of self-publishing. Not only does self-publishing give you have complete control of your book, but you’ll enjoy higher royalty rates as well.” But how to find success in such a packed field as self-publishing? For Hebert, success ultimately comes down to marketing, and successful marketing comes down to branding, reviews, emails, a certain carpe diem attitude, and crafting a solid architecture of support. For more information and explanations of these barest hints, we highly recommend you read the entirety of Hebert’s article, linked above.

We’ve written about the three (primary or popular) models of publishing available to the average human before on this blog, but it has been a minute since we’ve revisited the topic, and Alinka Rutkowska does such a fabulous job in this article for Forbes that we recommend brushing up on the big three categories of publishing (traditional, hybrid, and self-published or “indie”) by checking it out. As Rutkowska notes straight off, “Traditional publishing is considered prestigious, difficult, long — and lucrative for a rare few.” While recognizing the perks of successfully navigating the traditional route, Rutkowska advises readers to be realistic about the likelihood of doing so; when it comes to searching for an agent, “only a very small percentage of the authors who pitch agents will hear back from them, so your chances are pretty slim. If you do make it, you should be prepared to relinquish some creative control as your book will now be ushered into the hands of a group of professionals.” As for the other routes, Rutkowska makes it clear that they, too, have some substantial benefits, and might just prove more accessible to the average writer. “The beautiful thing about self-publishing is that there are no gatekeepers and the market becomes the ultimate judge,” writes Rutkowska, before going on to allocate the lion’s share of the article to describing what she defines as “hybrid” (and it should be noted here that definitions vary wildly, and that some industry experts would consider what she describes to incorporate significant aspects of what others would consider plain ol’ regular self-publishing). With a devastating gift for brevity, Rutskaya’s article is a quick but interesting read.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is spa-news.jpg
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

Self-Publishing News: 2.24.2021

Hello February.

news from the world of
self-publishing

“There is a shift in the artistic landscape taking place, and with it different ways of publishing and distributing literature,” writes Sinead Overbye for Stuff, a New Zealand-based news website. She covers the work and writings of a group of Maori authors. Says Overbye,

Self-publication is a re-emerging trend, particularly within Māori writing communities across the motu. It is no coincidence, and it is not new. Māori have always been innovative and self-determining, against all odds. Self-publication continues an historical trend of Māori resisting reliance upon the Crown and other entities to support what they believe will benefit them. It is a way of refusing to compromise, and of determining to speak in exactly the way we want to. It doesn’t ask, ‘Let us speak’, rather it says, ‘We have voices, and will speak regardless of who listens’.

In this way, Overbye’s words echo the sentiments we’ve expressed often here on SPA––that self-publishing is a democratizing influence on literature, and an influence that allows for authors without massive blockbuster intentions (as far as their envisioned audiences go) to still reach the readers they need to reach. Overbye goes on to write that in a “system where money determines the perceived value of everything, it is a radical (and to some, a confusing) act to produce work that doesn’t increase individual wealth, but whose chief purpose is to communicate.” That’s a line we’ll be chewing on for some time.

This one is such a heartbreaking story, in a good way! Abby Luschei, writing for Seattle Refined, covers the story of artist Jayashree Krishnan, who has been painting the faces of COVID-19 first responders and healthcare workers. In an interview with Luschei, Krishnan noted that the artworks’ positive reception online “was saying that the art is not just about the artwork, but it opened up the space for people who were not healthcare workers to step in and say something encouraging for them.” Writes Luschei,

In just about 10 months, Krishnan has painted more than 150 portraits of healthcare workers. Through this process, she’s heard their stories about what it has been like to fight COVID-19 first-hand. Krishnan is self-publishing a book, “Caring for Humanity,” that will feature those paintings and stories.

I don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to see the final product. Says Krishnan, “This series is about so much more than just a piece of art, Krishnan said. It’s about sharing their experiences — what it was like to work in COVID units in the very beginning, how it changed and how some of them ended up contracting COVID themselves, for example.” If we only get one good thing out of this virus situation, we’re glad it’s a fabulous work of artistic self-publishing.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is spa-news.jpg
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

Self-Publishing News: 2.9.2021

Hello February.

news from the world of
self-publishing

Here’s an article from lifehacker‘s Explainer section that provoked a number of conversations among self-publishing authors this last week: Sam Blum’s take on the necessary underpinnings of published (and therefore public) authorship. It begins with a familiar hook, too. Write Blum, “No two writers’ journeys to publication are the same, but most follow the same general path.” To view publishing from the appropriate distance from which to see a general path, Blum begins his summary with a warning: “Don’t quit your day job.” (We are not going to spend too long thinking about how Blum’s imagination also leads to “you lovingly stroke its spine,” a favorite out-of-context comment about books that seems a little over the top.) He goes on to describe the various ways and means of going after a traditional publishing gig, but many of his suggestions are also applicable to self-publishing (which lifehacker‘s Nicole Dieker wrote about all the way back in 2017––we still highly recommend you read that article as well). He writes about building a network, self-education, and carrying out some intensive market research. The only point that doesn’t apply is the section on finding an agent, but one might argue that finding a self-publishing company and team that works for you would make a good substitute there. Not only is his recent article a good reminder of many points we’ve covered here on the blog on other days, but it is also a good reminder to check out Dieker’s older article.

This one is a more troubling bit of news. One of our favorite aspects of self-publishing that we like to celebrate here on this blog is the power of the indie world to democratize the entire publishing space. One might argue, as we have in the past, that a healthy self-publishing industry supports not just a healthy traditional publishing industry as well, but a healthy society. And we are extremely grateful to live in a part of the world where free speech is honored and enshrined in our founding charters––and where, although our systems remain imperfect, the average person can still find a way to say what needs to be said, write what needs to be written, and publish what needs to be published. This article from TechCrunch is a good reminder that this is not true of all corners of the world, and that the situation in China is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the quieting of badly needed voices across the globe.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is spa-news.jpg
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.