Proofreading helps you find and remove flaws that can detract from the overall credibility of your writing. Content that’s riddled with typos, grammatical errors, or punctuation missteps will turn readers away and undermines the authority you’ve worked hard to develop.
To make it easy for writers to churn out error-free copy, smart software engineers and developers have created proofreading programs. These programs can help you find and correct misspelled words.
While popular word processing software (outdated term) like Microsoft Word can help you spot typos and basic grammatical errors, more sophisticated (are you sure it’s more sophisticated than what’s offered in Word?” I’m not sure everyone would just take that statement for granted) software like Grammarly assesses your writing for grammar errors, readability, and plagiarism. And Word TOTALLY checks for readability, giving actual stats on every piece you write, including Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, % of Passive Sentences, Characters/word, Words/sentence, Sentences/Paragraph and so on.
Grammarly’s features have improved greatly over the past few years. Now you can use this software to check your writing with Microsoft Word, Outlook, and Facebook. Android and iOS users can also install the app on their mobile devices. Grammarly is available online as a standalone web application, and a version for Google Docs is currently being tested.
The flexibility and versatility of the program have made millions of users depend on Grammarly daily. Some writers rely solely on this app to check their work, and many non-native English speakers rely on it to correct their writing. Perhaps mention the American vs Canadian vs British English feature, too.
However, this popular proofreading software falls short in different ways. So, you can’t depend on it 100 percent for error-free writing.
How Grammarly Can’t be Trusted to Make Your Writing Error-Free
Grammarly can help you discover excessive use of the passive voice, repetitive words, confused prepositions, windy sentences, and a few grammar rules you may have overlooked. But it also overlooks many mistakes in technical writing, creative writing, or when it comes to using humor.
Grammarly can also be lame when it comes to correcting metaphors and other figures of speech. That’s why even Grammarly has a dashboard where you can send your work to a human proofreader for a fee. Here are some of the other reasons why you can’t replace a human proofreader with Grammarly or any other proofreading app.
1. Humans Are Better at Distinguishing Homonyms
A spell checking app only highlights words with spelling errors. It seldom traps words that are misused. This means, if you confuse two words that sound the same but aren’t spelled the same way, a human will spot the error, but your spell checker could skip it.
Examples of commonly confused words include desert/dessert, aisle/isle, renal/rental, tortuous/torturous, there/their, access/assess. Actually, Grammarly does check for these types of mistakes. I just did a simple test and found out in 2 seconds that it can distinguish between dessert and desert. To avoid making mistakes with homonyms, do your own proofreading or hire an expert to help you pick out misspellings. If you aren’t sure, use Google to find out the actual meaning and common use of a word.
2. Grammarly Can’t Understand All Subtleties of Style
While Grammarly developers may have discovered how to detect many grammar and spelling errors, they can’t easily understand the subtle distinctions in different writing styles. For instance, if you’re writing for the younger generation, your use of slang may be spotted as errors. Or when you write about technology, fashion, or trends that have a frequently changing word base, Grammarly may flag many of the words you use. This definitely calls for a few examples.
Note that any spell checker that’s not frequently updated with multiple meanings of words won’t be of much help to you. The software does not know the difference between writing a highly technical piece and writing a blog post for an upcoming concert or a sports event. That takes us to the next point.
3. Humans Recognize Context and Word Usage Issues Better
The use and meaning of a word changes with the context in which it is used. While Grammarly developers have made efforts to improve the trapping of contextual errors, it’s still a very difficult task. The English language has over 200,000 words, and many of these words can be used as different parts of speech. Plus, words are used differently in American English versus British English.
A word can also have different meanings in different fields. For instance, a “web printing” machine in commercial printing work means a machine that has the capacity to print the impression of four colors in one pass. While “web printing” means a completely different thing to an IT professional who uses the word to mean printing a document from a website or using a remote desktop printer connected to the Internet.
4. Computer Spell Checkers Know Few Technical Terms and Proper Nouns
No matter how hard they try, spellchecker developers can’t include all the technical terms and jargon that are available in all fields. If you’re preparing a legal document or you work in the fields of engineering, science or medicine, then you know the limitations of spell checkers.
If you’re writing a white paper, for instance, you’re better off working with a proofreader who understands the technical terms and can easily spot spelling mistakes. Similarly, if you’re writing about foreign lands and places outside the U.S., or you’re writing a lot of proper nouns like names of foreigners, or citing author names, you can’t rely on Grammarly or any automated spell checking software. Readers would argue it does a pretty good job, though (or they’d think the writer didn’t know what they were talking about). It found the error in the following sentence ”
“George Soros met Saddam Hussein. Then bill clinten walked in.” It also recognized obscure foreign names like Behrouz Kamalvandi, as well as misspellings of that name.
5. Human Proofreaders Can Spot Problems with Structure and Flow
A well-written article, document, or marketing message flows from one point to another. A human proofreader will easily sense problems with flow or structure and offer advice on how to improve the content. But spell checking software won’t be able to locate choppy sentences and poor thought flow. Please mention the difference between proofreading and editing or take this out and replaced with another point to bring it back up to 1000 words. Proofreading does not typically mean checking for flow and structure.
6. Formatting and Presentation Is Best Done By Humans
Effective formatting and presentation aids readability and can help you convince a reader to take the desired action. Although most proofreading apps are designed to follow standard grammar rules, writing for the web and copywriting usually requires you to break those rules. For instance, you may need to use a lot of short sentences, subtitles, bullet points, and one-line paragraphs to improve readability. This is just as important as accurate spelling and grammar.
Grammarly and other spell checking programs can help you find typos quickly. But you must work with a human proofreader if you want to send out content that’s free of spelling and grammar errors, well structured, easy to read, and appropriate for your target audience.
Author: Benjamin Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Content. With an extensive career in digital marketing and web development, Ben’s knowledge of the industry has enabled small businesses to scale and grow through well-crafted content and strategy.