Use spelling, grammar, and style checking software
Step 7 – Proof
The software products for checking spelling, grammar, and writing style are indispensable tools. They cannot catch all errors, but these apps recognize many problems and offer many good suggestions.
The grammar and style checker built into Microsoft Word is excellent. You activate grammar checking with the F7 key or the command: /Review /Spelling & Grammar/. To gain access to its full power, execute the command: /File /Options /Proofing /When correcting spelling and grammar in Word/, then turn on the following features:
· Check spelling as you type
· Use contextual spelling
· Mark grammar errors as you type
· Check grammar with spelling
· Show readability statistics
In the /Writing Style/ selection box, you can select either:
· Grammar Only
· Grammar & Style
You will obtain the most help if you select Grammar & Style.
From the /Settings/ link, you can customize your experience choosing from a large number of grammar and style options. Microsoft Word defaults with the style options turned off. I recommend turning the style option on so you can have more tools to critique your writing.
If you select /Show readability statistics/ as an option, Microsoft Word will generate word counts and scores for:
· Portion of sentences using passive voice
· Flesch Reading Ease
· Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
As discussed in the prior chapter, passive voice generally is harder for readers to understand.
Rudolf Flesch (1911-1986) developed the Flesch Reading Ease evaluation; and he and J. Peter Kincaid (1942-) created the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level index. Both systems use word length and sentence length to measure the difficulty of understanding text. Shorter sentences and shorter words increase the Reading Ease score, but decrease the Grade Level score.
The maximum Flesch Reading Ease score is 120. Young readers readily understand scores of 80 to 100, while very mature readers only understand scores of 0 to 30. Thus, higher scores are better, because they represent easier to read text.
On the other hand, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scale goes in the other direction: lower scores are better. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Levels match US school grades 1 to 12. With very short sentences and monosyllabic words, it is possible to obtain Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores below zero, while scores above 12 are possible with very long sentences and long words.
Readability statistics are very useful. You will improve your writing by keeping the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and the passive voice score low.
Other grammar-checking software
If you feel you need additional help with grammar and style checking, consider one of the many stand-alone grammar-checking programs. Some are free, while others are quite expensive.
While grammar-checking programs are helpful, they do not replace an understanding of grammar, vocabulary, and effective writing styles. Blindly following the advice of grammar checkers—even the best—can still lead to foolish mistakes. So, use them, but keep alert to problems they fail to spot.