Do You Need a Proofreading Assistant?

proofreadingIf you’ve ever edited your own paper, only to find it full of errors when returned by the professor, you know the power of a second set of eyes. As an online student it can be challenging to coordinate this kind of help, but there are resources available to check your work.

We are all trying to get a lot done these days, and as quickly as possible, often resulting in rushed work. For me there’s a direct correlation – the faster I move, the more mistakes I make. Just last week a reader pointed out an error in my blog post about Twitter assignments. “Brig” should have been “big.” I’d read this text through many times in draft form and the final version online, but never caught this on my own. This week I tested three proofreading systems that could help all of us identify and correct mistakes.

3 Tools to Try

Writing assignments are everywhere in online education. Research papers, reports, essays, and discussion posts are all standard types of submissions, and technical skills in spelling, grammar, and formatting with a style guide (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) are often part of your grade. Are you checking your work before clicking “send”, “reply” or “upload?”

1. Ginger

This app is available for download and works with multiple platforms and interfaces (e.g., browsers, Windows/Mac, Android/iOS). It’s free to use, but you’ll need to register for an account to get started. Open the Ginger website and you can copy and paste your text from a document or type directly into the window on screen.

The main features include spelling and grammar checks, which visually highlight errors and provide recommended corrections. Other tools available are a translation service and “alternative sentences” with options for rewording. The Text Reader focuses on assisting English language users, but could also be helpful as a way to listen for mistakes you might not catch with a read through of your own writing (like my brig and big example).

After having the Ginger plug-in for Chrome installed for several days I noticed that it was proofreading anything I typed while using that browser. It highlighted misspellings and grammar problems as I drafted email messages and tweets, continuing the proofreading assistance outside of school-related work.

Ginger Proofreading

2. Grammarly

Grammarly boasts over 4 million users and has a big following in education circles. Upload a document to screen it for errors, or copy and paste a section into the on-screen text box. There’s also a drag-and-drop option for files.

With Grammarly you’ll find spelling, grammar and punctuation corrections, as well as word choice suggestions and assistance creating citations in multiple style formats (i.e., APA, MLA, Chicago). Extra features include a plagiarism checker to ensure you give credit to your references. There are limits on how many documents and words you can check within specific time frames (i.e., 24 hours, 30 days), but they shouldn’t impact typical student writing needs.

The browser plug-in option also provides spell and grammar help with email, social media updates, and other writing tasks (including this blog post). Windows/PC users may want to try the Microsoft Office Add-in to augment the program’s existing spell and grammar check features. Start with a trial account for access online to see details about errors and suggested changes to your writing.

Grammarly Proofreading

3. Hemingway

I included Hemingway in a recent post about writing apps. This one is free to access and you don’t need to download anything to use it. Like the other tools on this list, Hemingway offers a range of helpful features related to proofreading. Copy and paste your writing into the desktop editor, or type directly within the text box provided on the app’s website, to receive instant feedback about your work.

Hemingway’s proofreading capabilities include spelling and grammar suggestions. This app also flags the use of adverbs and the passive voice with color-coded highlighting, and gives you a readability score and word count. Everything is on one screen and easy to review.

Hemingway Proofreading

Selecting an Assistant

The proofreading applications included above have similar functions, but different interfaces. One may be more helpful for your needs and current writing workflow, so take a look at each one with your preferences and devices in mind. If it’s not easy for you to use, you won’t use it. Free accounts are available, often with paid upgrade options that provide access to advanced features.

It’s possible to improve your writing skills using these tools, because they highlight and explain mistakes with rationale for any changes you might make based on the recommendations. You get feedback about what you’ve done well and not so well. The changes aren’t made for you, but are instead annotated for your review and consideration.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between proofreading and having someone else contribute to your work. The last thing you want is a question about cheating or plagiarism. Check with your instructor for expectations and guidelines about getting assistance and using automated tools in each of your courses. You may even find that a specific tool is recommended or even embedded in your learning management system (e.g., Blackboard, Canvas, Desire2Learn) for easy access.

Explore All Available Resources!

Begin with the basics. If you aren’t ready for a full-featured proofreading app, use the spelling and grammar check tools in Microsoft Word, Open Office Writer, Google Docs, or wherever you are drafting your writing assignments. These programs already have tools in place that alert you to errors as you type.

Work with your school. Writing centers, tutors, and learning skills offices often assist with proofreading and providing general feedback about your writing skills. Kaplan University’s Writing Center, Georgia State University’s Technology Services and Amherst College’s Writing Center illustrate the range of services and resources available. Find out what your institution has to offer and set up a time to meet in person or over the phone to get started.

Start a peer review group or buddy system. Connect with other students to proofread each other’s work. Writer Dean Evans reports that in his a test of Microsoft Word, three proofreading apps, and a person with editing experience, the human editor was the only one to catch all the errors placed in a given text. A combination of strategies may be the way to go.

What are your favorite techniques for reviewing your written assignments? Share your suggestions and recommendations with your classmates.

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Source: Inside Online Learning Blog