As a writing coach, editor, and publisher I receive a lot of drafts and manuscripts from other people.
I am often amazed at the (lack of) quality that I see in pieces that people submit rather proudly. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Part of how I make my living is based upon coaching people about how to improve their writing.
But I guess that I’m a little taken aback by the fact that there are free and easy services that people can take advantage of before they send their “best work” to someone who is going to charge them to fix errors that they could have fixed for free.
I mean, really. Let’s look at it from another angle. Let’s pretend that I was going to try to sell my house this year.
I could hire someone to come over and make a long list of things that I need to do before I put my house on the market. I could pay that same person to contract the jobs out:
- to begin culling through the piles of junk we have accumulated, relegating it either to the dumpster or a storage space,
- to repaint that neon green kid bedroom to a neutral eggshell,
- to replace the carpet that our menagerie has destroyed,
- to rip off the dated kitchen backsplash and replace it with the oh-so-trendy-but-creatively-anemic subway tile,
and so forth.
Or I could do a little research on my own. With a few quick Google searches:
- I could find some checklists created by realtors about the home improvements that offer you the best return on investment before you sell.
- I could find a slew of people raving about shiplap — which I swear will be the laughable hallmark of this decorating era, one day going the way of the avocado or harvest gold kitchen appliances and mylar-enhanced wallpaper from our grandparents’ era.
- And I could find countless Pinterest boards about how to neutralize your home decor for maximum impact for showings and open houses.
All for free.
So getting back to the topic of submitting drafts and manuscripts for evaluation, I think that every writer should at least entertain the use of one tool before they ever pass a copy of their work to a writing coach or make a pitch for publication. That tool is Grammarly.
(By the way, this is just my opinion. And no, I’m not getting any compensation from them to express this opinion.)
For people who love to write (or have to write, for school or work) but sometimes struggle with spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure, this free tool is a lifesaver. You can copy-paste anything into a window on their site to have basic errors corrected. Here’s an example of what it does:
You can even tailor it to help you with the type of writing you do most often, or to help you learn what your most frequent errors are. Sweet!
Granted, there are people on this planet who write so well that this tool would be superfluous. If you’re one of them, congratulations!
If you’re not sure if you’re one of them, I challenge you to find a recent sample of your writing to copy-paste into Grammarly’s window. Take a look at the suggestions provided. You might dismiss one or two, but in general the feedback will be quite accurate.
When you send writing to someone that is full of errors, your spectacular content or storyline are overshadowed as the reader fights to get past the wall of mistakes you should have corrected first.
It’s not much different than hiring a famous home staging expert — but leaving pet stains on your carpet.
And who would do that, right?
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