Friday, August 7, 2015

Why Spellcheck Sucks


I love writing in a program that indicates my spelling and grammar mistakes. It helps when I’m on my seventh read-through of my own book and have to get through it even though I’ve all but glazed over at the jumble of my own words.

Google Docs will give me spelling advice, and I love to use it when working on project pieces with Kate for Blogging Your Book. But my go-to program is MS Word.

In lieu of having an editor on staff (because, well, I’m an indie author so let’s get real about the level of income that’s happening in this office, huh?) I can rely on Word to give me similar suggestions as an editor when I’m doing my first read-through.

Or can I?

Take, for example, the following sentence that I wrote for a personal blog post about 3 years ago:

“Regardless that Stephanie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

Notice the spelling mistake? Yeah, well neither did Word. Or my brain while I was typing it or when I did my read-through after pasting the text into my blog post.

Because that line should read:

“Regardless that Stephenie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

If you aren’t familiar with her work you might have done something similar to what I did and just typed her first name the way that name is generally spelled. I wasn’t really thinking, I was lost in a Twilight haze and since it was spelled “correctly”, Word didn’t flag it.

People have spelled my name wrong too. The most common is Jen because that’s the usual way people spell it, not with 2 n’s. But I’ve also seen Jenn Flynn-Shonn – 2 n’s for everyone!

It wasn’t until the post came out that I noticed my error, then made the necessary edit. Luckily, my blog wasn’t super popular so I’m pretty sure nobody noticed except me. Still, I was partially mortified. I mean, I’m an author too and it makes me cringe when people spell my name wrong so how could I get the name of a famous local author wrong?!

But these things happen, right?

Sure, and it’s why, as fiction writers, we need an editor!

Editors and proofreaders will help you to ensure as few spelling and grammar mistakes as possible. But they leave your voice alone. They still let you tell your story in your way, just, better. More polished.

And proofreaders will help you reign in where you typed ‘an’ instead of ‘and’, where you missed the word ‘to’ in the narrative, or when your character is ‘charging if the front door’.

These pros are an invaluable asset, especially for an indie who has probably read their own book so many times the prose is blurring together in one big glob of letters.

However, I’m sure you’ve noticed the myriad of these pros scattered about the internet and social media sites. So how can you know if the pro really is a pro, not just a fly-by-nighter trying to make a quick buck with no real experience behind them?

Here’s my criteria when looking for someone to help polish my books:

  • They must be a reader (bonus if they read my specific genre).
  • They must have a website.
  • That website must look and feel professional, and be easy to navigate.
  • It also shouldn’t have any spelling mistakes (hello, red flag!).
  • They have to understand modern fiction (because sometimes we have to dangle participles or end a sentence with a preposition in order to stay true to a character’s voice, but we also shouldn’t make a habit of it.)
  • Their fees should be reasonable (we’re talking Goldilocks Zone here, people – one cent per 100 words isn’t realistic but neither is $50 per page, for a 500 page book, as a proofreader).
  • At least one book in their portfolio (I don’t care if it was written by their BFF, mom, brother, I want references and examples of the kind of work they can do before I fork over my “baby” and all that moolah!)
  • They get back to me in a reasonable amount of time (because I don’t expect a response in 10 minutes but it should be less than 72 hours or I’ll question how much attention they can give their clients – fostering a relationship is key to repeat business).


Bottom line, don’t rely on spellcheck and grammar checks in programs to bring that finished quality to your fiction. Hire the right people and your investment will pay off in the professionalism of your work!


Do you have an editor or proofer you use on the regular? I’ll be looking for a new one for my next book and would love suggestions. Leave their twitter ID in the comments or come on over and connect with me on twitter

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