Enlist the Power of the Grammar & Spelling Checker

For Marianne and others of us fighting trolls in our writing, we’ll take active help in our battles.

One powerful weapon in our word processing software can do more than make our words look pretty.  A special element in the software can not only check spelling and grammar but also determine the number of passive sentences.

While passive sentences can be necessary trolls, usually we writers fight to keep our sentences active.  Active subjects create power on the page.

This gadgety element gives you the Reading Ease for any document.

Newspapers are often written at a 6th grade reading level.

Consider these authors:

  • Cormac McCarthy writes at a 5th grade level.
  • J.K. Rowling = The first Harry Potter is close to 6th grade.  The last is close to 8th grade.
  • Stephen King = 6th grade level.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien = 6th.
  • John Grisham = 6th.
  • Tolstoy = 8th.
  • Michael Crichton = close to 9th.
  • The Affordable Care Act = 12th.
  • KJV Bible >> This can cause controversy because several websites list everywhere from 5.8 grade to 12th.  That might occur because some books are easier than others:  Compare Ecclesiastes to Isaiah.

I don’t remember who first said this wonderful statement, and the internet failed my search. (Surprise!  The internet does NOT have all the answers.)  But . . .

“It doesn’t take a genius to make something hard.  It takes a genius to make something easy.”

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is a wonderfully rich allegory with symbolic dreams and lyrical passages . . . and is written at a 4th grade reading level.

Quality of writing is not in “big words”.  Obfuscation obscures;  clarity reveals.

Quality of writing is in approach, perspective, craft.  Remember, we are in writing to communicate.

The next time you wonder if you are “showing off” rather than communicating, find out by checking the reading level.

Step 1: Go to FILE > OPTIONS.

Step 2: Select PROOFING.

Step 3: Click the box “Show Readability Statistics” so that it has a check mark.

Step 4: Click OK.

You are almost ready to rock.

Step 5: In the ribbon across the top, select REVIEW.

Step 6: To the far left is a big check mark and the words “Spelling & Grammar”. Click it.

Run the proofing check, accepting or ignoring changes as the software offers it.

When complete, you will have a pop-up window called “Readability Statistics” with all sorts of information.

Number of words, paragraphs, sentences.

Words per sentence.  Characters per word.

Most importantly, you will have the percentage of Passive Sentences, Reading Ease, and Grade Level.

Have fun checking your writing.

And don’t strive for a scholarly, erudite tone unless you want to impress a college professor.

 

 

 

Grammar Phobia vs. Grammar Snobbery

Viral.

Definition 1:  relating to a virus, a disease that poisons the system.

Definition 2: relating to any media that circulates widely on the web.

Late April 2016:  a video blog (vlog) from The Guardian earned the “viral” cachet when the presenting editor inferred that grammar rules are made by the white, highly-educated segment of the population, and thus grammar rules are designed to be prejudiced against those who break them.

You can see the vlog here: Grammar Snobbery Vilified

What?  Wait.  Standard English rules are prejudiced?

No.

Actually, what the vlog editor inferred is that grammar helps communication, but some people become snobs when applying the rules.

Look, here it is, in 13 Points.

  1. Communication is both non-verbal and verbal, and verbal means spoken and written.
  2. The audience needs guides to follow communication.
  3. Those guides help the audience “read” spoken and written communication.
  4. The guides became standardized into common rules to assist communication.
  5. Certain rules that actually confuse communication became imposed on the English language. One confusing rule was made famous by Winston Churchill.  About the preposition at the end of sentences, he said, “That is a rule up with which I will not put.”
  6. The common rules became a mark of the highly-educated ~~ they usually were also the wealthy in the established (predominant) culture. Business primarily wants those who present the best image (non-verbal communication) to their clientele.
  7. In order to help those not in the upper echelons of society, the teaching of the common rules became a mainstay of the curriculum. [Originally, rhetoric (communicating to persuade) was the mainstay.]  Thus, the teaching of the rules was designed to assist the lower strata of society escape dead-end jobs.
  8. Imposition of the grammar rules by certain grammar snobs gave grammar phobia to the many who were learning the rules.
  9. We have forgotten that the rules are guides for communication—and that communication creates community through commonality.
  10. Commonality is necessary for community and is not antagonistic to diversity.
  11. Diversity in communication keeps the audience interested.
  12. Too much diversity, however, may obscure communication.
  13. Any communicator’s believability (credibility, ethos) is based on how well s/he communicates.
The Editor from The Guardian :: Does she have the final word on grammar rules? Or will the rules remain to aid communication?

Did you notice that the presenter explained her points in Standard English with an upper class accent and fully rounded tones?

Even as she debunked grammar snobbery, she proves she is a proponent of grammar rules for improved communication.

This vlog from The Guardian reinforces the blogs on Writers’ Ink Books:  grammar should not disrupt communication.  We use grammar to increase communication, not to browbeat others.

As writers, we use grammar to manipulate our readers’ impressions of our works.

We can enchant with lyricism.

We can convert with suasion.

We can entertain.

Or we can turn off our reader.

Look at the vlog.  Would you believe this denunciation of grammar snobbery if she broke numerous grammar rules?  Or is she more persuasive because she follows the grammar rules?

Ah, we agree with her ~~ grammar snobbery is wrong.

Old Geeky Greeks

Blood tragedies.  Atonement.  Harry Potter.

I, Robot.  Ironman.  Hubris.

The 13th Warrior.  The scariest woman in all literature.  The Hobbit.

Dudley Dooright.  5 Stages of the Hero . . . and the Monster.  Jurassic Park, in all its iterations.

What does this oddly-matched list have in common?  All have origins with the ancient Greeks and Romans.

The first writers developed techniques to influence their audiences.  Through an early look at what worked and what didn’t, they laid the foundation for writers today.  Many techniques of these old geeky Greeks are still in use, re-packaged as glittery infographics and Wham-Pow webinars, three-point seminars and exclusive insights to Buy Now!

Old Geeky Greeks: Write Stories with Ancient Techniques presents techniques such as the Blood Tragedy and dulce et utile in a clear, organized method for writers who want to write rather than invest hours getting three snippets of information.

Chapters in OGG cover understanding characters to the five stages that established the modern protagonist from the ancient hero.

Aristotle’s requirements for plot precede a survey of the oldest plot formula, the Blood (or Revenge) Tragedy.

Concepts such as in medias res and dulce et utile can help writers solve sticky problems and develop new ideas.

Old Geeky Greeks (and Romans) tried to understand the writing sense that emerged from the chaos.  They looked at successful plays and other story-telling methods to determine what influenced the audience.

Which characters were still talked about weeks and months after a performance?  Which play structures failed—and which were consistently winners?  Which ideas helped writers develop their celebrated writings?

Writers today are still searching for the answers to these questions.

The bright minds of Classical Antiquity first explored these questions, and their answers are applicable in the age of the internet, open-source software, special effects, and infographics.

Aristotle, Seneca, Plato, Horace, and many other ancient geeks have their ideas matched to Harry Potter, Avatar, Last of the Mohicans, and Shakespeare.

Whether we’re writing novels or plays, blogs or non-fiction, poems and songs, Old Geeky Greeks is a seminar in 28,000 words.

WIS: Manuscript Guidance

7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript

Do you need a little manuscript guidance for electronic publication?  Here are two lists you need to use as a checklist.

1. You know you need a title.  Did you know you also need a Boilerplate?

The boilerplate is a unit of writing to be re-used over and over without change.  You will find it on the back side of the title page in any printed book and on the page following the title in any electronic book.

A boilerplate gives copyright information as well as any other publication information.  Who controls your copyright?  Who can reproduce this work–if anyone at all–with permission from you?  While this statement is such standard procedure, you probably have never noticed it.  Use any book to determine what you need to have.

2. Beneath the boilerplate you should have a disclaimer:  “All characters in this book are fictitious. . . .”

This protective statement lets people know you used your imagination.  While your inciting situation might be “ripped from the headlines”, the book itself is the work of your brain, not a dry statement of the facts.

3. Acknowledgement / Dedication:  Did someone give you help?  Proofreader?  Cover designer? Or even just watched the babies so you could write?  Thank them.  

As William Shakespeare said, “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”  Your dedication gives them life as long as your acknowledgement page is available.

4. Other Books by You:  This list is shameless self-promotion.  Remember, always vote for yourself.

In a printed book this list occurs before the title page.  In electronic, it is best after the title page or (even better) at the end of the manuscript.

Many indie writers also run promotions for their other books by providing blurbs (abbreviated summaries).

5. Table of Contents

In any good word software, you can locate the table of contents in the references toolbar.  Really great software allows the TOC to be hyperlinked.  Readers can click the TOC to go anywhere in your book.

Yes, I myself once thought the TOC a waste of time.  With electronic publishing and hyperlink ability, I have been proven wrong.  Thanks to all the people who pointed it out.

6. Chapter Headings and Page Breaks

Use headings in your home toolbar to set up your chapter headings.  The TOC will pick up on the common headings to create itself.

Page breaks are another matter.  You don’t want these in the TOC.  Devise a method to show the switch of scene or character viewpoint within a chapter.  A variety of symbols abound;  whichever you select, be uniform.

7. A Book of your book :: What?

A Book of your book is a Master Book.  In it you keep all of your background work:  character information, plot guides, special information, maps, images, etc.

This Master Book will guide you whenever you decide to return to your manuscript.  Deciding to write a sequel?  The Master Book should have everything you need.

Much of the information in the Master Book will never make it into your book.  That’s as it should be.  We want to avoid info-dump.

 

Simple Procedure for Preparing a Manuscript to be Published on Kindle

Go for 10!

1.Read the article above entitled “7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript”, and make sure your MS has these.

2. Use the most common 10 fonts:  Times New Roman, Arial, Baskerville, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Palatino, Trebuchet, and Verdana.

We all have our favorite fonts.  Some of these (Courier) are downright ugly.  While you may prefer a different font, these 10 create no problems across multiple platforms when reading on a narrow or small screen.

3.Avoid fancy & charming glyphs and special images.

Even the smallest image adds to the size of the file you will upload.  Amazon KDP has special content that you can read which will explain this in more detail.

A few–such as those for chapter headings–do add grace to the MS.  Be certain that their format is acceptable.

If you are desperate to add special touches, consult a book designer who will understand not only the acceptable types of image files but also how large such files can be–as well as how image files can disrupt the flow of your words.

4. Use Page Break for any new section.

Page Break to reach the TOC.  Page Break to reach Chapter 1.  And Page Break to reach Chapter 2.  etc.

Otherwise, let the text flow on by itself.

5.  And let the text flow on by itself.

Don’t use “enter” when you reach the end of a line on your computer screen.  Only hit “enter” on the keyboard when you want a new paragraph.  Your software will default to have the next paragraph indent itself:  let it.

6. Turn off these three things in the “Paragraph Settings”:

  •  Check the box that says “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same type”.  You only have spaces between paragraphs in business documents. Yes, I know your software automatically defaults to this.  Your software, however, was developed for business, not for writers in the entertainment industry.
  •  At the top of that pop-up window, select “Line and Page Breaks”.  Also on that screen, UNcheck “widow/orphan control” and “keep with next”.  These two UNchecks will prevent big gaps at the bottom of some of your pages.

7. Two spaces after a period or one?

This simple question still causes controversy.  Pick which way you want, and stick with it.

The use of two spaces does create a larger gap between sentences.  When reading on a narrow / small screen, this can look awkward.  Most writers have gone to one space between sentences.

However, have you noticed that when you text or email, if you double-space, the period automatically inserts itself?  Two spaces may be coming back.

8. Using Grammar / Spell Check is not enough.  Print out and proofread your manuscript.

And don’t read from the screen.

As sophisticated as current software is, it is still not great.  Believe it or not, you will find more errors on a sheet of paper than you will on a computer screen.

If you don’t feel up to the task, hire a proofreader. (Shameless promotion :: Writers’ Ink has a proofreading service.)  Whatever you do, don’t let a MS out there with “vial” when you mean “vile”.  Please.  I’m serious. It’s a huge turn-off to your reader.

9. Find out your Readability Statistics and Passive Sentence Percentages.

Go to File > Options > Proofing and check the box that says “Readability Statistics”.  After you run a grammar / spell check (and yes, I would still do this.  The machine does catch some things.),  a window will pop up that will tell you the MS’s reading level and number of passive sentences.

Most readers are comfortable at a 7th to 9th grade reading level.  The majority of American newspapers were once geared to a 6th grade reading level.  That’s not a bad thing.  You want to reach as many people as possible.  Don’t impress your reader with BIG words;  impress them with your IDEAS.

Passive sentences are to be avoided.  Try to keep them below 15%.

10. Save your eyes.

They’re the windows to your future as a writer.

You are working an arms-length between eyes and screen, right?

Get amber-tinted glasses or turn on “Night Shade”;  save the cones and rods in your eyes.  Plenty of evidence has emerged that blue-tinted light (especially at night) not only disrupts sleep but causes problems for your eyes’ functioning.  The amber helps to prevent that blurring which represents damage from over-strain.

And use the magnification in your software.  Ramp the size of the text on screen up as far as you need to see without strain.

Finally, take breaks from staring at the screen.  15 minutes for every 45.  If you can’t find anything to do during that time, take a walk.  Not only your eyes but also your tush will thank you.

 

WIS: Prices for Proofing & Editing

Pricing

Proofreading and Editing Services

While no one can guarantee to catch 100% of errors, Writers’ Ink has over 35 years of experience in catching mistakes in manuscripts.  Our proofreading and editing services will not only find errors you may not have seen but also plot holes and character discrepancies.

Provide us with a copy of your MS*.  Priced depending on the length, we will proofread and correct mistakes in spelling, usage, and most punctuation.  (Since some punctuation is a matter of style or a reading assistance, we will not remove these marks of punctuation.)

Proofreading finds simple errors in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage, and simple grammar errors.  We understand that dialogue may not be grammatically  correct.

  • Proofreading is only done for manuscripts that are considered complete.
  • If, while proofreading, we discover content editing problems, we will notify you and re-negotiate.
  • If you wish us to continue with Content Editing, that cost will be applied.  Our task will convert to content editor as opposed to proofreader.   Content errors will need to be revised prior to the completion of proofreading.

Content Editing looks for plot holes, character discrepancies, and illogical problems (a character on the East Coast who at 7 a.m. calls someone on the West Coast who is eating breakfast on their sunny patio.  This is not possible.  The West Coast is four hours behind the East Coast.  That would be 3 a.m. their time.  Writers Ink has seen this problem not picked up by other Content Editors.)

Developmental Editing:  for poetry and Non-Fiction only.  Even though we are helping you “develop” your writing, we do not ask for credit on the title page.  You are the writer;  we are looking for ways to improve the ideas you are communicating.

  • In a poetry series, developmental editing will look for thematic arcs and suggest line structure possibilities.  We will note change words although we may suggest such changes.  We will consider the sequence of poems in a series.  We have over 35 years of analyzing, explicating, and teaching poetry by the masters.  We understand that poetry is a special art form.
  • In Non-Fiction,  logical sequence and explanation & elaboration on themes, topics, and subjects will be considered.  We have over 40 years writing nonfiction as well as teaching the nonfiction form to students.

Cost of Proofreading

$250.00 for the first 100 pages (standard font, approximately 250-285 words per page, 1-inch margins all around)

$50.00 for each additional 50 pages

For a manuscript of more than 500 pages, please contact us with the completed length for a different price.

Cost of Content (Line) Editing

$300.00 for the first 100 pages

$75.00 for each additional 50 pages

Cost of Developmental Editing for Poetry

$300.00 for 100 pages

$100.00 for each additional 50 pages

 

*We do not work in the genres of horror, psychological thrillers, and erotica or soft porn.