Knowing when to use "your" vs. "you're" is an essential component of a freelance writer's job—and, for some, a part of their identity. It's reasonable that writers are irritated when a machine believes it can do a better job.
But there's more to people's aversion to using automatic writing tools than ego. When it comes to mastering new technologies, there is often a mental barrier to overcome. But we writers can't do it all on our own: discover employment, research, pitch, interview, write, rinse, and repeat. We shouldn't have to do that. If we can get past the Lone Ranger mentality, some surprise tools are out there that can help writers be more creative, precise, and prolific.
Here are three writing tools that have won over skeptics and improved freelancers' work.
Grammarly: For the benefit of the second set of eyes
Ann Handley, a published author, and the chief content officer at MarketingProfs, was initially skeptical of the Grammarly browser extension. The digital writing assistant makes grammar suggestions based on artificial intelligence and natural language processing. "I have a human editor who goes through everything with me. "Why would I require this?" says the narrator. Handley pondered the question.
Handley has since altered her mind. Grammarly frequently assists her in identifying issues before her editor does, which speeds up the editing process. "It's great to have someone looking over my shoulder," she added, "as much as I'll read and reread and change things about and get persnickety with my writing."
On Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites, as well as on your computer and other devices, Grammarly may check your work. You can personalize it, and it's simple to learn.
If you're already paying attention to your grammar, Grammarly will work best for you. While it may miss context-specific details, it excels at detecting common blunders such as repetitive language, confusing modifiers, run-on sentences, incorrect punctuation, and more. Facing a battle against a machine can also be enjoyable for some. Handley, a seasoned writer, said she enjoyed going against Grammarly's recommendations on occasion.
"It gives me pleasure to reject Grammarly outright if it informs me I spelled anything wrong but did it for effect," Handley remarked. "I have the luxury of knowing the rule and being able to break it."
Scrivener: This allows you to weave together your writing resources.
Files with PDFs, random audio files, and sixteen draft documents. When writers are piecing together longer articles, books, or scripts, they often need to assemble hundreds of pieces. Scrivener makes it easy to organize everything.
When science journalist Stephani Sutherland discovered she was drowning in bits and pieces while attempting to write a book proposal in late 2019, she knew something had to change. She heard other freelancers talking about Scrivener about the same time and decided to give it a shot. She was hesitant to test out a new gadget at first, but now she's hooked. "I'm delighted I put money into it," she remarked. "I used it to draft a book proposal and thought to myself, 'Oh my God, this is incredible.'"
While learning a new platform can be intimidating at first, Scrivener's online courses made it quite simple. Sutherland's efforts were rewarded once she got the hang of the software. She was able to weave documents together and organize all of her files and notes in one location.
Scrivener has a number of templates to choose from. You may simply hop from one piece of a project to the next, editing one chunk at a time or the entire thing. You can also separate parts and sew them back together in any way you like. You may import research from other files, programs, PDFs, and web pages using this tool. There's also a digital "corkboard" to help you keep track of your ideas.
"When I think back on how I used to do things, it looks crazy and terribly clumsy," Sutherland remarked.
PerfectIt: For proofreading
Adrienne Montgomerie is a science editor who mostly works on instructional materials, technical reports, and training collateral. She previously refused to use automated writing programs for her work since she didn't trust them. "[Algorithms] are frequently poor at interpreting English phrases or finding homonyms and synonyms," she explained. "I get a lot of 'right angles' in my work when it should be 'right angles.'"
Montgomerie discovered PerfectIt, a tool for testing consistency and adherence to style rules, six years ago in a Facebook editors' forum. She used it for the first time on a 300-page parenting manual for new mothers.
Montgomerie said, "'Breast feeding' was worded three distinct ways, with instances appearing hundreds of pages apart." "PerfectIt figured out all of the spelling variants and asked how I wanted it done. With my clientele, it made me look like a hero."
Editors can also post their customized style sheets on a community forum using the site. Users can change their settings to reflect certain punctuation, spelling, blacklisted terms, and other stylistic choices. Montgomerie explained, "I can share a style sheet with colleagues in an organization and keep everyone on the same page."
After an hour-long tutorial, Montgomerie was able to master the features. There was a learning curve with PerfectIt, even though she could use it "straight out of the box." She didn't realize that the software initially only checks for consistency. She explained, "I had to learn how to configure my preferences and develop a style sheet." She confesses that because the software is "endlessly adaptable," she hasn't mastered all of its intricacies.
Nonetheless, writing programs like Scrivener have made Montgomerie's job easier. She now runs PerfectIt on all of her files. "I could survive without it, but doing things would take longer and be of poorer quality."
These three useful writing tools were able to sway reluctant freelancers.