Writing and editing with digital tools
Use your computer
There’s a whole host of digital tools out there to make life easier for writers and editors. Some are free. Others go for a few dollars. Fully fledged all-purpose programs can cost you $100 and more.
In fact, it doesn’t make sense NOT to use what your computer offers you out of the box, no matter how little writing or rewriting you need to do in your everyday life.
I have compared several commercial writing aids, using the same four texts throughout:
- a collection of error-ridden sentences from the U.K. Open University’s manual Plain English,
- a one-page collection of the 20 most common errors that U.S. university students make in essays,
- an article I wrote for a website, and
- an academic paper commemorating the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth.
McLuhan, you may remember, famously declared “the medium is the message”, though in later life he was wont to joke “the tedium is the message”. I’ll try not to make these sections too tedious.
Here are the texts
- Plain English
- Twenty errors (1)
- Website article
- Paper on McLuhan (Word document/PDF/HTML – not recommended)
Not surprisingly, the recommendation has to be that you hire a live professional proofreader or editor for any reputation-critical texts you are preparing. Costs for online services seem to be about $9.50 for a 275-word page and $6.25 a page for proofreading with a seven-day turnaround. Double the price for a 24-hour turnaround. If you need something within 90 minutes, count on 10 cents a word with a maximum of 800 words (i.e. up to $80).
A local proofreader can cost you CHF800 a day. Even so, you will get much more than punctuation and style-checking from a good one, and it will be worth the money. Proof-readers can't do it all day. I have to take frequent breaks to ensure I don't lose concentration and let errors through. I have to pause after every couple of pages to be sure. I'm lucky to get three hours work out of my day, i.e. 12 pages = 3000 words = $300, though the official rate is $120 an hour for full editing.
That said, any of these digital proofreaders and grammar-checkers can save you money by requiring less time from a paid proofreader/editor for your texts and for day-to-day production of texts they can provide a fail-safe for any busy person.