Sometimes we make errors in our writing that are hard to spot. This may be because we misuse words and don’t fully understand how they should be used, but sometimes we simply get a sort of word blindness.
We know what we want to say and we know what we mean, so when we read what we have written, we see the meaning and not the actual words on the screen or on paper. A typing slip or a missed word is not seen because our brains automatically fix the typo and fill in the missing word.
This is why there are proof-readers and editors. A different pair of eyes looking over what we have written can often spot our mistakes better than we can.
When you have an important report to write for work, an essay for school or a job application, it is a good idea to check it carefully. You don’t need a subeditor or proof reader and there are tools that can do the job for you.
If you use Microsoft Word for example, it can check the spelling, grammar and readability of the text. In this guide I am using Word in Office 2016, but this feature has been in Word for many years and it is in previous versions of the word processor.
1 Go to Word’s options
Write your document in Word or load it from disk. Before checking the document, first we must check that the settings are correct. Sometimes they are not and they need adjusting. Click File in the top left corner and then click Options.
2 Set the proofing options
In the Word Options window, select Proofing on the left and on the right near the bottom are the writing aids, Tick all the options. Sometimes Show readability statistics is note turned on, so make sure the box is ticked.
3 Enable grammar settings
Down at the bottom is a Settings button next to Writing Style: Grammar. Click the button to open a window that contains a list of errors that Word can spot. Make sure that all the items are ticked.
4 Review your document
The grammar settings only need to be set once and they are remembered. From now on you can just go straight to the Review tab and click Spelling & Grammar. Word checks these on the fly and underlines spelling mistakes in red and poor grammar in green. However, you should click Spelling & Grammar anyway.
5 View the analysis
After checking the spelling and making any necessary corrections, the document is analysed and the results are displayed.
The Readability section is useful and it displays the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. What are these?
Flesch Reading Ease: This is basically how easy the text is to read and a score of 100 is very easy. So easy a child could read it. A score of 50 would indicate that the text is hard to read. It is calculated by examining the number of words in each sentence and the number of syllables in each word.
Shorter sentences are easier to read and raise the score. Shorter words with fewer syllables are easier to read, too. Both of these statistics are shown in the Averages section in the Readability Statistics window (above). If necessary, shorten some of the longer sentences to make the average smaller, and choose shorter simpler words. Get that Flesch Reading Ease score higher.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: This is another calculation based on the number of words in sentences and the number of syllables. The resulting figure is the US grade level. Another way of looking at it is the number of years of education in school that someone needs in order to read the text.
Lower scores are better because it indicates that the text is easier to read. Shorten the longest sentences, perhaps by breaking them into two, and replace long words with lots of syllables with shorter and simpler ones.
For more information on these two scores, read the Wikipedia article.