While my skills of expression are okay, being able to observe errors within my own writing is truly lacking. The only methods I've found to be of real use are long-time periods in between reviews, if I find one error I restart the review from the beginning per error found, and using text to voice played at the same rate as my rate of reading.

Are there any "modern" methods or state of the art tools for proofing copy? Given how much I write, and enjoy writing, I'm willing to invest in any application if the return on the quality of error detection is high.

Also, while outsourcing copy checks might be an option for some, it's not a good fit for my needs as large amounts of material I author are for use only by the parties who commissioned the work.

  • 2
    Just a suggestion : find some writers group and ask if anyone is in a similar position. If they seem fairly sane ask if you could do reciprocal proof-reading.
    – Wudang
    Dec 16, 2011 at 20:11

2 Answers 2


So you need a non-human external proofreader? Good luck with that.

There are some websites that may help, but I think it's going to come down to human eyes, in the end. But before that, you could try good old MS Word's spelling and grammar check. It's often wrong, but it's right often enough that you should at least consider its suggestions. I've also heard good things about Stylewriter, but the few times I've used it myself, I didn't find it significantly better than MS Word.

But that doesn't mean that technology can't help you proofread for yourself. Play with the font (size and style and colour), change the columns, even change the screen if you can (read on your e-reader, for example) as a way to freshen your perspective without waiting quite as long between readings.

You may also want to use some text-to-speech software to have the work read to you. You'll pick up on things through your ears that your eyes allow you to gloss over. (Obviously this won't catch homonyms or some other errors).

For non-technical tricks, try printing out your work, reading it backward, and learning and starting to search out the most common errors that you make so you can work to catch them more efficiently.

  • +1 @Kate Sherwood: Beyond MS-Word, which I've found to be more confusing than of use, I've tried WhiteSmoke, which was not as you might expect a huge leap better than MS-Word; spelling wise Google is 100x better than MS-Word. As I stated in the question, text-to-voice is in fact one of the few ways I do find of use. I've thought of, and tried to log common errors, but there really does not appear to be a 20/80 pattern to them and managing/referencing them after a short amount of time becomes more overhead than it's worth.
    – blunders
    Dec 17, 2011 at 0:47
  • Guess I asked in part to make sure there had not been a leap in NLP related to proof reading that I was not aware of. I've tried the e-reader idea before, clearly not a great place to be editing text, and I try to print as little out as possible; though years ago I would and it was a huge waste. Thanks for the feedback though, asked in part just to confirm there nothing of note I haven't tried before.
    – blunders
    Dec 17, 2011 at 0:47
  • 1
    Sorry, I missed the text-to-speech in your question.
    – Kate S.
    Dec 17, 2011 at 0:55
  • Not a big deal, other item of interest I tried in the past that didn't help, though was interesting was a speed reading system that displayed only a set number of words at a time, though it didn't increase the rate or volume of of errors I'd find; think in fact I was finding less errors.
    – blunders
    Dec 17, 2011 at 1:10

I saw that you mentioned Whitesmoke in the comments, and one of the advantages of it over MS Word is that Whitesmoke can also check grammar and excessive use of words or phrases. There are a number of other software tools out there that do similar things, but ultimately you need to decide if it really makes things any easier for you. I found a review of ten writing enhancement tools that provides a side-by-side comparison of the different features available in each. This would be a good place to look for help in areas in which you may have a particular weakness.

Outside of using software, a suggestion I have seen that has worked for other people is to do your editing in a larger font. Seeing the text in larger format sometimes makes things stand out a little better. I've also seen suggestions to just read your work out loud yourself, as opposed to using a text to speech converter. This allows you to hear your content in your own voice, and then compare that to the voice inside your head that first came up with the ideas.

Utlimately, if you have a solid grasp of the language and understand different writing styles, you'll probably do better on your own. If you are writing in English as a second language and need help making sure that the grammar is correct, then one of these software products might be more useful.

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