Editing your own documents, blog posts, social media posts, and email is difficult. In addition to editing for spelling and grammar, you need to review word choice, consistency, citation formatting and more. Is your writing clear and free of errors that could distract your reader? It is difficult to effectively edit your own words because you know what you meant! Fortunately, there are several tools available to help you edit and refine your writing.
Learning Tools in Word
Microsoft Word in Office 365 has a feature called Learning Tools that helps you review your writing by adding line focus to reduce distractions. You can adjust the focus to one, three, or five lines in view at a time and change the page color to sepia to reduce the glare of the white background. You can adjust text spacing between words, characters, and lines to make it easier to read and break down syllables in words. There is a “Read Aloud” feature that reads the document and highlights each word as it goes. You can adjust the reading speed with keyboard shortcuts. To find these tools go to View > Learning Tools in the Immersive group. To make it easier to remember to use it right click on the icon and select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar”.
The free version of Grammarly mimics the functionality of the grammar and spell-checking tools in Microsoft Office. However, Grammarly extends beyond the Office suite to your desktop and your browser. It is available as a browser extension so you can easily check blog posts, social media posts, and online comments. It also works with Gmail, Google Docs, and other online applications like Slack. The Premium features, available for $140 per year, look for advanced issues like inconsistent writing style, unclear sentence structure, overused words, vocabulary choice, “hedging and needless qualifiers”, non-inclusive language, and tone. Grammarly opens as a separate panel in a document and appears as a floating green symbol in the browser.
Legal writing expert Gary Kinder created Wordrake to help you “tighten, tone, and clarify” your writing. Available as a plugin for Microsoft Word and Outlook, this editing tool works on Macs and PCs. This tool does not check for spelling and grammar but rather suggests ways to improve the clarity of your writing. It checks for unclear phrasing and advises on the removal of extraneous words that can muddy your message. The plugin adds a tab to the Word or Outlook ribbon. Click on it, select the text you want to edit, and click “rake”. The edits appear as redlining so it is easy to work through the document and accept or reject the suggested changes. Wordrake costs $129 for Word or $199 for Word and Outlook for one year. There is a free 7-day trial to try it out. They also have a useful blog with lots of great writing tips.
PerfectIt Legal Styles
From a company called Intelligent Editing, the PerfectIt editor is a Microsoft Word plugin that works with any version of Word on a PC and in Word on a Mac with Office 365. This editing tool checks for a consistent presentation of abbreviations and makes sure that the abbreviation is defined the first time it appears. It also checks for consistent hyphenation, consistency in capitalization in a bulleted list, and table punctuation. The newest version also checks for consistent use (or abuse) of the Oxford comma. PerfectIt includes legal writing and style rules, including checking Bluebook citation formatting and enforcing style and formatting rules from Bryan Garner’s The Red Book and Black’s Law Dictionary. It also checks for legal-specific typos. PerfectIt opens in a separate task pane in Word and the user performs checks and tests on the document. The cost for a single user is $70 per year and there is a 14-day free trial. For Teams, PerfectIt has options to enforce a “house style” to create shared style sheets and includes a list of avoided phrases and enforces style preferences so that all writers in the firm consistently use the same voice.
With all these editing tools at your disposal, you can add polish to your documents without having to ask for help from someone else.