Grammarly, your personal proofreading app

 

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Photo by PDPics on Pixabay.com

 

I kept seeing ads for Grammarly but put off using it because I figured I didn’t need it.

Then I remembered a proofreading test on a content site that I write for that I’ve tried to pass three times. I failed miserably 3 times. To pass the test, you need to get 9 out of 10 short proofreading assignments right. I kept getting only 2 or 3 right.  This frustrated and astounded me at the same time. It also illustrated that not all writers can be proofreaders.

But I got curious. I downloaded the free version of Grammarly and ran the proofreading test through the program. Grammarly got 7 out of 10 right.  I would bet money that the upgraded version would have passed the test.

I decided to keep using Grammarly for all of my writing. I use it for emails, Facebook posts, blog posts, and cover letters.  The software catches errors that my naked eye likely would have missed.  It checks grammar, spelling, sentence structure, comma usage and more. You can download the app to function in your browser and in Microsoft Word. The upgrade has plagiarism software and catches more advanced linguistic errors.

When you hover over an error, which is underlined in red, you can correct that one error or enter the Grammarly workspace.  This workspace shows all of your errors and offers corrections.

Grammarly also sends you a weekly progress report and shows you how you compare statistically to other Grammarly users. My report is below.

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My report stated that I wrote more words than 98% of Grammarly users. I also had a 98% larger vocabulary and 27% better accuracy.

But the progress report isn’t only to pat you on the back.

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The report also tells me where I can improve and provides links to finding more information about my weaknesses.  My areas in need of improvement include missing commas in compound sentences, using squinting modifiers, and unnecessary ellipsis.

What began as an experiment turned out to be a discovery of a new tool in my writer’s toolkit to catch errors and improve on my weaknesses. In the near future, as I get closer to taking on larger writing projects, I will invest in the upgrade. I believe it’s $19.99 per month but don’t quote me on that. Check it out for yourself. Give the free version a try and see if it can help you be a better writer and act as your proofreading helper.

George Orwell & Empathy

A timely post by wordandsilence.com.

 

I’m familiar with George Orwell, specifically “Animal Farm,” but his 1937 book “The Road to Wigan Pier” is one that I never read. Orwell’s timing is remarkable. He writes “if war breaks out it (coal) is needed all the more. In time of revolution, the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal.”

 

A year and a half after this book was published, WW2 began, despite some conflicts on smaller scales prior to 1939. I can only imagine from a miner’s perspective, suspecting that war was on the horizon across Europe.

 
Even at my strongest, when I played tennis for 5 hours a day every day in school, I know I still couldn’t be a coal miner, let alone a pregnant one. I don’t think I ever had that kind of stamina to work in a dark, dank environment, as my lungs slowly died each day.

 

Also a very timely post by wordandsilence.com given the controversial commentary of Mrs. Clinton on dismantling the coal industry.

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As usual, George Orwell says it better than anybody. Here he is in his 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier, asking his readers not to give up using coal, but just to recognize whose labor is providing them with coal. Nowadays I would only add to the coal miner all the people behind all of our conveniences; because if we aren’t willing to give some or all of the dependence and enjoyment derived from technology, infrastructure, culture, fast food, sports, and so much else, the least we can do is empathize with those behind the process who (like us) would rather spend our days doing something else.

The entire text of the book can be found here; the following comes from chapter two. And if his faith in Socialism in the second half of the book seems unfortunate nowadays, his description of coal miners and the unemployed…

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A Lesson on Writing from “Supernatural”

 

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Photo by Ramdlon on Pixabay.com

 

If you are a writer AND you are a fan of the show “Supernatural”, you may get a lot out of this post.

If you are a writer and have no idea what “Supernatural” is, you’ll STILL get a lot out of it.

I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers and will edit dialogue when necessary to avoid them.

I love this show, have since day one. And I was just re watching the episode titled “Don’t Call Me Shurley” from Season 11.  It’s actually a great depiction of the struggle that some authors and editors can have with each other.  I also realized that Metatron, the editor, gives some great advice to Chuck, the writer, that all of us writers should actually consider.

Quotes and explanations to follow:

Chuck: There are chapters, it’s a loose structure, but something’s missing. I’m stuck.

This is Chuck, the author, referring to his autobiography. He wants Metatron to edit it.

Chuck: Every writer needs a good editor.

This is very true. So few of us have the skills to be both.

Metatron: Details are what make a story great.  This is lacking in some details. Like all of them.

Even the simplest of writing styles need details.  And show, don’t tell. There’s a big difference between “the homeless man cried” and “He cried, wiping his tears on his torn and dirty coat that he found just yesterday in a dumpster.”

Later on after finishing reading the memoir:

Metatron: I tell ya there’s some great bones in there. I’m thinking what may be missing is less about detail and more about balance. You’re giving the wrong stuff too much real estate.

Metatron advises Chuck to consider editing out unnecessary parts of his life and adding more about things readers would really care to read.  A power struggle ensues. Sound familiar to anyone who’s worked with an editor or client?

Metatron: Every great hero is defined by his or her villain.

There needs to be a villain in every story. I remember first learning about writing and was told of three hero and villain archetypes: Man vs Man, Man vs God or nature, and Man vs Self.  These still hold true in every fictional story I have written.

Metatron: There are two types of memoir. One is honest, the other not so much. Truth and fairy tale. Now do you want to write “Life” by Keith Richards? Or do you want to write “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by Brian Wilson?

Remember this quote if you want to write a memoir.  It can be true to the core or truth mixed with fiction. Your call.

I think this next quote is perhaps the best advice to any writer.

Metatron: Hold up a mirror. Show us who you really are. Warts and all. Write for an audience of one – you.

Sometimes we writers worry so much about how our writing will be received. Will anyone like it? Will anyone read it? Write for one. Write for yourself. Let the pieces fall where they may. Besides, there’s always an editor close by to kick your ass in the right direction like Metatron.

I included a link to the performance by Rob Benedict, who plays Chuck, in this episode. I include it not for writing reasons.  But it’s such a great performance that I think it deserved some real estate in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

And you thought universities cost too much

 

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Photo by Robtowne0 on Pixabay.com

 

The funniest not-really-funny part of my day:

Got an email about Grace Hopper Academy, that markets itself to women of ALL economic levels who want to become web developers.

Tuition you ask? That’s the best part: Zero… they say

But there’s a 3k deposit required after acceptance and you pay tuition after your get hired as a developer – 22% of your first year’s salary paid over 9 months. Or you could pay 16k up front.

Beginning developers make between 35-45k. If your salary is 40k, you pay them $8,800. Or pay 16k up front. Either way you fork out a refundable deposit of 3k. For ONLINE EDUCATION with no teacher in front of you to ask a damned thing.

“Inclusivity and diversity matter. We want this experience to be open to women of all economic backgrounds. High upfront costs can prevent talented students from attending — it’s our hope that this payment model eliminates those financial barriers and makes this opportunity available regardless of your financial situation.” – directly from their website.

Or you could do the smart thing. Go to community college and get a certificate or associates for a third of the cost. Or use Codecademy with 2 options – free or $20/month depending on what access you want.

Most of the integrity and usefulness of sites like Grace Hopper Academy and the myriad other places that promise you a fantastic web developer education are under scrutiny, as they should be.

 

I can vouch personally for Codecademy. I’ve been through 2 classes with them and get exceptional help from their chat teacher when I’m stuck. It’s an easy to use platform and worth the $20/m. But I would never pay 16k for it. And neither should anyone else for unaccredited learning from fly-by-night sites.

Do your homework on any site offering web design and development education. Check reviews. High price tags are a RED FLAG and you should keep moving.

 

Red Legs of the Bulge

 

 

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Photo of C.J.Kelly’s book cover published with author’s permission

 

What started out as being an artillery soldier, viewed as the cushiest job a man could have in the war, became one with a high casualty level.

“Red Legs of the Bulge” is a fantastic book by C.J. Kelly about the complicated jobs of the artillery men in the war. They were at the front line of the Battle of the Bulge.

When the Air Force couldn’t take Northern Europe, it was the brave men of the artillery that stepped up. This book also tells the story behind the rapid advances in science that equipped soldiers with weapons like never before. Check it out and pick it up on Amazon!

In order to write, you must read.

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Photo by Unsplash on Pixabay.com

I get my best ideas just before bed as I’m getting ready to sleep. It’s great to get a superb idea but inconvenient when you’re really tired.

I keep a notebook by my nightstand to write down the idea or I quickly open a Word document and write a sentence or two so I can come back to it later.

I’ve been a fiction writer my whole life. Short stories and poetry mostly. Anything I write that’s nonfiction is in an article or a blog.

This recent idea was for a nonfiction book with a different angle on the popular debate. I have ideas about this area that I haven’t seen anyone else come up with.

But how do I write a nonfiction book? Where do I start?

I started by typing my ideas out as fast as I could. But I knew I would need references from the news, journals and experts in the field. Maybe even do a few interviews.

Luckily I have the best resource a first time nonfiction writer can have: an uncle who writes nonfiction.

Use every resource at your disposal, but above all please remember:

In order to write, you must read.

It doesn’t matter what type of book you want to write. You have to read  books by other authors in your genre of choice and preferably about the same topic. As unique as I think my idea is, I still need to find books with similar ideas on the same topic. I also need to find books by authors who disagree with me. You need to acknowledge other perspectives when writing a work of nonfiction because your audience may have similar ideas or concerns about the topic.  Here are a few other things that you or I can do to write any work of nonfiction:

  • Talk to other writers about their processes and how they organize their ideas
  • Read what the experts in the field say
  • Read what those you disagree with say
  • Read respected newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and try to use unbiased sources
  • Find blogs on your topic, especially if it’s a topic that’s relevant now.
  • Learn how to cite your sources using APA or Chicago style books
  • If you can, reach out to an old professor who teaches on the subject and ask for their honest opinion

As you can see,  most of my bullet points involve reading  similar works. It is by far the best thing you can do to prepare to write anything worth reading. With any luck, you’ll see my name on a book on Amazon one day in the near future.

Do me a favor and read it. Comment that it’s awesome (even if you think it isn’t).

In This Dim Light

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Photo by geralt on pixabay.com

This is an essay about my future.

In this dim light of the lamp, all I can see is a blank wall.

I smile at the blank wall. It’s a blank canvas, waiting for me to decorate with my art, my creativity, my loves and my life. That wall is my wall and it’s the first wall that I’ve ever had.

This is my first true apartment. It’s the one I’ve been waiting for for decades. I’ve been waiting but been held back by disease, illness, depression, surgery, disability, and job loss.

But here it is. It’s all mine.

I love charcoal drawing and I have one piece of a charcoal drawing that I framed when I was in school that is my true favorite. It’s of a tiger. His face is neutral but his eyes are piercing. It only took me 2 1/2 hours to make but people marvel at it.  And they marvel even more when I tell them how long it took . It’s the most beautiful thing I ever made in charcoal . I’ve been trying for years to out do myself but I haven’t yet. I‘ll get there though. It’ll have a friend. Maybe a giraffe or a kangaroo or a koala bear.

The wall to the right will have something I have a mild, okay extreme obsession with – zombies. I have The Walking Dead figurines and an artist rendition of Shaun of the Dead. I have The Walking Dead calendar and I have signed autographs by some of the actors, thanks to a coworker who gave them to me as a gift.

Yes these walls are mine. All mine. And there’s nothing and no one who can take them away from me. In this dim light,  I see brightness. I see day. I see life and hope. I see my life shining before my eyes.

Freedomwithwriting.com

 

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Photo by the3cats on pixabay.com

 

Freedomwithwriting.com has been a website that I’ve subscribed to for the past several years.

It is one of the best resources out there for writers looking for places to pitch ideas to magazines and journal open for publication. It also prints no fee contests that writers can enter. And on occasion, you will find a fellowship competition that you can read about and decide to enter.

Freedomwithwriting.com can send you this information straight to your inbox if you subscribe to them and subscribing is free. You will never pay a penny for this information.You can also unsubscribe at any time.

Reminder: NEVER pay for information that you can find yourself. If a publication promises to give you a list of hundreds of places to publish for $29.99, RUN. it’s either a scam or a compilation of works that you can find yourself.

Check out freedomwithwriting.com. Give it a few months and see if it’s of any use for you. Take a shot at a few of the publications they list. You never know, you just might get lucky and add another line to your writer’s resume.