Monday Mentions: Grammarly, Socks Fun & Flying Cats

Amy, Paula, Jason Pinter

Last year at Thrillerfest with Paula Lanier and Jason Pinter.

Happy July! This is a busy month for me. On July 11th, I travel to New York City for Thrillerfest where I’ll be a Debut Author and talk about Lost And Found (and forthcoming sequels). This is “summer camp for thriller writers” as we rub elbows with the legends of the biz, meet readers and fans, and lug home massive bags filled with autographed summer reading fare. I–CAN’T–WAIT!

Meanwhile, though, the blog-must-go-on, as well as the writing and editing of the next books. When I wrote Lost And Found, after a dozen or more revisions and self-edits, I hired a professional editor before submitting to Cool Gus Publishing. I’ve no doubt that helped the manuscript be accepted–and of course, then we re-wrote and edited several more times. Hey, that’s how it works! 🙂 But what if your own self-editing was so good that you could skip the for-pay-pro-editor step?

Is there such a thing? After being in the writing biz for more than 20 years, I’m a bit skeptical of such claims. Sure, you can run a spell-check, and software programs often highlight egregious grammatical errors, but that’s rarely good enough. Enter Grammarly, an automated online proofreader.

GRAMMARLY–PROOF READING & PLAGIARISM CHECKER

They requested that I write a “sponsored” post about Grammarly (basically an advertorial) in exchange for a $30 amazon gift card. Now, I have no objection to the occasional sponsored post–but I can’t pay my electric bill with gift cards, LOL! I was intrigued enough to do some digging and replied that I’d look into it. The company wrote back and gifted me with a free two-week premium subscription to try out the service. I’ve played with it off and on. It works great! but I have mixed feelings.

The dashboard interface is easy to use and apparently can be integrated with MS Office plugin. You can either cut-and-paste text into the window to be checked (you’ll lose formatting) or upload to the text box and then run the software.

I chose a working piece still in first edits for my puppies.about.com site (eventually to be sliced-and-diced into several shorter pieces). It wouldn’t load because the material “exceeded 20 pages of text” according to the software. Actually it’s about 14 single spaced pages. That tells me one would need to run a single chapter at a time for book-length material. Hmnn. After that, I used several of my previously published newspaper columns that typically run about 700 words, about the same length as many blog posts.

There are settings for “academic” to “casual” writing style, and I ran the same columns several different ways. My work didn’t fare particularly well–according to Grammarly, most of my columns are unpublishable, LOL! That’s okay, though, because they have no setting for ‘making up writer-icity words’ or some of the common pet-astic phraseology that I tend to use. Academic, my writing ain’t.

The same 49 issues came up when I ran the “general/default” setting or the “academic” setting–pretty harsh criticisms. Only 24 issues came up when I ran the same text through the other four categories: business, technical, creative and casual. Of those 24 issues, many were spelling flags (Shojai, www.shojai.com, PETiQuette) for items not in the Grammarly dictionary. I suspect there’s a way to add words to the dictionary, too, and/or ignore the issues that don’t need fixin’ in the piece. The software caught several comma-placement snafus (oh dear…) among other grammatical no-nos. The default explanations teach the writer, too, so over time you’ll be trained to avoid common problems.

Grammarly also includes a “plagiarism” checker. I constantly plagiarize myself, posting work on this blog that has appeared in my newspaper columns, and vice versa. The software did point out the duplications, and even prompted me to appropriately cite and quote the other appearances in the preferred format for a term paper or other academic presentation. I’ve been using Copyscape.com for this quite successfully, though (there’s a free version), so I’m not sure how helpful or unique the Grammarly version stacks up.

MY OPINION

Grammarly has potential and can be very helpful for those who cannot fund hiring real eyeballs-on-the-page editor. It will flag a host of potential problems and teach you along the way to become a more grammatically correct writer. It is especially helpful for students, for academic writers, for new writers perhaps just getting their blog-feet wet. My caution would be for established and experienced writers with a distinctive “voice” that may be changed by taking every editorial suggestion to heart. A flesh-and-blood copy editor still has the human element (even if they do eat writers for lunch!) and can better tell what works in individual circumstances.

You’ll have to tell me what you think. They have a free 7-day trial, and after that the subscription is $29.95/month, $59.95/quarter or $139.95/year. I will tell you hiring my editor cost over five times that amount–worth it, absolutely, but if you don’t have the funds this could be an option. I like the potential of the program enough to sign up for their affiliate program and share with you today. So nope, didn’t take the amazon gift card, but if anyone decides to click-through-and-subscribe I’ll get a referral fee. Please keep me posted if you like the software.
Free & Quick Proofreading from Grammarly!

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo writer links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Check out the SQUEEE! cute pet-astic video at the bottom, too, about AIR WAFFLES. And I sort of resemble that other sock-it-to-me video (don’t look in MY sock drawer!). For new followers to the blog, welcome! and you can expect more cat and dog specific schtuff later in the week on Wednesday and Friday.

WRITER-ICITY SCHTUFF

Google Reader Alternatives a whole list if you haven’t yet switched

Camp NaNoWriMo Starts TODAY!

What’s In A Name? a debut author’s name AND title, both unpronounceable…good, bad or genius?

Stop, Thief! $2.8 Million in Textbooks Stolen by an enterprising Oklahoma salesman, wow. Now that’s ONE way to make money in books. Ahem

Here’s Ata-Boys for Indies for a change…

Author Solutions Pushing Back asking for dismissal of charges

Really Bad Advice About Reviews…so bad it’s almost funny

B&N to Stop Making Nook Readers

Linky-Luv, NOT! Indie bookstores hissed off authors link to amazon and not them…how about you? Do you link your website to a local independent?

Does “Deep Reading” Make Us More Human?

The New Journalism–Can we even call it that? Freelance writing online

Managing Your Content Rights no solutions yet. Could it be the next big $$$ for some enterprising innovator?

Name That Blog–RIGHT! good discussion about branding (check out the comments, too) from the terrific blogger Deb Barnes at her award-winning site

A Cautionary Tale About Hiring Web Designers from the always awesome Lela Davidson

PET-CENTRIC SCHTUFF

FIP Breakthrough? this is VERY good news! And I’m told the Winn Feline Foundation Bria Fund helped fund this research.

Tidy Cats Littervention Contest combines Tidy Cats, Glade and Pawnation in a contest for a chance to win $2000 worth of goods to enhance your home and/or litter box area.

Wiley Pet Books (and others) Sold to Turner Books

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!


Comments

Monday Mentions: Grammarly, Socks Fun & Flying Cats — 3 Comments

  1. Hmm, this is the second review of Grammarly that I’ve read this morning. Interesting idea. I’ll let you know if I decide to give it a try. I think I like the idea of another set of human eyes on my pages, but this could be good for that final check before sending it off. Yes, I am that much of a perfectionist. 🙂

    That kitty video is a scream! Air waffles indeed. Thanks for the Monday morning giggle. You have WAY too many great links. Yikes. I know what I’ll be doing this afternoon.

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