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‘Develop your sense of how English works’

Don’t depend on spell- and grammar-checkers


from Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction by Emma Darwin



Don’t rely on the wonders of modern software to do the work for you. True, spellcheckers are very handy for the first-pass picking up of errors, but they’re not enough. They don’t know which you meant of homophones like stationery or stationary, discrete or discreet, or born, borne, bourne or bawn. Nor will they spot when you’ve written Hell when you meant He’ll.


Automated grammar-checkers, on the other hand, are completely useless for creative writers, and will probably do your writing more harm than good. They’re calibrated for business English, not creative writing, and work crudely even at that level. In the short term, use writer friends as beta-readers. In the long-term, you need to develop your sense of how language works. Read thoughtfully, and get hold of decent reference books based on UK or US English, as appropriate. Don’t only look things up when someone tells you you’ve made a mistake, but also whenever you’re puzzled, interested or realize you don’t understand something: that way you will develop a wider, more accurate and less inhibited capacity to use the language.