10 editing issues your grammar checker might be missing

For writers, the devil’s in the nitpicking details. Go from mediocre to meticulous by minding your adverbs, sentence structure, redundancies and vague wording.


Grammar checkers in word processing programs can help you catch glaring spelling errors, but you might be missing subtler—yet crucial—editing faux pas.

Here are 10 writing issues that your word processor’s grammar checker is likely missing:

1. Adverbs.

Adverbs are often unnecessary. Stephen King refers to them as a grammatical “atrocity.”

Most editing tools fail to highlight adverbs, which can poison your prose. As Mr. King said: “The adverb is not your friend.”

2. Slow pacing.

You want readers to glide through your work; track how much introspection or backstory you’re including. Excessive detail slows down your reader.

3. Overused words.

It’s easy to let words such as could, might, knew and felt sap your sentences. Keep an eye out for weak, repetitive words that gum up your work.

4. Sentence structure.

Do you vary sentence length? You should. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Unfortunately, your spellchecker is oblivious to this important writing tactic.

5. Active verbs.

Verbs keep your story moving forward. Passive verbs, however, leave your readers wondering who’s performing the action in your sentence.

Fight ambiguity by using active verbs.

6. Sticky sentences.

Sticky sentences contain unnecessary words. Words like an, of, if, to and the can often be removed to tighten sentences. For example: “She was able to use the key on her key ring to open the door to the storeroom to find the supply of paper stock she needed for class” could be trimmed to “She unlocked the storeroom door and found the paper stock she needed for class.”

7. Clichés.

Clichés are annoying. Unfortunately, the sneaky devils can slip into writing faster than you can say, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Whenever possible, replace clichés with original, fresh wording.

8. Redundancies.

Watch out for “frozen ice” and “added bonuses.” “First began” and “gathered together” are other common redundancies your spellchecker might not flag.

9. Inconsistencies.

Is it labor or labourco-worker or coworker? Watch for inconsistencies in spelling, capitalizing and hyphenating words.

10. Vague wording.

Are you doling out “some money,” or are you giving Tom $100? Be specific.

There are multitudes of ways writers can lose credibility, annoy readers and undermine their work. You might consider beefing up your editing arsenal with tools that will tighten and clarify your writing. Your readers will thank you.

A version of this post first appeared on the ProWritingAid blog.

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