Tag Archives: apps

Why Your Spell Checker Is A Shifty-Eyed Hack

You can’t trust your spell checker.

Generally speaking, a spell checking feature on a word processing program will do a fair job in finding words that are misspelled.

That’s all it’s capable of doing. If you think that an automatic spell check will do enough work to make you a good writer, then you are mistaken. Your spell check is a hack — in that, it only does what it is programmed to do. And I’d even go as far to say that it’s shifty-eyed (if it had eyes) because good writers know not to trust automatic editing tools completely.

You’re going to need a bigger and better self-editing tools, or a human helper if you want to really get all the mistakes.

Why Your Spell Check Is A Shifty-Eyed Hack by Katharine Grubb, 10 Minute Novelist

Editing is far more than spellchecking.

Written communication doesn’t just need excellent spelling. It needs consistent grammar, active voice, clear nouns and adverbs, logical thought and your unique voice. If you are only using your built-in checkers to guide you in your writing, it’s like you’ve asked the cashier at Walgreen’s to diagnose your aquagenic urticaria.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”…

Your spell checker knows nothing about purple prose.

The words, they come, they dance along the barre of your mind, pirouetting here and there, leaping and landing in a performance of grace and goodness in which every reader watches in amazement. There’s not a spell checker in the world that can keep you from over-writing, over-comparing, or over-describing. This is a shame. The world could stand a bit less nonsense and more straight talk. Does your self-important work get a little carried away with it its own verbosity? Find a good, honest friend and have them sit down with you and have a little intervention. You may want some of this. 

Your spell checker knows nothing about verb tenses.

You may have a verb tense problem when some sentences have past tense and some have present. It happens to the best of us. The solution? Read your piece out loud. You’ll probably hear where you messed up and can fix it easily. Or, if you’re a little nervous about someone overhearing you, read through the entire composition and circle the verbs.  From there change the passive ones to active one, the weak to strong and the vague to clear. And if you can, avoid the “be” verbs. They really aren’t your friends. Also check out Grammarly’s help here. I know that when I start thinking Grammar is like math, I feel a lot better about tenses.

Your spell checker knows nothing about punctuation.

Few of us have trouble with periods, question marks and exclamation marks. Our trouble comes with commas, colons, semi-colons, and possessives. A way to beat these issues it just to review the rules about them on great websites like this one. Or you could invest in Grammarly, which points out your errors for everything web-based that you write, like blog posts about punctuation. Or you could keep your sentences so short and boring that you have no need for commas. And really, people who use semicolons are just pretentious, aren’t they?

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Your spell checker nose nothing about homophones.

Do you see what I did there? Homophones are the wurst. If we get all excited about putting our thoughts down, we may go so fast that we put down one word when we really mean another. A spellcheck won’t help you here, because it’s not a spelling error you made, it’s a usage one. One way to combat this is to read your work aloud, but even then that’s iffy because your mistake may sound right. Get another set of eyes to review your work. And if you’re really diligent about this, do a little find/replace of common homophones. This is time-consuming, but anything that helps you correct mistakes before your readers laugh at you is worth doing.

Your spell checker knows nothing about filter words.

Filter words are sneaky little devils. They are the words that you may use habitually even though they add little value to your prose. In fiction, the worst filter words are those that do more telling than showing. Your characters may think, realize, feel, decide, look, start doing something, or believe. While all of these can be grammatically correct, spelled correctly and used correctly, they make your story weak and flabby. Your spellcheck can do nothing for you here. How to get rid of them? Do a find/replace. Or read you manuscript for the ten millionth time. Determine how necessary they are. Omit if you can. Substitute in vibrant verbs. Your story will be more interesting, I promise.

Passive voice is also one thing that your spell checker knows nothing about.

Do you see what I did there? Passive voice means that you have designed a sentence in such a way that the subject is not active. Rather, the subject is having something done to it. Simplified, the cat chased the mouse is active. The mouse was chased by the cat is passive. But I’ve learned with great apps like Hemingway, that I can write some might fancy-schmancy passive sentences. How do you get rid of them? Hire a pro editor to help you spot them, use apps like Hemingway to highlight them. And practice writing. I’m so much better than I used to be at avoiding passivity.

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Your spell checker knows nothing about your personal quirks and foibles.

These are the little writing habits that only you do. And as confident as you’d like to be, they probably shouldn’t be categorized as “personal style.” Instead, hunt down those repeated words or phrases — I often said my characters “sighed” — and get rid of them. Your spellcheck can’t find these, of course. The best way to minimize your personal quirks and foibles is to read your work out loud. You may be surprised what you discover. And paying a good, reputable editor is always recommended.

In my WordPress app that I use for blogging I downloaded Yoast and found it to be very helpful in making my prose better. You get a little dot at the top of your draft — red, yellow, or green — and if you get green, you’re good!

Now I’d like to think that I was a strong writer anyway, but with these tools, reading aloud, and my editing buddies, I’m far more likely to spot my mistakes and learn from them.

That spellchecker of mine is a shifty-eyed hack.

I don’t need him and neither do you.


Did you like this article? You may also like:
Seven Reasons Why You Should Read Your Manuscript Out Loud
Or, Top 10 Signs You’ve Given TMI & Need to Cut The Dickens Out Of Your Backstory

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

Jessica White Explains Scrivener! A Guest Post

A few weeks ago 10 Minute Novelist Jessica White hosted a Facebook chat where she explained the ins and outs of Scrivener.  Scrivener is a fantastic app that allows novelists to stay organized while they are drafting. But it’s complicated. These are Jessica’s notes for that chat. Hope it helps you as you struggle to master Scrivener!

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

The hardest part about learning to use Scrivener is the learning curve on what things are called and where to find them not using them.

You can download the cheat sheet for your version of Scrivener here.   http://www.scrivenertuts.com/free-scrivener-cheat-sheets-2/

First you need to understand there are three parts to the main screen:

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

The BINDER on the left keeps track of all your work and lets you rearrange and organize it. 

The EDITOR in the middle is where you will do all your writing.

The INSPECTOR on the right lets you shortcut to several other features, like the notecards, research, keywords, and snapshot (at the bottom of it you’ll see the little notepad, books, key, etc).

In Scrivener you will do 90% of your work in the main Editor panel.  There are three VIEWS and each has a function that you need as a writer.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

Jessica White Explains Scrivener

In CORKBOARD view you do your plotting. Think of it as an index card or sticky note you put on the front of each section. You can use them to summarize plot points or to layout scenes. You can also label and mark them (more about this in P8) to keep track of things like point of view, what draft you’re on, timelines, etc.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

In OUTLINE view you see all the big picture stuff like organization, status, word count, how far you are on your target word count, and lots more.

In DOCUMENT view you do your writing.  It looks pretty much like Word or Pages.

If you’ve never written a book in Scrivener I highly recommend you download KM Weiland’s template.  You can delete what you don’t use to simplify the look, but she really does give you all the pieces and parts, making it a great way to learn what Scrivener can do and how to set up a binder.


If you want to start from scratch that’s fine too.  Use the basic novel template Scrivener offers, and then use the BINDER feature and create a basic set up just like you would an outline using the ADD button at the top.

Two options I’d suggest:

Folders for Beginning, Middle, End (Acts 1, 2, 3) and text files for chapters (if you are a plotter this works well)


Folders for Chapters and then use the text files for scenes (this allows you pantsers to write scenes and move them around before committing to a chapter and stringing them all together).

How to take a SNAPSHOT.

  You ever have a scene where you felt it needed a rework, spent an hour doing the rework only to decide that you liked the original better?  This is where snapshot comes in. 

You can either go up to Documents—Snapshots—Take Snapshot OR there is a little camera down in the lower right corner of the inspector.

Take a snapshot of your text before you start editing, and if you decide to revert all you have to do is go up to Documents—Snapshot—Show Snapshots to see the original in the Inspector.  You can then see them side by side and ROLL BACK to a prior version or you can copy/paste parts of it.



Under Project—Project Targets, you can set up both the full document targets and the session target (useful if you want to write a minimum words/day). 

Scrivener automatically tracks word count for every text file and each folder.  You can see it down at the bottom of the screen. 

You can also go to the OUTLINE view and go up to View—Outliner Column—and add Total Word Count, then you can see all the totals for any folder (or the binder) on one page.  This allows you to make sure your chapters are fairly balanced and to see where you need to focus your effort.

LABELS and STATUS feature is on the right hand side in the middle of the Inspector under GENERAL META-DATA. 

You can use them for almost anything.  Keep track of what phase of writing you are in (rough/final).  Keep track of POV, timeline, etc.  You can color code your folders and files, the corkboard index cards and also have it show up in SYNOPSIS on the right hand side (which is the index card in miniature).

Go to View—Use Label Color In— and you can add to any screen. 
To change the colors and label names go to Project—Metadata Settings and double click the name to change.



SPLIT VIEW can be found in the upper right of the editor box.  You can split vertically or horizontally and have side by side screens so you can see two things at once.  This is really useful when you want to see your research and your chapter at the same time.


FULLSCREEN is the black button with the arrows on the toolbar.  This lets you block out everything but the scene or chapter you are working on.  You can even add a background to help you stay in scene.


RESEARCH- Did you know you can download webpages (including videos), upload pictures, and PDF’s right into Scrivener so you don’t have to go back and forth between programs?  Just use the ADD button pulldown menu and look toward the bottom. You can add webpages or files. 


This website goes into great detail about how to make the most of Scrivener’s ability to put multiple forms of media together. http://www.jayartale.com/blogging-scrivener-karen-prince/

IMPORT/EXPORT– There is so much to say about these two features.  If you to go to Youtube and enter the formats you are trying to import/export, there will be step by step instructions for any combination. Whether you are importing a PDF and want to turn it to text or you want to export text files to mobi.  Scrivener lets you make ebooks, html, pdf, text and so many more formats and import them too.

I will mention one trick. Before uploading a WIP putting a # in front of chapters allows you to create a text file for each chapter. Just make sure you use the option IMPORT and SPLIT.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15o7KnpD_yE (this has a playlist feature there are dozens of videos pick one each day to listen to and play around in Scrivener with to learn).



Plan http://www.natashalester.com.au/2014/08/05/use-scrivener-plan-book/

Plotting http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/using-scrivener-for-plotting/

Write http://www.natashalester.com.au/how-to-use-my-favourite-tool-scrivener-to-write-a-book/

Edit http://www.natashalester.com.au/2013/09/04/how-to-use-scrivener-to-edit-your-book/

Tricks How to change the default font: http://scrivenercoach.com/how-to-change-the-default-font-in-the-scrivener-editor/
10 Little Secrets http://learnscrivenerfast.com/10-little-known-scrivener-tricks/

You can buy Scrivener here: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php


Jessica White
Jessica White

Jessica White is an admin for the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group. Her book Surviving the Stillness came out last year. She blogs at https://authorjessicawhite.wordpress.com She lives with her family in the Dallas, Texas metro area.

#Top10Tuesday Writing On The Go! A Guest Post by Jessica White

Writing On The Go

As we head into summer, many of us are going to get outdoors more, take vacations, and spend more time away from our desks and thus our computers.

But as writers this often proves problematic since we still have deadlines and our brains rarely shut off just because it isn’t convenient to write.

But have no fear, here are ten ways you can keep writing even when you are away from home.

1. These days, almost everyone has a cellphone.  We keep them within hands reach almost every waking hour. When writing on the go they are a great tool.  Standing in line with three carts in front of you at the grocery store?  Avoid those last minute impulse buys and pull out your cellphone and text yourself a few lines.  If you’re good at texting and have an idea you can write quite a bit in those few minutes.

2. If you have a smartphone then look for a great writing app. Some will turn your handwriting into text and others are actual text programs. Either way, they are good options for those moments when you are taking a 10 minute break or are waiting to pick your kids up and want to write.  Some you can even email back to yourself or will connect with programs like GoogleDocs so you can quickly put them back into your WIP.

3. Not great at texting, but still want to utilize your phone? Leave yourself a voicemail. Do you have a Bluetooth headset? Even better. Now you can think out loud while you take a hike, run errands, or just about any activity that isn’t in a loud atmosphere.  Yes you’ll have to listen to it later, but you’ll never forget the way you eloquently defined the theme or that tone you used in that bit of dialogue that made the character come to life.

4. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to write, but in the age of Instagram, you probably have the time to snap a picture.  Often we see something that inspires us while we are away from home.  Take a picture and if you have an extra moment send it to your email or FB or Instagram with a few words reminding you what you felt or thought when you first saw it. Maybe it is a way a woman sweeps her porch each morning or the way a waiter sets a cafe table you want to remember, if it is an action use the video feature.

5. Another option is to call a friend who can jot down ideas for you. I have a writing partner I call once a week. We bounce ideas off each other for about thirty minutes each.  While one of us talks the other one types the great ideas into an email and then we hit send.  This is a great option if you’re brainstorming as a second brain often helps you problem-solve on the fly.

No matter where you are or what you're doing, with a little creativity there is always a way to write on the go. Jessica White

6. If you are going on a trip or somewhere you can sit a while a tablet may be a better option. The onboard keyboard is bigger so you can have less finger fumbles.  There are also more app options for Ipad and other tablets.  You can even use the Kindle Fire and go back and forth between reading on your vacation and writing.

7. If you want to have a quiet vacation with no technology, or you just don’t want the temptation of being able to do other things, get a digital recorder. They’re cheap, and you can play it back as many times as you want without tying up your phone line.

8. Nothing beats having a pen handy and a good writing notebook.  They’re cheap, you never have to worry about running out of battery and they are unobtrusive to those around you.  A notebook is the best option if you’re going to be out in full sun where a screen is impossible to see or if you are going off-grid hiking, camping, etc.  There are down points too, they can get ruined by water and it is easy to sit them down and forget them, but for $2 you can replace them.

9. You know the best ideas come when absolutely nothing is available. This is why I always keep a pen in my pocket.  You can write those ideas on any scrap of paper or even the palm of your hand (I’ve been that desperate).  Don’t believe me?  Look around you right now.  Can you find something to write on? A napkin? The back of a receipt? A lunch bag?  Make sure to invest in a good pen though.  One that will write even on a vertical surface and also one that doesn’t bleed if it gets wet.  A good pack of 5 pens is still not more than $10 so for under $2 you’ll have the assurance of being able to get any idea down somewhere.

10. Okay so there is one place this idea might not work-the shower. Don’t worry, even there you can jot your ideas down. If you’re a mom, then it might be the best place to have 2-3 minutes to get your great ideas out of your head uninterrupted.  Invest in a shower notepad.  Aquanotes has one that is similar to parchment paper.  You can scribble down your ideas and take them with you.

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, with a little creativity there is always a way to write on the go.

Jessica White
Jessica White

Jessica White is an admin for the 10 Minute Novelists Facebook group. Her book Surviving the Stillness came out last year. She blogs at https://authorjessicawhite.wordpress.com She lives with her family in the Dallas, Texas metro area.