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Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

This post is the thirty-fourth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Due to the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I have taken the month of April off for my writing series. In case you need a refresher, I last covered Beta Readers, Proofreaders and Editors. In that post, I said I would discuss grammar checking programs in a future post, so here it is.

But first, before I delve into programs, let me say that grammar is very important. Your manuscript can easily be rejected by agents and publishers if it comes to them riddled with errors. And for those of us who self-publish, you can expect plenty of negative reviews if you publish a book full of grammar mistakes. Yes, you can hire someone to fix your grammar mistakes or use grammar software but I believe every author needs to know the basics of grammar or at least know enough to look up the rule if you are unsure.

You may not recall all the grammar rules that were drilled into you when you were in school, but there countless books that can help, or you can turn to the internet.

Books to keep nearby:



Flip-Dictionary or Reverse Dictionary – These books are for when you know what something is but not what it is called.

Style and Usage Guide – I have seen all sorts of recommendations for The New York Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style. But I always have had Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style on hand since college.

You also may want to include any reference books that pertain to your genre such as forensics if you are writing a police drama or a book on poisons if you are writing a mystery.

Internet resources:

Grammar and Punctuation –

Spelling – or Merriam-Webster

Word Choice – or Reverse Dictionary

Research – or (the latter one may not be too reliable as it can be edited by anyone, but it can be a good starting point in your research)

Also for research, check out

Writing help – Writer’s Digest

If you need additional help, a proofreader can check your grammar, but, nowadays, as software improves, the need for someone to proofread for spelling and grammar errors diminishes. I’m not saying a program can take the place of an expert but some of these programs do a remarkable good job and they blow away the checkers that come with word processing software.

Grammar Checking Software

There are several options out there, and none of them will catch every error. You will need to review any suggestions made to see if they are correct for whatever you are writing.

Since 2012, I have been using the program WhiteSmoke which is a cloud-based program. Grammerly and Ginger are two other popular programs.

Here is a quick look at these three.

WhiteSmoke (website

The offer a mobile version that is separate from the cloud-based version. Works with any browser. Offers three version – essential, premium and business. Prices range from $79 to $215 depending on version. Offers a translator and a plagiarism checker on all three versions.

Grammarly (website

It offers a free version but will only give writing suggestions on the paid version. Paid version checks for more errors than free version. More Expensive than WhiteSmoke and Ginger at $139.95 for a year subscription It includes a Plagiarism checker on premium version. No free trial of premium version

Ginger Software (website

Works on multiple platforms Free version only analyzes a limited number of words per check and not the whole text. No plagiarism tool Offers two paid versions – basic and premium – The basic version is $61.20 per year. It includes dictionary and translation tools which Grammarly doesn’t. The software will actually read your sentences or the words it suggests be replaced. I found it hard to find anything on the site other than the free version. I figure after you download it, they might “suggest” the upgrade.

Any of these grammar checking programs will help your writing and are definitely worth the investment.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

Saying Goodbye to That WIP: When it’s Okay to Give...

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