I’ve been writing for several years now, but apart from a few major publications, I have rarely interacted with an editorial team or proofreading service.
What being published mistakenly taught me was that my writing skills were far superior than they actually are, and that there are a lot of websites releasing sub par material for convenience’s sake.
Until my collaboration with the Craft Your Content team, I assumed that a second readthrough of my material was all it needed before it was ready for publication. Even as I type this, I know that the editing team is shaking their heads in disgust…and I’m okay with that, because now I’ve seen the light. (Editor’s Note – We rarely shake our heads in disgust!)
Working with a legit editorial team has helped me improve my writing tenfold (though I still have a ways to go), and taught me that content isn’t ready for publication until it’s been picked over with a fine-tooth comb.
Unfortunately, not all of us can afford a fancy editorial team. However, there are several free (or affordably-priced), online proofreading services that you can take advantage of.
In order to find the gold standard in editing services, I took a recently published article of mine and submitted an excerpt of it to some of the most common proofreading channels. You will be able to see how each tool rates my copy with a series of screenshots, and from there, you can be the judge.
Ready to see my work get torn apart? Let’s do this!
I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of the Hemingway App before this experiment, and when I Googled it, I didn’t learn much more from their official website.
Using my impressive powers of deduction, I determined that you either copy and paste, or create your content from scratch, in their online app, and it will proof your work as you go. It also has the ability to format your post, so it is ready for publication once you are complete.
Essentially, this free service highlights the phrases and sentences that could use improvement. Using a color-coded system, they focus on five areas for improvement, including:
From there, you can comb through your own article and tweak as necessary.
What I like about this system (besides being color-coded) is that it really makes you stop and think about what you’ve just written. It gives you the opportunity to correct your own mistakes and can effectively improve your writing in the long run.
Another benefit is that you can choose your spellcheck country. As a Canadian, I write the word “colour” with a “u,” but if my audience is based in the United States, Hemingway will remind me to remove the extra letter. The same goes for words that use the letter “s” versus “z” like in “personalize”.
What I dislike is that it doesn’t understand casual, conversational writing. I like writing with personality and sass, as if you and I were having a conversation face-to-face. The Hemingway App doesn’t quite grasp this.
This app also identifies the grade level with which it reads. This can be a good or bad thing depending on how fragile your ego is. As you can see from my example below, I apparently write at a Grade 8 level. Ouch.
So what was my overall impression of this proofreading service? It definitely needs improvements, but the app can really help you identify your writing weaknesses in terms of those five focus areas.
The next proofreading service I tried was Grammarly. You can add this app extension to your Chrome browser, where it can suggest edits for everything from your Facebook posts to emails, blogs, and more.
While the extension is free, it only identifies basic grammar mistakes. You can upgrade to a Pro version on a Monthly, Quarterly, or Annual plan and receive premium edits.
For the sake of this post, I am only going to evaluate the free extension.
Using the same article as above, I ran my writing through Grammarly. What I liked was how quickly it suggested edits. As you can see below, you have the option to accept or deny certain edits.
What I didn’t like was that most of the edits I received were of words Grammarly believed should have been pluralized. As you can see from the second example, this was not necessary, nor did it make sense. In total, three suggestions similar to the ones above were made.
This makes me think that the basic version doesn’t have a good handle on the English language.
Nevertheless, it did suggest that I had 24 additional writing issues, including wordiness, poor formatting, and so on.
My overall impression is that the free version will not cut it in the long run. If you are simply looking for spelling errors and the occasional grammar error, then give it a whirl, but otherwise the paid option may be more suitable.
I’m a believer in paying for quality, and $5 doesn’t typically churn out high quality. Having ordered several website logos that each sucked in their own way, I’ve learned to set the bar pretty low for anything I get from Fiverr. Regardless, I decided to give them another shot with this editing task.
As it turns out, my bar wasn’t quite low enough.
After searching the writing and editing section of Fiverr, I found what appeared to be a suitable offer, as it was the top recommended and reviewed in the editorial category. I sent the proofreader my document and requested an edit.
What I received was a re-write of the article, and by no means a good re-write. It looked like a thesaurus threw up on the page. Grammar and spelling mistakes were aplenty. Definitely not worth the $5.
If there is one good thing to say about this option, it’s that there are several offers — known as Gigs on the platform — to choose from, so there’s a half decent chance you will end up with better results.
Previously named oDesk, Upwork is a great tool for outsourcing. This platform allows you to hire freelancers or apply for jobs yourself. With so many freelancers, Upwork makes finding high-quality workers at a fairly cheap price a breeze. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to get hired, the competition can be pretty fierce.
Having hired some really amazing freelancers before (and some pretty terrible ones), I really had no idea which way the coin would drop on this task.
As it turns out, for a cool $11 bucks, you can receive pretty decent proofreading.
What I liked was that they found some grammatical errors I had missed, and smoothed out a few awkward sentences.
I wasn’t a fan of all the suggestions they made, but for the most part I was impressed. It’s definitely a budget-friendly option for those who can’t afford higher-end editorial services.
Perhaps the best part of hiring on Upwork is that when you find someone you like, you can build an ongoing relationship with them using a pay-as-you-go method.
What I didn’t love was how much effort went into acquiring the initial service. I had to create an ad, get applications, choose one, pitch them my offer, wait for them to accept it, send the document for editing, wait for its return, release escrow, and complete the job. Phew — >that was a lot of work.
The last proofreading service I wanted to evaluate is actually the Craft Your Content team. They are a boutique content editing and management service with an impressive resume behind them.
With a continuously growing team primarily based in the United States and Canada, their expertise, process, and attention to detail is what sets them apart.
Unlike the other paid services and apps, Craft Your Content has a more intense process. Rather than one-off proofing, the team starts with an initial round of edits. This is where they not only make their initial sweep for spelling and grammar, but also where they identify awkward phrasing, statements lacking evidence, and unclear points. They will make note of this, then send your writing back for you to review.
In this particular case, I would go through each of their edits, accept or deny them, and then refer it back for a secondary edit. All of these changes were made in Google Documents, so you can easily refer back to previous revisions and see what was improved upon.
After the second edit, I made my second writer revision, and then it received one final round of edits.
What I like about this process is how detailed it is. It’s easy to miss small errors like double-spacing between words or a misplaced comma, but after three revisions most — if not all — errors have been identified and fixed.
Even more so, the Craft Your Content team really tugs at the strings of your writing. If one is loose, they will find it and help you tie it off. This has been the biggest benefit for my writing, along with learning where I don’t provide enough information and improving my core messages.
With so much content available these days, it’s easy to make a flippant statement and not support it with evidence — but not with the CYC team. They keep you honest and coherent, so you can truly say your content is high value each and every time.
On the flip side, the CYC process is quite lengthy. You go back and forth several times with the editorial team, and this can be frustrating. Not to mention how hard it can be to receive legitimate (and sometimes harsh) feedback on something you thought was flawless. A high-end editorial team is not for the faint of heart.
The one other important aspect of this service is that you need a steady income to afford it (most packages start at $1000 per month). You definitely won’t be getting any $5 or $11 edits, but the quality will be well worth it.
So, how do you choose a proofreading service that’s right for you? In a perfect world, we would all be able to afford a high end service like Craft Your Content, but if you’re on a budget, then I would highly recommend the Hemingway App or an Upwork one-off.
The quality of content you share with the world is important, and a basic grammar and spelling sweep will go much further than doing nothing at all.
Are you using a proofreading service or online app for your content? If so, which one and why? Share your comments below.
Sabrina Taylor is a sassy writer and online manager with an inappropriate love for Buzzfeed, pizza and CrossFit. She has over 5 years experience working with businesses helping them build effective communications and marketing strategies. She is currently living in the hot and humid mountains of Northern Thailand, dreaming of hoodies, snow and Canadian bacon (first world problems, amiright?!).