About four years ago, I made the transition from classroom teacher to writer. I didn’t intend to become a writer, mind you. I took a job in customer service and marketing at a small start-up (like, three people small) and quickly found that, among the approximately 2,000 tasks I had to accomplish every day, writing was by far my favorite. I was surprised by this revelation; my mother was not. She had always wanted me to be a writer; I, of course, had resisted.

Yet, as I matured in this new job, it quickly became clear that my mother was, indeed, right. I loved writing and I began to do more and more of it in that role, until I maxed out the amount of writing I could do in that role and went in search of a new position that let me write more. And, thus, my freelance writing career was born.

I hadn’t planned to be a writer - I took one English class in university and hadn’t cracked a grammar book since my high school AP exams. And so, despite my passion for the career and my relatively decent level of success, I found myself playing catch-up, wanting to become better at my newfound passion as quickly as possible.

One of the best decisions I made early on as a writer was to make use of an editing tool. Using an editing tool helped me polish and perfect my writing so that I felt comfortable sending samples and taking on jobs, even though I was relatively inexperienced. Editing tools like ProWritingAid can help you identify common mistakes in your work, beyond just spelling and grammar errors.

Here are six ways using ProWritingAid helped me grow as a writer.

#1: I learned to ditch the glue words.

Before I started using ProWritingAid, I had never heard of glue words. Needless to say, the first time I ran a sticky sentences report, I was shocked!

Glue words, which include the 200 or so most common words in the English language, are basically empty words that your reader has to slog through before they get to the real meaning of your writing. As a writer, your sentences should contain less than 45% glue words… something I was certainly not achieving when I first ran this report!

By identifying and eliminating glue words in my writing, I was able to cut my work almost in half, making my prose clearer and easier to read.

#2: I became less vague.

I had a bad habit when I first started writing of describing things as “interesting,” which doesn’t give a lot of detail. Likewise, words like “some,” “almost,” and “slightly” are intangible and open to interpretation.

Once I started using the Vague Words Check on my emails, my communication with co-workers and project managers became much more clear. Instead of saying that I would get a project in “soon,” I’d set a clear deadline and deliverable, which held me accountable and helped my supervisors know when and what to expect from my work. This check really helped me manage my communication as I balanced multiple clients.

#3: I eliminated adverbs.

When I was writing a curriculum as a teacher, I often used formal words and phrases. I wanted to demonstrate proper terminology and usage for my students. If I was preparing a curriculum for other teachers, I would write using formal, academic language.

Once I started doing more blogging, however, I found myself shifting to a conversational tone. In some ways, this was great! I spent less time constructing sentences and found that, in general, my work was more fun to read and write.

Shifting to a conversational tone did have one negative side effect: my adverb usage exploded. I often use adverbs in my day-to-day life (“I totally get you!”, “I completely understand!”), and soon my fingers were typing them every fourth or fifth word. Adverb overload.

The Writing Style Check highlights my use of adverbs, so now I can catch when they overpopulate my work. The Writing Style Check also keeps my use of the passive voice in check, which would make my eleventh grade English teacher very proud.

#4: I stopped repeating myself.

When I was a teacher, I repeated myself constantly. I repeated directions to students who ignored them. I repeated concepts so that students would understand them. I repeated lessons to different classes throughout the day.

In fact, I got so used to hammering a point home over and over again that when I first started to write, the habit followed into my work. Unfortunately, repeating yourself in writing isn’t a good thing – your readers will be quickly turned off if you just keep saying the same thing over and over again.

The Repeats Check helps me find repetition in my own work. Sometimes, I’ll get a certain word stuck in my head and use it multiple times in a paragraph. And often, I can’t discern that mistake by myself. By running this check, I can make sure my language is varied and interesting.

#5: I stopped using redundant phrases.

My first writing assignments were science articles for elementary school children. I can’t tell you how many times I discovered accidental redundancies in my work. I described a bear as having “dark black” fur or the tundra in Antarctica as being “frozen ice”. Isn’t black always dark? Isn’t ice always frozen?

Redundancy adds quantity to your work, but not quality. ProWritingAid’s Redundancies Check helps to find these instances in your work so you can eliminate unneeded words from your writing. This is useful not just for improving your writing, but also learning which words to cut first if you’re writing to a strict upper-limit word count.

#6: I gained confidence in my writing.

Most importantly, ProWritingAid has helped me gain confidence in my writing. Every time I run a summary report, I have clear, actionable steps I can take to immediately make my writing better.

Click here to see a full Summary Report that someone ran on a Monty Python sketch.

Once I make the corrections, I can see my score go up. As a new writer, watching my score improve and my mistakes disappear made me feel safe sending in my work to my clients; now, it’s the best way to check I’m still on track and making the right revisions.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to quickly and effectively improve your writing, try using an editing tool like ProWritingAid. The online version is completely free to use. Personally, I am a Mac user and so I tend to use the ProWritingAid desktop app, but they have software integrations for MS Word, GoogleDocs, Open Office and Chrome.

An editing tool can help you polish your work while learning new strategies to increase your effectiveness as a writer.

ProWritingAid has helped me go from novice scribbler to professional writer, with multiple clients all around the world. It can help you too!

Author's Bio: 

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer. Hayley loves writing content that's engaging and informative. Bonus points if it's about Star Wars.