Google Docs for Collaborative Writing


by C.K. MacLeod

There are many free tools for writers, and Google Drive is one of my favourite. The Documents part of the suite (Google Docs) is excellent for

  • writing articles and other short pieces
  • real-time collaborative writing and brainstorming (no file conflicts!)
  • sharing your writing with readers
  • storing your writing projects for safe keeping

Style Options

The toolbar contains lots of style options, too. You can insert hyperlinks and pictures, change fonts and font colours and choose from several heading level styles for a professional-looking document.

Google docs toolbar


If you’re working on a document with another writer, each of you will be assigned a different cursor colour. This allows you to observe each other’s writing contributions in real time.

The Chat feature will allow you to discuss what you’re writing about, and the Comments feature allows you to leave feedback in the margins while reviewing a document:

GDocs commentsYou can use the Suggesting feature to make changes to the text. You’ll find it when you click on the Pencil icon. It works like Word’s track changes, so every suggestion can be accepted or reject.

Pencil icon Gdocs
Click on the Pencil icon to find the Suggesting feature in Google docs

Revisions are documented and stored, so you can go back to an earlier version of your document if you need to.

Document Sharing

It’s easy to share documents. You can give someone permission to view and edit a document by sending them an email notification and a link to your document:

GDocs shareYou can share you document on social media, too!

Readers can download a Google document in a variety of file formats—HTML, Word docx, ODT, PDF and more—making document sharing a snap.

Google Docs is free with a gmail account. It’s always improving and it’s the collaborative writing tool I use most.

Image by Yuko Honda

Consistency Checker—A Free Proofreading Tool


by C. K. MacLeod


Have you discovered the Google Docs library of Add-ons?  They work like plug-ins and they can perform a variety of useful tasks.

Consistency Checker, by PerfectIt, is a lite version of one of my favourite proofreading tools. It will scan your document for:

  • abbreviations in two forms (US vs. U.S.)
  • common typos (teh vs. the)
  • contractions (contractions aren’t used in all kinds of writing)
  • hyphenation of words (in-line vs. in line)
  • numbers in sentences (spelled out or numerals?)
  • spelling variations (colour or color)

These are some of the items a copyeditor or proofreader will typically check in a manuscript.

Where to Get Consistency Checker

If you have a gmail account, you can get Consistency Checker through Google Docs:

  1. Click on the Add-ons tab in Google Docs, click on Get add-ons and search for the Consistency Checker by PerfectIt. Download the add-on.
  2. Open the Consistency Checker by once again clicking on the Add-ons tab in Google Docs. The Consistency Checker should now be listed.
  3. Click Open and then click Scan.

Interpreting Consistency Checker’s results takes a bit of practice and may require you to look up a few things in a style guide, but once you have the hang of it, you can use this proofreading tool before you share your writing with the world.

For more information about Consistency Checker and other useful editing tools, see this post at the Beyond Paper blog.