My last article, Even Editors Need Editors, mentioned that I recommend some programs to my writers so they can self-edit. I received questions regarding these applications and wanted to share my thoughts on them. For details on each type of software, please click through to their website. Obviously, your word processor has a built-in spelling and grammar checker. That is helpful, but you will discover you need additional tools as you develop your writing skills.
If you’re a new writer, this is a good app to use. It’s free, but the paid version offers extra components which may be helpful. The free version offers spelling, punctuation, and grammar checks. The premium subscription gives you access to a plagiarism check (helpful if you’re writing a school paper), tone of voice, word choice, fluency, and more. Grammarly has add-ins for Google Docs and Microsoft Word, which means you don’t have to go to your browser to use it.
Pro: It’s easy to use and the premium subscription is fairly affordable.
Con: Sometimes it suggests things that make little sense or are incorrect.
This is strictly an online application. The main reason I recommend WordCounter.net to writers is for its Keyword Density feature. This handy box on the sidebar will show you the words used the most in a document. You can get rid of filler words or vary your word choice by utilizing the Keyword Density list. This will help keep your readers’ interest until the end.
Pro: It’s free and the Keyword Density report is useful.
Con: If you click the Grammar & Spell Check button, it will take you to Grammarly. So really, the Keyword Density report is the key characteristic of this site.
The Hemingway Editor is better for readability and sentence structure than grammar and spelling. It checks for readability, adverb use, passive voice, and hard-to-read sentences. It is available online for free, or you can pay a one-time fee of $20.00 and get a desktop app. What sets this app apart from the rest is that it checks HTML formatting for building web pages. You can use the “write” screen to have a blank space without editing highlights to get your words down. When you’re ready to edit, switch to the editing screen, and Hemingway will highlight the areas which need work.
Pro: It’s inexpensive and is extremely useful to craft concise prose.
Con: It doesn’t have any editing traits that most new writers prefer, such as grammar and spelling.
For a free program, Slick Write packs a punch! Like most writing software, it checks grammar, spelling, and punctuation. However, it also looks for vocabulary variety, flow, sentence structure, readability report, and style. This application is my top pick for those who can’t (or don’t want to) pay for a service but still need a detailed review. You can choose what you want Slick Write to check, and it will adjust the reports accordingly.
Pro: It’s a free software with comprehensive editing.
Con: It’s browser based, so if you prefer to work offline or do not have internet access, you won’t be able to use it.
ProWritingAid is a powerhouse editor, and I do not advise inexperienced writers to use it. PWA has so many features and reports that you may find yourself confused and frustrated. Spelling and grammar? Check. Readability report? Yep. But it also has overused words, cliche check, alliteration, pronoun usage, sticky sentences, transition review, consistency and pacing checks, dialogue tag review, and much, much more. PWA will almost take the place of a human editor if you know how to use it. It has a free version, but, like most programs, the paid option gives you access to additional properties. It has several integrations, so you can use it on the web, with Scrivener or your favorite word processor.
Pro: It is incredibly thorough.
Con: It can be confusing to use.
Remember, none of these applications will take the place of a human editor. A computer follows its programming, which limits it. While technology is amazing, only a human can fully adapt to individual compositions’ voice, style, and content. So why use a program at all? Because it will save you money if you hire a professional editor. And, if you choose not to, using at least one of these programs will ensure that your work is (mostly) error-free.
And, yes, before I submitted this article to my editor, I used Hemingway, WordCounter.net, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid. I guarantee she found other errors or edits that I missed.