Editing Tools – Good Friends with a Twist
Unrelated to the intervention of a human editor (which is essential and irreplaceable), editing tools can be a powerful aid for a writer. After testing a few of them while editing my debut novel Laevium, I decided to go on with the following combination: Grammarly (free) + AutoCrit (premium) + ProWritingAid (premium).
Now a bit about each of them and why I think working with all three is much better than using just one. I won’t describe in detail each feature of these editing tools (many bloggers already did that). I will only offer my feedback as a user.
I used the premium version for about three months. While it can be a better option for non-fiction and specialized texts, as a fiction author you might discover that AutoCrit and ProWriting Aid are better options than Grammarly’s premium features. In my opinion, its grammar checker is the best out of the three tools, and it is included in the free version. Since I needed Grammarly mainly for that, I decided to cancel my subscription and go for the free option.
Grammar aside, the power of editing tools comes from what they can do with your text in terms of style, clarity, voice, and intricacies of writing. When it comes to that, nothing beats an AutoCrit and ProWritingAid combo (the premium options, which offer extended features and reports that are totally worth), especially for fiction writers.
I think it is a tad more complex than ProWritingAid and has a feature that can be really helpful: comparing and scoring your writing against a certain genre, and even certain authors. After uploading your work, you run a general report, see your score, then address each specific issue from about 35 different types of reports. Pacing and Momentum, Dialogue and Strong Writing are my personal favorite reports. They show the areas where you can improve your writing and also offer suggestions. Implementing everything might take a lot of time, but the result is clearly worth.
I love this tool and its friendly interface. While it offers better scores than AutoCrit for the same text, it shows issues that AutoCrit might skip or not display very clearly. In ProWritingAid I particularly like the Sticky report, in the Readability section. It is a bit similar to the three premium reports in Grammarly (Delivery, Clarity, and Engagement), but better. Another strong point is how it displays the errors. They are easy to follow and correct (if the case). It even has a Plagiarism report (Grammarly has a similar one, but, as far as I remember, separate payment is required even for the Premium version users.)
If you want to purchase these tools, there are a lot of book bloggers featuring them in more detail, who also offer discounts as affiliates. I purchased a ProWritingAid subscription from Joanna Penn’s link, who offers a 25% discount (she also explains how to use this tool). As for AutoCrit, I was lucky enough to be able to purchase a lifetime membership. I understand that is quite a rare deal, but it’s worth checking from time to time.
Of course, there is no such thing as the perfect machine editor. I’ve learnt that in my 10+ years career as a translator and project manager in a translation company. While machine translation is making scary progress, it will never be able to completely replace human translation (not even in IT translations), for obvious reasons. Machine translation will never be able to fully understand word usage (which is more complex than it seems), punctuation, and dialect.
Same goes for editing tools, and this is precisely why they are a double-edged sword. While Grammarly, AutoCrit, and ProWritingAid might be the best tools for editing on the market, one cannot use them unless they know grammar really well, in order to make informed choices. Blindly accepting and implementing all suggestions these tools offer might result in dry (even nonsensical) phrases, and sometimes even in forever ruining your beloved novel.
What all three of them get wrong more often than not are commas (and punctuation in general), and dialect. They incorrectly flag the usage of punctuation or dialect with such frequency that it becomes annoying. Though at first sight you might be tempted to accept a change, double check before doing that. ProWritingAid flags slightly more false positives than AutoCrit, so more attention is needed there. And it is a bit annoying that the score doesn’t change even if you ignore them. An option to mark as false positive would be great for both tools (hopefully we will see that in the future).
I’ve also discovered that it might be better to settle for a lower score (in the range of 80-90) but preserve the flavour of your novel and your personal style, than aiming for 90-100 and trim your work to the point it becomes bland.
No matter how good these tools are, a good grammar level is essential in order to use them properly. However, they are the best they can be, and offer a lot of functions and reports that can get your text to the next level. They are great tools – in the right hands.