Automated Editing Tools—Is One Right for You?

image by testbytes

Automated help in editing material intrigues most writers. I looked at six online automated editing tools. I chose the ones that were free or had free options, hoping to buy one that fit my budget and editing needs.

For a nice overview of free and for-sale editing tools, I recommend “INSTANTLY IMPROVE YOUR WRITING WITH THESE 11 EDITING TOOLS” on the NY Book Editors blog.

My Approach to Evaluating Automated Editing Tools

image by geralt

 

I entered the same excerpt from an old unpublished manuscript into the free online edit boxes for the following automated editing services:

 

 

After the Deadline

EditMinion

Grammarly

Hemingway Editor

ProWritingAid

Slick Write

Below is what I learned. Remember, I only tried the free options.

These services point us to areas in our manuscripts that may need a second look. When we enter our material into these tools, we’re responsible for what we change in our manuscripts. We must remain in charge.

If we make a change without scanning nearby sentences, we may cause a new problem. For example, the automated program may suggest a stronger word, but the stronger word has already been used once or twice in the paragraph, causing repetitive word usage.

Using two or more free services may catch more problems. For example, passive-writing flags were different among the tools, suggesting they have different criteria for what is passive writing. One service flagged just, a weasel word, the others didn’t.

image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images

The free tools didn’t do well on problems such as missing quotation marks and two spaces between sentences. The grammar and spelling checks in word processing programs are still important.

I liked ProWritingAid best.

 

What I Liked About ProWritingAid

Among other benefits, here’s what I liked about ProWritingAid’s tool.

ProWritingAid states on its site “ProWritingAid never stores, shares or resells your text.”

I can click on 10 tabs: Summary, Style, Grammar, Overused, Readability, Clichés, Sticky, Diction, All Repeats, and Echos, which concentrate on specific tests.

I can look at ProWritingAid’s extensive evaluation of my excerpt in the Summary tab. It offers easy to print, open in a new window, and email options. I like its suggested limits on such items as adverbs used and repeated sentence starts.

ProWritingAid gives a word substitute for a wordy phrase.

It attempts to highlight instances when the writer tells a feeling instead of showing it.

image by Hans

It tries to catch words that should be hyphenated or a homonym (you’re) that is incorrect for the meaning (your).

When I hover over the underlined, color-coded flagged phrases, ProWritingAid, gives possible problems and suggestions for the correction.

 

It caught more of the problems I hoped the tools would flag than the other tools.

ProWritingAid’s free version was very good, but I bought the premium version.

If you’re looking for an editing tool to supplement your editing, I suggest you try out each of the tools mentioned in the post and other services you find in a search.

My search for an automated editing tool among free ones. Click to tweet.

What automated editing tools do you use and why?

6 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 3

As long as readers know what I mean, does it really matter whether there’s a typo here and there, a comma in the wrong place, or a few words misspelled?’ Yeah. It does.”

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, by Kathy Ide, published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Used by permission.

image by seeka
image by seeka

We continue with Part 3 of a 3-part series, looking at acceptable ways to write some phrases that may have puzzled you. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write a generic name for a sweet, fizzy drink.
Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here are some options. If your character is from a certain region, you might want to use what most people in that region say. Also for historical fiction, be careful as to when the term was introduced.

I give general locations. Search online for detailed maps that show individual states.

 

soft drink – (1880) Australia; New Orleans; east Texas

cola – (1920) similar to coke

pop – (1812) Midwest; Pacific Northwest; Mountain West (also soda pop); Canada; England

soda – (soda pop 1863) New England; East and West Coasts; Hawaii

coke – (1909) southern states; Europe

cold drink – southern Virginia and the Carolinas, New Orleans; east Texas

  1. You want to show two sides of something.

You can use a slash (/).

Their relationship was an on-again/off-again whirlwind.

The city stood in the middle of a Smith/Jones war.

More commonly, the / is used to show alternatives: he/she. (Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS))

  1. You want your character to interrupt her dialogue to give a thought or action that happens during the dialogue.
image by Romi
image by Romi

“This”—Deanna held up the cream puff—“is art.” (CMOS)

Note: is isn’t capitalized; no spaces around the em dashes.

 

 

  1. You want your character to finish another’s sentence.

Jenna stood with arms akimbo. “You know I love dancing and—”

“—chocolate,” John said.

  1. You want your character to tell that someone said yes or no.

“Mom said yes.” Anna smiled.

What was she going to do? Dad had said no.

(Based on CMOS.)

6.  You want your character to talk about a word.

image by Prawny
image by Prawny

When I looked this problem up in grammar books, the authors addressed cases like:

Using happy as an adjective here …

or

Using “happy” as an adjective here …

Both of the above cases with the word in italics or quotation marks is valid.

However, I searched five publishers to see what they did with the following cases in fiction:

I wanted to remove the word happy from the dictionary.

The word ladies seemed appropriate for the group.

Note: No italics or quotation marks (or commas) were used. And in the second case, although ladies is a plural, it is still one word.

Acceptable ways to write 6 infrequent phrases – Part 3. Click to tweet.

What is your favorite resource for grammar usage?

5 Cases: How to Write Infrequent Phrases – Part 2

“Although writing badly is like dressing in lime skorts and an orange plaid sweater—people notice—publicly correcting a stranger’s writing is as rude as asking someone with a fashion problem “Did you think that looked good when you got dressed this morning?” —Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl)

image by seeka
image by seeka

We continue with Part 2 of a 3-part series, looking at acceptable ways to write some phrases that might have puzzled you. Your publisher may have a preference.

  1. You want to write two or more adjectives to describe something (even though using more than one good adjective in fiction should be infrequent).

Here’s the hierarchy that shows which adjective should be first in the series.

  • Quantity – exact or general number (two, a few, several)
  • Opinion/Observation – (beautiful, honest, tasty)
  • Size – (small, short, large)
  • Temperature – (boiling, cold, tepid)
  • Age – (young, ten-year-old, new)
  • Shape – (octagonal, oval, square)
  • Color – (amber, burgundy, orange)
  • Origin – (American, French, Victorian)
  • Material – (brass, glass, tile)
  • Purpose – -ing words (sleeping bag or cooking pot)

Note: I saw in some lists Shape and Color were reversed.

image by jendalichy0080
image by jendalichy0080

Examples:

Three elderly French priests wandered into the garden.

Her beautiful auburn hair fell around her shoulders.

She bonked him on the head with a Teflon frying pan.

She flashed her oval green eyes.

It was a large hot furnace.

In all these cases, commas aren’t used because the last adjective and the noun are seen as a unit, e.g. auburn hair is a unit described as beautiful. Also, we wouldn’t write “beautiful and auburn hair,” so no comma. (Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS))

image by jendalichy0080
image by jendalichy0080
  1. You want your character to speak in a dialect and end his dialogue with darlin’.

Where do the quotation marks and the comma go?

“Come and find me, darlin’,” he said.

  1. You want your character to show his exasperation and bafflement.

What many writers have used from the 1960s is an interrobang. It’s the combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark:

 

To simulate an interrobang, type ?!. (Most resources preferred ?! over !?.) Your character isn’t really asking a question, but he wants to understand what’s going on. You may receive some flak for using an iterrobang.

What?! (internal)

“What?!” (dialogue)

“He did what?!” (dialogue)

Arrested?! (internal)

  1. You want your first-person character to say the peninsula belongs to Sarah and to him, using a form of my.

You can’t write:

Sarah’s and my peninsula. (My denotes singular possession, but the peninsula belongs jointly to both people.) A different word construction is needed.

image by CSalem
image by CSalem

“Our peninsula, Sarah’s and mine, isn’t for sale.”

I learned this from the Daily Writing Tips blog.

 

 

 

  1. You want to write the names of gearshifts in cars.

I searched several books published by different publishing houses. Here are acceptable ways to write them.

Alex put the car in park.

Alex put the car in Park.

More publishers preferred park.

Acceptable ways to write 5 infrequent phrases – Part 2. Click to tweet.

Would you tell us how to write an infrequent grammar phrase that you discovered?