Self-Editing? Look for These 5 Common Problems

Editing programs such as ProWritingAid will help you catch these problems. For most of them you can use your word processor‘s Find tool to search for the problems.

Problem 1: A character is going to do an action.


He was going to make retribution.

Better: He would make retribution.


“I’m going to take Cindy to the concert.”

Better: I’ll take Cindy to the concert.


Problem 2: A Character has to do something.


I had to make the trip for my sanity.

Better: I needed to make the trip for my sanity.


“I have to make sure you’re right.”

Better: “I need to make sure you’re right.”

image by PatternPictures

For the next three problems, most of the examples are good sentences. I give alternatives to reduce the number of occurrences of an overused word in a scene. Like the photo, overused words can crowd a scene.



Problem 3: Overuse of thought, think, believe in a scene’s inner thoughts and dialogue. These can pile up in a scene.

Ways to reduce overuse in a scene:

“I thought you knew Elle.”

Alternate: “You’ve never met Elle?”


“I think I should go with you for your safety.”

Alternate: “I should go with you for your safety.” (I think is unnecessary.)


He didn’t believe her.

Alternate: She hadn’t told him the truth.


Problem 4: Overuse of knew and know in a scene’s inner thoughts and dialogue. Like thought words, these can quickly sprinkle a scene. 

Ways to reduce overuse in a scene:

“I thought you knew Charlie.”

Alternate: “You’ve never met Charlie?”


“I know I’ll like your play.”

Alternate: “I’ll like your play.” (I know is unnecessary.)


He knew she’d betray him one day.

Alternate: He’d expected her betrayal.


Problem 5: Overuse of maybe in a scene’s inner thoughts and dialogue.

Ways to reduce overuse in a scene:

“Maybe she was the killer.”

Alternate: “The evidence pointed to her as the killer.”


“Maybe he could take her to dinner.”

Alternate: “He could take her to dinner.” (I maybe is unnecessary.)


Maybe she was right.

Alternate: Was she right? Possibly.

Fix these 5 common problems in a scene’s inner thoughts or dialogue. Click to tweet.

What is another common problem you’ve experienced

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Suddenly unemployed, Allie Masterson returns home to Cary, North Carolina where she caddies for her father on the PGA Seniors Tour. There, she encounters a man who possesses an alluring gift of reading the contours of the green. Fascinated with his uncanny ability, Allie is excited to meet the Green Whisperer—until she discovers that the easygoing caddy is actually Shoo Leonard, the boy who teased her relentlessly when they were kids. Despite Allie’s reservations, when Shoo is faced with having to overcome a hand injury, she agrees to use her sport science degree to become his trainer…and then she falls for him.

 Shoo Leonard is grateful to Allie for her singular determination to get him ready for the PGA tour, but he isn’t ready for anything more. Still raw from a broken engagement and focused on his career, he’s content to be her fist-bumping buddy…but then he falls for her.

What seems like a happily-ever-after on the horizon takes a turn when Allie decides she’s become a distraction to Shoo’s career. Is it time for her to step away or can The Putting Green Whisperer find the right words to make her stay?

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



Hemingway Editor


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?