Automated Editing Tools—Is One Right for You?

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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

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I entered the same excerpt from an old unpublished manuscript into the free online edit boxes for the following automated editing services: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

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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.

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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?

Diction: Choosing the Right Word for Your Character

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What Diction Is

Diction for fiction is the style of writing determined by a writer’s word choices. Words should

  • suit the story’s environment,
  • be appropriate to the writer’s audience, and
  • have meanings understood by readers.

Why Diction Is Important

  • The wrong word can take readers out of the story or cause them to misinterpret an intended message.
  • The right word can add to the story’s tone or mood.
  • Good word choices can show a character’s social status, background, education, where he’s from, and his personality.

Example:

Suppose the genre is “prairie” romance, which depicts life in the prairie states in the 1800s. The heroine is a common girl whose family moved west from West Virginia.

Karen attached the Arabian stallion to the buckboard, rending her satin sleeve. Oh great! One more task to do after dinner with a house full of lads gamboling in the cabin.

Analysis

The name Karen, one of the most popular names for girls born in the 1950s and 1960s, became common in English-speaking countries in the 1940s.

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Although General Ulysses S. Grant was given two Arabian stallions in 1877, they weren’t introduced to Americans until the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Common people couldn’t afford such a breed.

During the 1800s, most hardworking prairie women wore dresses made from calico or other lightweight material.

I consider the exclamation, Oh great! as a modern expression; it would’ve pulled me from the story.

Task is a good word, but chore refers to a household duty.

The word rending means to tear into two or more pieces. Tearing also means to make a cut, split, or hole in something.

Supper is less formal than dinner.

Lads is a British term.

The word gamboling may be unfamiliar to many readers. Some readers may think the lads were gambling.

image by almondbranch

Better Rewrite:

Bessie attached the mule to the buckboard, tearing her calico sleeve. Tarnation! One more chore for after supper with a cabin full of boys and their carryings-on.

 

 

Types of Diction    

  • Formal (presentations) “This evening’s banquet will be held in the ballroom. Formal attire please.”
  • Informal (every-day situations) “Dinner tonight will be at my house. Come casual.”
  • Colloquial (words particular to a country, area, city, or neighborhood) “Y’all come for supper. Sausage biscuits, gravy, and sweet tea. No need to gussie up.”
  • Slang (impolite or the latest fad words) “Eats at my digs. Later.”
  • Poetic versus prose (Any poets out there?)

Word choice also depends on whom the character addresses. He may speak differently to children, senior citizens, friends, bosses, spouses, parents, judges, pastors, and strangers.

Cautions for Diction

  • Changes in the style of word choices within the story can distract or confuse the reader.
  • When looking for a synonym to keep your writing fresh, be careful not to choose one that has a slightly different meaning than you intended.
  • Unless your character speaks in clichés, avoid these tired phrases.

Diction is a writer’s concern to make the best word choices for his works. Click to tweet.

Can you share a word or phrase that jarred you in a book you read?