While a good, professional (human) editor is invaluable to your book – the purchase of manuscript editing software can be another prudent investment.

Manuscript editing software programs do much more than the built-in spelling and grammar checkers in your word processor. Some offer “first-pass” or “last-pass” editing to clean up mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation; others make suggestions for improving your language.

These programs can alert you to overuse of adverbs, clichés, redundancies, overlong sentences, sticky sentences, glue words, vague and abstract words, diction, and the misuse of dialog tags, to name just a few. Some of these tools will even connect you with a human editor with a click of a button. In alphabetical order, here are some of my favorites (this is by no means an exhaustive list).

AutoCrit

AutoCrit is well organized and offers a lot of information in a clean interface. In my writing, it revealed an excess of generic descriptions, passive voice, and too many initial pronouns, names, and “ing” words. I also use too many “ly” adverbs. On the plus side, I’m great at showing and not telling, and I don’t repeat words and phrases or use a lot of filler words or clichés.

Autocrit manuscript editing software

All these were easy fixes once I was made aware of them. But hey, if you’re feeling depressed about your errors, just click the “compare to fiction” tab to show how your writing stacks up against published works, including mass-market paperbacks and bestsellers. It might make you feel better.

The manuscript analysis provides a lot of constructive criticism in a clean, easy-to-read layout. I like the visual charts representing sentence length and paragraph pace, too.

AutoCrit is $29.97/month.

Consistency Checker

Consistency Checker manuscript editing softwareThis free software will find the mistakes your spelling and grammar checkers don’t see, such as inconsistent hyphenation (part time vs. part-time) and spelling (color vs. colour). It also finds things like numerals in the middle of sentences, compound words, and abbreviations that appear in different forms.

It does not check spelling and grammar, just consistency. Note: this is the freemium version of the $99 PerfectIt app for Microsoft Office 2013 and Google Docs.

Consistency Checker 2 manuscript editing software

It targets long nonfiction document like proposals, grants, and how-to manuals. I wish this kind of tool had existed back when I was a Silicon Valley technical writer! I will definitely run it the next time I edit my how-to book, the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors. What the heck, I’ll run it in my narrative nonfiction works, too.

Install Consistency Checker in Word by visiting the Microsoft Office 2013 store. To install it in Google Docs, go to the store listing, log in and click “Free,” then run Google Docs and Consistency Checker will be in the “Add-ons” menu.

Draft

Draft is a writing, editing, collaboration, and publishing tool you access online using your browser. Each contributor’s changes show up in different colors, with “accept” and “reject” options. You can mark major revisions, find and revert to previous versions, import docs from Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, and publish directly to places like WordPress, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and even MailChimp. They’ve provided a handy Chrome extension that lets you turn any text area on the web into something you can write and edit with Draft. You can even hire a human editor via the program.

Draft manuscript editing software

You can email a document to your Draft account and create a simple presentation, then select segments of writing and the “simplify” robot catches common words and duplicate words and attempts to detect and delete unimportant sentences. More features include an audio-video transcription tool, analytics, and a website builder tool. “Hemingway Mode” provides distraction-free writing.

Draft is free, but donations unlock more benefits.

Grammarly

Grammarly is my favorite electronic editor. It delivers information both line-by-line and in summary form. I bought an annual subscription in 2015, and I like the way it follows me around the web to check my WordPress blog posts, my Google Docs, Gmail, and comments and feedback forms on other people’s blog posts and articles. As I am a professional writer, it is embarrassing when I make basic spelling and grammatical errors in quick, social media posts and emails, so I appreciate this feature.

Grammarly manuscript editing software

Like most robust editing tools, Grammarly offers settings for various kinds of writing: business documents, novels, creative nonfiction, medical, technical, and casual. I set mine to creative nonfiction.

A basic version of Grammarly that roots out spelling and grammar errors is free, while the full version is $29.95/month. If you need a human editor, quick, you can reach one through their site for a reasonable price.

Hemingway Editor

Hemingway is a distraction-free writing tool that displays a row of formatting elements across the top for bold, italics, bulleting, numbering, headings, and links. Slide it from “Write” into “Edit” mode and you’ll get a clean, visual take on what might be wrong with your writing. The word and character counters are also very handy.

Hemingway manuscript editing software

The browser-based version of the Hemingway app is free, and with the desktop app for Mac and Windows ($19.99), you can import and export your text to Word and export as HTML or Markdown language for your blogging platform, WordPress, or CMS files.

Some people like to write and edit in Hemingway and then import their work into a tool called StackEdit, a browser-based markdown editor, though you could easily use any of the other tools I’ve already mentioned.

MasterWriter

MasterWriter is a valuable addition to any of the editors described here. It’s a thesaurus on steroids in the cloud that will improve your vocabulary and your prose. Enrich your writing with its synonym finder, rhyming dictionary, alliterations, word families, phrases, dictionary, and even a set of 11,000 icons of world culture to add imagery to your writing.

MasterWriter manuscript editing software

Instead of your story’s sun being “hot,” you’ll find choices like blazing, sizzling, fiery, torrid, punishing, merciless, or raging. Just put a word in the left side and click the dictionary you want to use and get results on the right side.

Check out the video tour and I think you’ll be impressed. An audio page enables you to collect your thoughts or music. There’s a free trial, with licenses offered at $9.99/month, $99.95/year, or $149 for a two-year license.

ProWritingAid

Of all the tools reviewed, ProWritingAid probably offers the most value, especially with their clean, updated interface and detailed reports with the click of a link. I was so impressed that I bought the annual subscription even though I also subscribe to Grammarly. I love their free Google Docs and Chrome browser extension, too. I still use Grammarly because it follows me everywhere on the web, but with its thorough critique, I think ProWritingAid makes me a better writer. As an editor and publisher, the reports also help me communicate better with my authors.

ProWritingAid manuscript editing software

A scaled-down version of ProWritingAid is free online, with Premium editions offered at $40 annually, $60 for a two-year license, $80 for a three-year license, and $140 for lifetime use.

ProWritingAid also offers a couple of advanced features you may be interested in using. As a publisher, I can create my own rules and house style that detects patterns, wildcards, overused words, dialog, and repeated words, plus it lets me create customized advice messages for my authors. Their developer API allows software developers to add writing analysis to applications they are developing.

SmartEdit

SmartEdit is a first-pass-editing tool for creative writers and novelists working in Windows. Since I’m Mac-based, I couldn’t review it, but gleaned a lot of information from the screen shots and user reviews on their site.

SmartEdit manuscript editing software

Like AutoCrit and Grammarly, SmartEdit runs a series of checks on your work and highlights areas of concern. You can open your manuscript directly in SmartEdit, or copy and paste from your word processor into the SmartEdit Editor.

Unique features include a sentence length graph and detection of curly/straight quotes, plus hyphen and em-dash counts. A sentence-start list displays your sentences and counts the number of times you begin them with a particular word, which can be a real eye-opener.

SmartEdit, like ProWritingAid, may deserve consideration by professional editors and publishers as it allows you to export lists of problems the program caught to Excel, PDF, HTML, CSV, and text. This kind of feedback helps a lot when communicating with writers and editors.

A single SmartEdit license is $67, SmartEdit for Word is $77, and the SmartEdit Bundle is $109.

WriteMonkey

The WriteMonkey folks describe their Windows desktop app as “Zenware” for writers. Like Hemingway and Draft, WriteMonkey offers a stripped-down, distraction-free writing environment. You can customize your background, font, and what you see in the toolbar, such as word count, with a progress bar and the current time.

More advanced features are available as well, such as the ability to manage separate chapter files in a book-length work using a “Jumps” feature.

You write in simple text, formatting using Markdown language or the Textile markup language if you like. You can export to HTML and upload it to the web as a page or a blog post.

Like some of the other tools, WriteMonkey is supported by donations. Your donation gives you access to many plugins that are available separately.

Conclusion

Let’s do the math. I spend $139.95/year for Grammarly, $75/year for MasterWriter (at $149.99 for two years), and bought ProWritingAid’s $140 lifetime membership. Does that seem like overkill? I don’t think so, considering how much it costs to hire a human editor. I’d rather send my editor my best work before she tackles it, so she can work on the harder stuff. And besides, I learn a lot from these smart programs. Publishing error-free blogs and social media posts is important for a writer, too. Don’t you agree?

Join Carla and a host of great presenters, speakers, and exhibitors at BookBaby’s Independent Authors Conference, November 3-5 at The Sonesta Hotel in Philadelphia! The Independent Authors Conference is the only writing conference dedicated to helping independent authors publish successfully. Register now! Don’t miss this opportunity to listen and learn from some of today’s leading self-publishing experts!

 

Free guides to writing, publishing, blogging, and more!

 

Related Posts
Use All Five Senses To Enrich Your Writing
Why I Love Scrivener for iOS: A Review
Humans vs. Robots: When (And Why) You Should Use Editing Tools
7 ways an algorithm can help you write a better novel
What Editing Software Can Teach You About Your Writing
Why do you need professional editing for your novel?

 

Carla King

About Carla King

Carla King has written 4 posts in this blog.

Carla King was turned down by big publishing in 1994, so she self-published her guidebook to bicycling the French Riviera. She made enough money to return to France twice more, which helped her fall in love with the self-publishing process. In 2010, she founded Self-Pub Boot Camp, a program of books, workshops, and virtual classes that step authors through the publishing process. Carla is a frequent speaker on adventures in travel, writing, and publishing. The 3rd edition of her Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, released in March, has been downloaded over 30,000 times. Find her at SelfPubBootCamp.com and CarlaKing.com.

44 thoughts on “Nine Manuscript Editing Software Programs You Should Consider

  1. How did you review Intelligent Editing if you’re Mac based? Me too, but I couldn’t find it for Mac

  2. Patrice says:

    Thank you for the extensive review. I had not heard of some of these programs. I’ll be trying a few out.

    1. I agree. I have a 435 page treatise on Naval History about a famous naval battle of WWII that is so complex that it might otherwise be a problem for me to edit 100% myself. Even after being a Senior Technical Writer for 21 years, some things are bound to still slip through the cracks that I might not otherwise catch. Think I’ll be looking into that Consistency Checker for sure. Try getting names like Tassafaronga, Surigao and Ngella Sule past a Spellchecker! Thanks for the insights though; as usual you guys are simply great!

  3. Lisa Lepki says:

    Hi Carla,

    Thanks so much for including ProWritingAid on your list! We are delighted.

    But…based on that screenshot, it looks like you are using a very old version of the software. Our newest version has a much nicer interface and is much more intuitive to use: https://prowritingaid.com/en/Analysis/WebEditor/Go

    We would love it it you would check it out!

    All the best,

    Lisa Lepki
    ProWritingAid
    http://www.prowritingaid.com

    1. Carla King says:

      I will check it out. Thank you!

    2. Eric says:

      There’s one you missed: Edit Minion. It’s an online editing software that’s 100% free.

      Check it out on http://www.editminion.com

    3. Mark Douglas says:

      A Pages addict!
      There used tube many years ago in DOS 3.1, a program that allowed you to build a character person, scene, building, etc., including text editing. I have looked and looked but cannot find it. Does anyone remember or recognize this really great tool?

    4. Thanks for the insights, Lisa, I’ll have to see if I can use it for my Naval History manuscript.

    5. Carla King says:

      Thanks, Lisa,
      I corrected the text and added the new screenshot – some awesome improvements there!
      Best,
      Carla

    6. Lisa Lepki says:

      Hey All,

      I just wanted to let you know that the lovely people at Bookbaby have now updated the screenshot so it shows our most recent version.

      Thank you!!

  4. Francis Shaw says:

    I would also recommend StyleWriter which I find very helpful – http://www.editorsoftware.com/StyleWriter.html

  5. This is a great post and you provide an overview of each edit software. However, it still leaves me confused and I hope you will give me some directions. Currently, I have Hemingway (upgraded version) and I import my work from Word. It works good for me and finding those pesky adverbs and adjectives that we don’t necessarily need. I object to the complex sentence when it is no more than a certain number of words. I have the free version of Grammarly. I like that it loads anytime I’m on the internet. I also import from Word with Grammarly. It is great finding those misused words and unnecessary or repetitive usage. Now my question. I’m a novice writer and can use all the help I can get, yet I’m on a budget. If you had to recommend one of these, which one do you think delivers the best ‘band for the buck’? I use a Mac also and an old (2011) version of Word. Any assistance is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  6. Al Musitano says:

    To all my writing friends,

    My wife and I are leaders of a writing group with many members. Quite a few have asked for our help getting their finished work up on Amazon. A couple have used Grammarly and loved it. I must, however, provide a word of caution. Some of these programs use incompatible metadata in their formatting. Simply put, a computer must use a symbol for the space bar. It’s a symbol you cannot see (ergo, space). If these symbols are not compatible then you can end up with jumbled text, text without spacing, no indents, no paragraph breaks, no text modifiers (e.g. italics, etc), and a plethora of issues that a live person will then have to correct manually.
    I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the programs. In fact, my minimal experience with them has proven quite positive. I’ve enjoyed the productiveness and sophistication of these programs. If not for these compatibility issues, I would be hard pressed to find anything negative.
    All the best with all your writing endeavors in the future,

    Al Musitano
    GothMares series

    1. Carla King says:

      Thanks very much.

      I’m guessing your publishing with Amazon KDP and probably uploading a Word doc. It helps to save it as filtered HTML and then take a look, to correct the problems. They have a good help page with ebook file formatting tips:

      https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200644180

      Good luck!

      Carla

    2. Babru Samal says:

      I agree with the observation about the mess created by some of these editors. I usually copy the edited texts to a text editor like jujuedit and paste in Microsoft Word from there. That preserves the Word formats (paragraph structure etc.) but does not transport the anomalies.

    3. Joy Smiley says:

      To avoid that sort of problem you’re better off using software that works as a plug in for Microsoft Word. That way, all the software does is read your document and highlight things or make suggestions. Word itself continues to handle the actual document and formatting. I think there are a couple of this list taht word inside Word: SmartEdit and Prowritingaid, I think.

  7. Mark Douglas says:

    I have now published 16 novels as Mark Douglas and Mark Newell Douglas. Still looking for that great editing machine.

  8. Thanks for the review. I used AutoCrit after writing my book (Mystery Crime Thrillers) and I use Grammarly before I send it to my editor. I chose the big package also where Grammarly follows me around the web because I also have to write school assignment papers. Two of the best programs on the web as far as I’m concerned.

  9. Earl says:

    I was glad to see the raves for Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid. I also use Ginger, which you didn’t list.

    1. Carla King says:

      Thanks, Earl,

      Just took a look. Ginger was probably under my radar because I use a Mac and it’s only Windows-compatible. But it does have an app for iOS devices. For Android, it offers a “keyboard” utility and language translation. They have extensions for Chrome and Safari, too.

      Its app for schools help dyslexic students correct their writing, and it’s got a product for business.

      Kind of an eclectic and somewhat confusing mix, but I’ll keep an eye on them.

      Thanks again!

      Carla

  10. Beverly McCoy says:

    I can’t make Gramerly work on my “Word” I have tried everything. it only does six hundred words.

  11. Sarah says:

    I tried grammarly but found the free version to be lacking compared to the free version of prowritingaid. Grammarly picked out “errors” which were in fact correct, and when I contacted support about it, they sent an auto-reply which left me thinking they had no intention of correcting the problems which prowritingaid mastered years ago.

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi Sarah,

      If you’re using the free version you probably won’t get much support in any app. I like ProWritingAid, too, and probably, if forced to choose just one, that would be it because of all the extra features and learning aids.

      Thanks!
      Carla

    2. Lisa Lepki says:

      Hi Sarah,

      That’s so nice to hear – thank you for taking the time to comment!

      Happy editing,

      Lisa
      ProWritingAid

  12. BobJax says:

    Carla, Thanks!

    Lisa, I just tried ProWritingAid. Extremely helpful!

    1. Lisa Lepki says:

      Awesome! That’s great to hear. Let us know if you have any questions or problems.

  13. Franklin says:

    Wow! Very illuminating article, never knew about these softwares until now. This one of the best things that has happened to me as an aspiring author in writing. Thank you Bookbaby!!!

  14. Ola Mapaderun says:

    Hi, thanks for the publication. I will look up one or two of these software.

  15. Camilla says:

    I use PerfectIt and find it thorough and extensive in its standard procedures. The best part about it is the personalized service you get from the founder, developer and CEO when you have a problem.

    1. Carla King says:

      Thanks. Just took a look. This seems like a good solution for people who want their editing done within MS Word.

  16. Great resource, thank you, Carla. I’ll definitely share it. I did try Grammarly a while back as I was doing a lot of writing jobs, but it drove me nuts so I had to let it go. For me, the problem with many auto-edit functions is that they don’t leave a lot of room for the vernacular or chatty writing. However, AutoCrit interests me as I can see this would help me improve my writing overall. As an editor and writer, I know how easy it is to get stuck in a rut using the same words, sentence constructions and phrases so I can see this would be invaluable.

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi Deborah,

      Thank you! Yes, electronic editors don’t have a high tolerance for vernacular. They will let you hit “ignore” though, which can be frustrating if you have too many.

      Here’s where you really need a human!

      Have fun!

      Carla

  17. Quick question: In a scenario where you have a long itemized list, is there any kind of software that can tell you whether you have “doubles” of a specific item in that list? I’d be interested in finding out if I had more than one occurrence of the same item. Just curious…

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi Lawrence.
      Here’s a trick. Paste your list into a new Word document and alphabetize it so that it’s easy to see redundancies. https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Sort-a-list-alphabetically-117e95e4-c347-4c6e-b05f-4ad85cb5e015
      Enjoy!
      Carla

    2. Carla King says:

      I have a solution for you. Paste your list in Word and use the sort function.

      https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Sort-a-list-alphabetically-1F938032-2158-4BF3-BE0D-4536375055C6

      Too easy, huh?

      Best,
      Carla

    3. Lisa Lepki says:

      Hi Lawrence,

      ProWritingAid has a “Repeats Check” that would work for that.

      All the best,

      Lisa

  18. Paula Perron says:

    I have used Master Writer, and it has features I need. I also find AutoCrit and ProWriting Aid very useful for improving my writing. Most require a fee, but it is worth it to see the results.

  19. Carla King says:

    Thanks much, Paula. I agree. Worth the investment.

  20. Kevin says:

    Is there one that works better with fiction?

  21. Burl Clayton says:

    Thank you for this list, the programs you mentioned will help with the manuscripts.

  22. unkillbilly says:

    Good information. Just wondering about the Scrivener elephant in the room…

  23. Caz says:

    Just wanted to say I love Pro Writing Aid and they did a “Black Friday” special last year that gave me a lifetime membership for half price (I think it was $70) – that’s lifetime, not annually. It was well worth it, so check out their website and maybe get on their mailing list because that’s how I found out about the Black Friday price and I figured what the heck, I’d already tried it out briefly, it seemed good, and now I have the lifetime, it’s been invaluable to me as a fiction writer!

  24. Johnatan says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing. Good article with useful recommendations. As a writer, the biggest fear for me is a plagiarism. And I try to avoid it by plagiarism checker usage. For me the most reliable is http://www.unicheck.com. So, if I sure that my content is unique I can get to the next step. Next step is a grammar checking, other site blogs analyses and so on.

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