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Using an editing app can reduce your editing time significantly. You also improve writing productivity when you use an editing tool because you learn as you go along.

A good editing app is more than just a grammar and punctuation checker. It’s also a writing coach that can point out your weaknesses and help you turn them into strengths.

Let’s take a look at how an editing app works and how it can increase your writing productivity.

How does an editing tool work?

Editing tools use algorithms to compare your writing to thousands, or even millions, of articles and books published worldwide. For example, analysis shows that published writing has an average of one transition for every four sentences. Writing that is short on transitions can be hard to follow, so, if your writing has an average of one transition for every ten sentences, it may not be as clear as it could be.

Similarly, somewhere between 4-15% of the words in published writing are pronouns, and fewer than 30% of sentences begin with an initial pronoun. This is because writing that relies too heavily on pronouns can sound stilted. If the editing tool shows your work has higher percentages than these, you might want to think about varying your wording.

Consider this example of pronoun overload:

John turned the corner and saw Doris marching down the road toward his house. She looked like she was angry. He wondered what it was that he had done this time. He tried to remember if he had cut his lawn and turned off his sprinkler. He sometimes cut through his back yard to avoid running into her.

Pronoun percentage: 17.8%. Initial pronoun percentage: 80%.

Here’s the reworked version:

John turned the corner and saw Doris marching down the road toward his house. What had he done to make her angry this time? She loved being the first to point out his gardening lapses. Had he cut the lawn? Had the sprinkler been left on? Sometimes he cut through the back yard to avoid running into her.

Pronoun percentage: 13.6%. Initial pronoun percentage: 17.7%.

The second paragraph has the same core content, but the wording flows better.

Improving productivity

Using an editing app can reduce your editing time significantly. The editing tool reports on issues that most human editors wouldn’t be able to easily track, such as readability level, inconsistencies, sticky sentences, sentence length, repetition, strong or weak tenses, unique words, transitions, and much more. The human brain is designed to think linearly, thus catching repetitions manually takes a lot of time and resources, whereas the editing tool can catch these in seconds.

On the other hand, human editors are more suitable to provide feedback on character development, argument logics, manuscript structure, and overall style and feel. And to be honest, most editors prefer focusing on the meat of your writing rather than your sentence structure and word choice. So tighten your writing as much as possible before you submit it to your editor.

You also improve writing productivity when you use an editing tool because you learn as you go along. If you run an analysis and find that you overuse the word “very” and have a tendency toward long, winding sentences, then you are less likely to make those same mistakes next time. Your writing will naturally improve over time.

The modern writing process

Every writer has his or her own writing process, but here are the steps I usually take when writing with an editing app.

1. Create the outline. You have a general idea of what you want to write. Now it’s time to create the outline.

If you are writing fiction, decide the key plot points that will make up your narrative. If you are writing nonfiction, what are the main points you wish to argue? An outline should be concise and straightforward; it only includes the key elements. Not more, not less.

2. Type the first draft. The first draft should be written freely without worrying too much about grammar or technical style elements. I usually type the first draft with iA Writer, which allows me to focus without any distractions.

I do my best not to edit at this stage. My creative brain is active, and I need to keep up momentum. Editing slows me down and takes me out of the moment. There will be time for that later.

3. Run a summary report. I try to take a couple of days between the completion of the first draft and my first edit. Running a summary report with my editing app provides a bird’s-eye view and sets a direction in which to begin. In one sweep, I see the general issues requiring immediate attention.

editing app image 1

ProWritingAid‘s Summary Report contains a lot of information — too much to include here — but someone ran a report on a Monty Python sketch and you can check it out here.

Some of the key elements in the summary report include:

Document Scores: these give you a basic overview of your document.

editing app image 2

Key Actions: the algorithm will provide suggestions on the issues to address.

editing app image 3

Document statistics: these let you know exactly how much you have written.

editing app image 4

Next, the summary report includes an overview of each individual report so you know which areas are looking strong and which need a bit of work:

editing app image 5

4. Run individual reports. Once I’ve identified the key areas that will make the biggest difference to my writing, I run those reports.

Each writer will have different bad habits, so different reports will appeal more than others. Choose the ones that are right for your work.

editing app image 6

The reports I always run are:

  1. Grammar
  2. Overused words
  3. Readability
  4. Clichés and redundancies
  5. Sticky sentences
  6. Repeats
  7. Sentence length
  8. Pronouns

I like how the reports force me to focus on just one element at a time.

It helps me work faster and more efficiently if I spend an editing session just working on improving my grammar, for example. The next day, I might focus only on overused words. This has had a huge effect on my productivity.

5. Review the focus, consistency, and flow. Now it’s time to review from a meta level: does it all add up? Step back again from the technical writing issues and look at the content as a whole.

If you are writing an essay or report, does your text support the thesis statement and the points of discussion?

If you are writing fiction, does every scene move the narrative forward? Are your characters three-dimensional beings?

Are there any unnecessary paragraphs or sentences that aren’t aligned with the focus? At this step, eliminate excess fat. Trim it clean.

Do you need to move things around to maintain flow? A good editing tool will show areas where transitions are weak so you can address them as suggested or rewrite the whole section. Also, it will flag the parts requiring a complete overhaul. In ProWritingAid, the “sentence length” and “pacing” checks will give you a visual on where to look for areas to rework.

6. Run a plagiarism check. Great minds think alike. Since the human brain works similarly, sometimes there are identical sentences already published. Running a plagiarism check before turning your writing in to an editor, a publisher, a supervisor, or an instructor helps ensure your work is completely original.

editing app image 7

While there is no clear rule on how similar the wording has to be to constitute plagiarism, a returned percentage of below 15% of matching text in one continuous block should indicate no plagiarism has occurred.

Just to be safe, I always change marked areas and resubmit to make sure my work is 100% unique.

7. Ask someone else to read it. Every writer needs that trusted friend, colleague, or beta reader who will read their work and give honest, constructive feedback.

As the writer, you know what you are trying to get across, so your brain fills in the gaps. A reader looking at the words with fresh eyes will get confused where the meaning is unclear, and that’s important for you to know. They will be able to point out areas that don’t make sense or need to be fleshed out more.

(Warning: this needs to be more than your mom saying “Well done, dear. It’s wonderful!” Most moms are terrible at editing their darling child’s work.)

And finally…

Productivity is an important element when it comes to editing your work. If you can edit efficiently, you will be able to polish your work more quickly and your output will increase. You’ll be able to spend more time writing, and as an added bonus, knowing what comes up during the editing process will help make you a better writer, too.

 

The End

 

Related Posts
9 Ways an Editing Tool Helps You Polish Your Manuscript
What Editing Software Can Teach You About Your Writing
Humans vs. Robots: When (And Why) You Should Use Editing Tools
7 ways an algorithm can help you write a better novel
Nine Manuscript Editing Software Programs You Should Consider

 

Jennifer Xue

About Jennifer Xue

Jennifer Xue has written 2 posts in this blog.

Jennifer Xue is an award-winning author, columnist, course developer, and serial entrepreneur based in Northern California. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Business.com, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, Good Men Project, and others. She also serves as a digital strategist for Oberlo and blogs at JenniferXue.com.

17 thoughts on “How An Editing App Can Increase Writing Productivity

  1. Steve fleming says:

    Thanks.. Its a great idea . I have had a few problems with people who think they are editors. I write for fun but got discouraged, i still have one un published but couldn’t afford an expensive edit so i have done nothing…. Lol.. Not good…
    So thank you, intrigued from England…

  2. Becky P says:

    Great information here. Very useful. Thank you

  3. Charles E. Perrault says:

    where can I get this software?

    1. I purchased the program on a year-to-year basis and it was a bad decision. I would have been better off buying it for a five-year plan or more. It is extremely helpful in writing regardless of the genre, fiction or non-fiction. Whether a pro or novice, it helps to expose those too frequently hidden errors or confusing phrases. Get it if you want to make sure your work shines at prowritingaid.com.

  4. Thanks, Jennifer. I rarely leave a reply to a blog post. But this is so exceptional and helpful, I’m compelled. Thank you!

  5. Erick says:

    I’ve been debating to purchase software like this for years, but my largest concern is the software framing sentences into a particular style: making all pegs square so they fit the square holes. In other words, does that software penalize a particular style if it’s not common and/or shred creativity? Honest question there, b/c I have zero experience in that type of software.

    On a tangent, I wonder how some well-known authors would score? In particular, those that are very “fluid” with the rules of grammar and punctuation. Haha.

    Good article btw!

    1. BookBaby Andre says:

      All the apps I’ve used always give suggestions that you can accept or reject, so ultimately you need not change anything if you don’t want to. It’s helpful to see what the suggestions are and why they are being suggested, but I find I dismiss a good percentage of them as I’m happy with the sentence as it was written.

    2. Wendy says:

      I hear you. I’ve tried a few sample analyses, and they’ve often flagged “long sentences” where I have multi-word terms, “passive voice” in situations where the subject (doer) is unimportant, and too much/not enough dialog simply because that particular section fell heavily one way or the other. I think I dismissed 80% of the suggestions as “not applicable in my situation.”

  6. Marie Ryan says:

    Hi. Thanks for interesting article.
    Are there any edting apps you would be willing to recommend?
    Regards. Marie.

    1. BookBaby Andre says:

      All the “related posts” linked at the end of the post have more info about editing apps, and this one in particular references specific apps.
      http://blog.bookbaby.com/2017/10/nine-manuscript-editing-software-programs-reviewed/

  7. Fascinated Angel says:

    This was an interesting article, and the part about the mom editing made me laugh out loud!! But, is it safe to have an app do the editing of your book??…I have seen some AWFUL re-phrased sentences…the meaning has been totally screwed up by the editing, and I felt really sorry for the authors.

  8. Wendy says:

    I wonder about some of the plagiarism checks going on. Once, I was working on a contract that wanted me to run my work through a specific checker. I couldn’t remember the exact name and did a search, ending up with a checker that flagged my work as plagiarizing some article I’d never heard of, on a subject completely unrelated to what I was working on. And sometimes, to avoid “plagiarizing” a sentence, you end up with such an awkward structure that some innocent editor trying to smooth the flow would end up inadvertently converting it back to the plagiarized form.
    It’s like
    “Dick saw Jane.”
    Joe Blow doesn’t want to be a plagiarist, so he rephrases it to, “Dick observed Jane.”
    You have Joe’s account and the original, and you don’t want to plagiarize either of them, so you say, “Jane was observed by Dick.”
    Then your editor comes along, decides that passive voice has to go, and “corrects” your sentence to “Dick saw Jane.”

    Sometimes there’s only so many ways to phrase a certain piece of information without getting awkward.

  9. Max Basco says:

    I use PWA as editor app and it’s a good tool; it does what it pretends to do for writers. Good app to explore. MR

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