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.
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.
Some of the key elements in the summary report include:
Document Scores: these give you a basic overview of your document.
Key Actions: the algorithm will provide suggestions on the issues to address.
Document statistics: these let you know exactly how much you have written.
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:
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.
The reports I always run are:
- Overused words
- Clichés and redundancies
- Sticky sentences
- Sentence length
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.
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.)
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.
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