Editing software uses powerful algorithms to compare your content with that of thousands of published authors. It finds where your writing is clunky or awkward and helps you turn your words into dynamic prose that gets readers’ attention.
Did you know that hundreds of thousands of writers use editing software to help polish their writing? And, more and more, editors are requiring that their clients tighten up their manuscripts with editing software before submitting their work.
Editing software like ProWritingAid uses powerful algorithms to compare your content with that of thousands of published authors. It finds where your writing is clunky or awkward and gives you the power to turn your prose into a dynamic piece that gets readers’ attention. It goes way beyond grammar without taking away from your writing style.
Sometimes, the editing process can take even longer than the writing process. As such, it’s always handy to have a roadmap to guide you through your self-edit.
With ProWritingAid, the best place to start is the “Summary Report.” It’s like a report card for your document, covering everything from pacing to readability and supplying top style suggestions. Editing software won’t write your book for you, but it will give you the knowledge you need to write at your best.
Depending on your writing style, ProWritingAid suggests different goals you can aim for based on the overall findings of the “Summary Report.” You can see where your document is looking good and where it might need some work.
I ran a chapter through the editor to use as an example. Here’s how my document shapes up:
You can see that I’ve achieved 60 percent of my goals in this report. While this isn’t bad, there is a lot to improve. My grammar and spelling scores are lower than they should be, and I’ve used some unusual dialogue tags that might distract my reader.
2. Grammar and spelling
The next stop on the Summary Report is the “Grammar Check.” This is pretty simple, but incredibly important. If a reader finds spelling or grammar mistakes in a piece of writing, they start to lose faith in the writer.
Throughout the “Summary Report,” you’ll see brief explanations of why you need to improve your score in certain areas and what score you should aim for.
You’ll also see which other ProWritingAid reports you need to run to see more detailed suggestions and tips, as highlighted in the report here. Once I’ve used the “Grammar Check” to fix these simple mistakes, I can focus on more complex style suggestions to make my writing clearer and stronger.
3. Writing style
The third stop in the “Summary Report” is the writing style check. Even if your writing has no spelling or grammar mistakes, it can still be awkward, clumsy, and difficult to read.
The writing style section explores your text in more detail. You’ll see mini reports for passive voice, emotion tells, and adverbs that could be replaced with stronger adjectives and verbs.
The “Passive Voice” section gives a visual depiction of how the use of passive voice is distributed throughout your document. This helps you determine what you need to focus on in each section of your manuscript to make your writing as engaging as possible.
While passive voice isn’t technically incorrect, writers tend to overuse it, making for over-long sentences and indirect writing. Running the “Writing Style” report will highlight instances of passive voice in your text so you can consider changing them to active, dynamic constructions.
4. Sentence length
Once you’ve dealt with writing style issues, it’s time to take a closer look at the building blocks of your manuscript: your sentences.
Your sentence structure affects how your writing flows. Varying your sentence length keeps your readers engaged by making sure they don’t get bored reading long, rambling sentences that seem to last whole pages or too many short sentences that never hit a stride.
Too many long sentences are hard to read. The “Summary Report” shows you how long all of the sentences in your document are in a nifty bar chart. The report here shows pretty even distribution — though there are clumps of longer sentences in there that might need revising.
The Sentence Length section lets you compare your sentence length distribution directly to that of over 40 popular authors. We’ve chosen J.R.R. Tolkien for this example.
You can use the author comparison feature to see how your writing shapes up against other writers in your genre on a technical level. As you can see, the average sentence length distribution for general fiction is pretty different from Tolkien’s.
If you’re writing in a certain genre, you can run the “Summary Report” against several authors in that genre to get a better idea of the conventions you might want to work into your writing.
ProWritingAid calculates a readability score using a combination of words per sentence and syllables per word. Grade scores correspond to US school grades. So, if you received a score on the Flesch-Kincaid Grade of 12.0, you’ve written something a senior in high school would understand.
Readability is looking good for my chapter overall, but there’s a lot of red in that pie chart. Running the “Readability Report” will show you where your difficult-to-read paragraphs are so you know where to focus the most attention.
How to Improve readability
One way to fix your readability is by pulling apart your sentences using the “Sticky Sentences” report.
Sticky sentences include some of the 200 most common words in the English language, like “of,” “the,” “on,” etc. By cutting these sticky words out of your writing wherever possible, your readers get to your meaning quicker.
6. Sentence structure check
Readability is also improved by varying your sentence types and sentence starts.
The “Summary Report” shows you how your writing is structured in terms of different sentence types used. For example, you’ll see where you’ve started sentences with conjunctions like “and,” “but,” and “yet.” While it’s not grammatically incorrect to start sentences with conjunctions, you should decide whether joining the two sentences is more effective.
You can delve even deeper into the structure of your document by running the “Transitions Report,” which highlights all the transitions in your document and tells you what percentage of your sentences start with transitions. You should aim for about 25 percent to make sure your story flows smoothly from scene to scene.
Have you ever been reading a piece of dialogue and thought: “Didn’t they just say that?”
When writers repeat words and phrases within a few pages, it can set off an echo in their readers’ minds. Use the “Summary Report” to highlight the words and phrases you’ve used over and over again so your writing remains fresh throughout.
Writers love to imagine every detail of their world or their characters’ lives. This can bring richness to your writing, a feeling that the story continues beyond the last page. But if too much character backstory or setting description sneaks into your writing, it can become dry and leave your readers skipping to the next bit of action.
The pacing check shows you how you’ve distributed the faster and slower-paced sections of your story.
My chapter is looking good — the slower-paced sections are interspersed with action, making sure that my reader stays connected to the overarching plot.
How varied is the pacing in your work? It can be hard to tell when reading it back yourself. Using an editing tool lets you see what a reader might see. If your pacing is a little slow, try adding in some action. This doesn’t have to be a car chase or a fight scene; it could be a conversation or an argument.
The dialogue section of the “Summary Report” tells you where you have used standard and non-standard dialogue tags.
This is another area where you can compare with popular authors in your genre.
I’ve used lots of standard and non-standard dialogue tags in my chapter. As you can see, fantasy novels like mine (and Tolkien’s!) tend to have more dialogue — requiring dialogue tags — than general fiction. However, I lose my way with my non-standard tags.
These are words used to describe speech, like “shrieked” or “smiled.” More often than not, these unusual tags will do more to distract your reader than tell them how something was said.
Check your writing for non-standard tags using editing software. If there are too many, you might want to consider replacing them with action that shows who is speaking or with the less distracting “said” or “asked.”
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As you can see, there are many ways in which using an editing tool can help your writing shine. Enter a chapter in ProWritingAid now to see how you score.
Nine Ways Editing Software Can Improve Creative Writing
The Isolated Sentence Test
Pick The Best Sentences In Your Favorite Books (and try to match the quality)
Dialogue Tags: When “Said” Doesn’t Say Enough [Infographic]
Is Your Book Finished?