Six Manuscript Editing Software Programs You Should Consider

manuscript editing software

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

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Manuscript editing software programs are more than just proofreading services; they 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. Automated editing is not as good as human editing, but it is probably a good idea to get one of these editing services to make some obvious corrections before sending your manuscript to an editor.

These programs can alert you to the 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 to help you with your Word document with a click of a button. In alphabetical order, here are some of my favorites (this is by no means an exhaustive list).


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.


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 has a free plan with limited features. The Pro plan starts at $30/month.


Grammarly is my favorite electronic english editing process. 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 $12/month. If you need a quick human editor 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 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 it 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 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 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 $ 9.95/month, $99.95/year, or $149.95 for a two-year license.


Of all the tools reviewed, ProWritingAid probably offers the most value, especially with its 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 subscribed 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

A scaled-down version of ProWritingAid is free online, with Premium editions offered at $120 annually or $399 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 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 I gleaned a lot of information from the screenshots 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.

There’s a free option with limited use, SmartEdit for Word is $77, and the SmartEdit Bundle is $139.


Let’s do the math. I spent $144/year for Grammarly, $75/year for MasterWriter (at $149.95 for two years), and bought ProWritingAid’s $399 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?

Getting ready to publish? Take a look at these free guides that will help you write, plan, and publish your book.

BookBaby Editing Services


  1. I’ve seen a new tool worth mentioning called, they seem to be approaching it from a different angle by baselining bestselling books, pretty interesting stuff.

  2. I have been using Grammerly for a few year’s now. Yesterday I installed “ProWritingAid”. My question is: after doing a 100% check with Grammerly, I then did a check with ProWritingAid and it came up with a bunch of changes or problem suggestions. Do I use both or what? Confused….

  3. If machine logic and grammar combined are necessary for a writer than they obviously cannot write. Do poets need this? Do musicians? Objectivity is the way. Take a mental step back. You will see how your writing then appears to others.
    Save the money. Go out instead.

  4. After 3 self-published and edited books, I have discovered existence of these programs. At this stage I’m clamoring for a congenial editor and an agent. Two of these programs may at least fill the need for the former. Even though having read the review of the programs and comments, I’m still not sure which one would fit my creative non-fiction type of writing, at least there is something to try out. Thank you very much to one and all!

  5. Helpful review. However, you failed to give adequate attention to moving in and out of MS-Word and Scrivener (possibly some other word processors.) I used Grammarly and Autocrit. They don’t do the same things, and each of them skips something that is lacking in my English education, so I needed both of them. Besides being expensive, it was difficult to mover from MS-Word to Gammerly, export to Word, back to AutoCrit then back into Word. It was almost always a hassle. I recently started using ProWritingAid mostly because it was cheaper, but ProWriting\Aid has some glaring grammer gaps that show up when I ran the same texts through both programs.

    The real answer is for Microsoft to either buy these folks out, or put some original effort into adding text editing features to their word processing software.

  6. I looked at a few of these and decided none of them work for my current project, which is an autobiography of a technical project that the author wants to be appealing to his technical industry as well as laypeople as it is a pretty fascinating story.

    AutoCrit looked great in function, except that it’s geared towards fiction. Any thoughts on this?

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  8. The only question I have these are all wonderful as I type here having free software follow my every word as I type here, although commas etc, versus where does this sentence go what happens to our own thought process of overkill, to please someone else or to please self in the expression of our thoughts to paper as we tell the Story as we see it… just saying..

  9. I have downloaded Grammarly but it doesn’t appear when I am writing in Pages on my Mac. Do any of these work with a Mac?

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  11. In the past, I’ve entered test pieces, taken from several published novels (not ‘self’, or ‘vanity’ published), into free trials of a few of these tools. Without fail, they fell down badly (the tools, not the pieces).

    Suggested substitute words would usually dumb down the piece, or change the intended meanings or nuances, often considerably so. Likewise, the removal of adjectives and even adverbs.

    Correctly spelled words (like ’emphasise’, ‘café’, and ‘naïve, for example) were often flagged up as incorrect, despite the tool being set to ‘British English’. Also, that very American, but poor, writing habit of leaving out those words and punctuations which help written English to flow was often evident in the suggested revisions.

    The pieces, once ‘edited’, read like sterile instruction sheets, or like writing intended for the very young or educationally challenged reader. That’s fine, if that’s the intention, but not if the writing is aimed at those who read for the pleasure of language. The whole beauty of the pieces was being taken away, leaving them sterile and bearing little resemblance to literature worth reading for anything other than cold information.

    These tools might be fine for dealing with press releases, company reports, instruction manuals, and other corporate writing from those for whom the writing comes secondary to their knowledge and expertise in their own fields, but for fiction or other creative writing, where the writing itself is the ‘job’ and not an ancillary to something else (like marketing, or operational matters within a company) they seem to emasculate the creativity that gives good writing its character.

  12. ProWritingAid Just blew me away! Very impressed! I was looking for an edit software that would assist me with writing. I’ve been apprehensive about writing and have been ‘starting’ now for weeks. Joined the software site today and within two hours had my 1st ebook lead magnet completed!

    Simply incredible piece of software. It’s export to word is a huge plus!

    Thank you for the article Carla.

  13. Hi everybody! I am looking for an editor in Toronto.

    I just wrote a history book that is 50 pages. I want to publish about 50 units to give to my friends and I can not
    afford spending much money on it.

    Does anybody please refer me an editor who will not be expensive? I need it get ready for publishing.

    Thank you very much.


    • What about a bilangual publisher ?
      Need one badly.
      Soon to come
      The Reed Bends
      With subtitle
      Towards One America.

      I want back to back

      Any advice?
      Anticipated thanks
      Myrtho felix

  14. I think Grammarly lies. Caveat: I didn’t even give it a free trial. I plugged in my own original copy ( I assure you it was very original) and it accused me of misplaced punctuation and plagiarism. So I moved some punctuation according to its suggestions, and it then claimed I had even more punctuation errors. Man what. Not a question. Given my experience I am not keen on taking any of the advice in this article, though I admit to being tempted by Consistency-Checker. It may help me be lazier than I already am. Please feel free to check my veracity.

  15. […] Posts Nine Manuscript Editing Software Programs You Should Consider Why I Love Scrivener for iOS: A Review Humans vs. Robots: When (And Why) You Should Use Editing […]

  16. 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 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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. 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…

  20. 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.

    • 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!


  21. 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.

  22. 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!!!

  23. 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.

    • 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!


  24. 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.

  25. 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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • I’m hoping you’ll see this Al, almost 2 years after your original post.

      I’ve tried Autocrit and Pro Writing Aid and in both cases experienced what I believe you are describing. I make changes using their browser app and, in the case of PWA, their Mac desktop app. I save and while the changes go into my original doc, so too are font and formatting changes I don’t want. Both companies went out of their way to help me correct the problem. No luck. If what you describe is the issue I wonder why they don’t acknowledge it.

      Both programs do what I need but I can’t use them given the problems they would create with my 78,000 word document. (I used a two chapter copy as a test so not a problem.) Do you know of any alternatives where this would not happen?

  26. 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.

    • Hi Chuck,
      Sorry for the late reply. I think the forever version of ProWritingAid is your best investment, especially if you don’t have the money to invest in a professional human editor.
      I hope that helps!

    • Like you im going to try this one , but being a Self Published gal , I know how to tell the stories but when it comes to how others want to see, but honestly this is something im very careful with…. so much of the rewording can actually take your style your attitude your heart across the page…. sometimes in life I think we can over think things.. sometimes we just got to go with it… but its all about your own Style ..

      But needing much help and learning across the way..:)

    • 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!


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