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Tools for Authors

Self-editing Tools for Long-Form Writers: A continuing saga.

These are the best ones, in my opinion. Starting with free, up to, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Free:

  1. If you work offline and don’t have Word, LibreOffice or OpenOffice, try LanguageTool. It requires Java8. Free for the stand-alone app.
  2. If you work online and use google docs. Grammarly has a chrome extension beta. Free.
  3. If you work online and use Word, definitely use the free Grammarly add in.
  4. Hemingway has an online editor that you can use for free. Paste in short blocks of text and see what it has to offer. Clean, efficient. It, at heart, checks for adverbs, passive verbs, and sentence complexity.
  5. Prowritingaid also has a free online editor. Paste in short blocks of text. It checks spelling, grammar, repeated words, whether you are varying your sentence lengths, number of words per sentence and more.
  6. There are a number of free specific apps for editing. Wordcounter and cliché finder are popular, easy to use and work well. A google search will turn up others easily enough.

Paid:

  Now, we get to the heart of it. Paid gives you a lot more every day self-editing and teaching help.

Why are add-ins so popular? They don’t mess with your formatting. Most stand-alone or online apps do. There are ways around the problem (also see the exception of Scrivener with Prowritingaid.)

  If you want to improve your writing, the best programs are moving to paid and the price is going up. Look for discounts and legitimate coupons like from Nanowrimo or from emails once you have some kind of account with the provider or by paying attention to their websites.

  Depending on the level of paid service you pay for, you can check a whole chapter or even whole books at once.

The paid tools that I think are worth the money.

  1. Hemingway: It costs $20.00 for the current version, period. Clean, efficient. At heart, it checks for adverbs, passive verbs, and sentence complexity (plus grade level based on complexity). Those are important. The app messes with your formatting. I bought the app.
  2. Prowritingaid: $60.00/year. There are add-ins for word and google docs in chrome. The stand-alone for Scrivener retains your formatting. It checks spelling, grammar, repeated words, whether you are varying your sentence lengths, number of words per sentence and more. Pay more, get more like plagiarism checks. I am running the trial version. I may not pay for it. Several sites online mentioned running free Grammarly and paid Prowritingaid in Word as being a number of writers’ baseline self-editing tools. It can run in a number of word processing applications like WordPress beyond Word, Google docs, and Scrivener.
  3. Autocrit: $94.00/year, yikes. I am hoping for a discount coupon. But, it ticks most of the boxes on the things that I need to improve. The app is much stronger than ProwritingAid and Hemingway in pointing out the same issues and covers more. It messes with your formatting. The app checks for dialogue, strong writing, word choice, repetition, compared to other fiction works, and pacing and momentum. Autocrit takes a while to learn but it has helped my writing already. It covers a lot of bases. For me, it is the best editing app to become a stronger writer. There is a $1.00 two-week trial.

The premium version of Grammarly does not cover what I need to work on these days. Maybe later. It is expensive. $$$$ Grammarly can follow you around as you work in different applications, a lot of people really appreciate that.

Neither Grammarly or Prowritingaid are perfect when checking for grammar. A number of people mentioned they run both because between them they catch almost all grammar mistakes. You have to watch carefully, especially if you are deliberately writing poor grammar in your dialogue or narration.

A couple of ways to get around the formatting issues with stand-alone self-editing apps. Make the changes you need to in the app and then change the manuscript as you go (thanks Amy.)  Run the app and word side by side, making any changes in the manuscript. When done, save the changed manuscript as a new file name and run it through the app again.

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