Let’s face it. Editing is hard. Crawling over the words you hammered out and dissecting them piece by piece is draining. Not to mention time consuming. I spend just as much time editing my novels (if not more) as writing them.
Thankfully, there are many tools on the market to help speed up the editing process. One that I use in my writing is ProWritingAid.
What is ProWritingAid?
If you had to categorise it, ProWritingAid is a grammar and spelling checker, but it’s so much more than that. With tools that include repeated words, sticky sentences, clichés and my personal favourite, the writing style checker, it’s a far more advanced piece of software than Word’s built-in editor.
While you can use ProWritingAid online, I use it through the Word integration to assess my short stories and novel manuscripts. I use it on all sorts of writing, including this blog post! This review will look at the Word integration, but there are integrations for many programs, including Google Docs, Outlook, and Scrivener.
The Word integration is easy to install – purchase the software and install the file, and you’re ready to edit. It adds a ProWritingAid tab to the ribbon. You can then run reports on your writing; select the text and click the report you want to run. This will then highlight issues in different colours and provide a summary of the issues in the right-hand window. You can click through these to change and update your text.
You can also set up a summary report which runs your favourite reports at once. Be warned, it is resource intensive, which I’ll talk about later.
The benefits of ProWritingAid
The biggest advantage of ProWritingAid is that it speeds up my editing process and takes a lot of the emotion out of what I call ‘mechanical edits’. These are the grammar, writing style and repeated word checks that are often hard to pick up when you’ve been looking at a piece of work for too long. It’s especially useful when you’ve been working on a novel for several months and can’t see the forest from the trees.
The writing style check is my go-to report. It carves out unnecessary words, suggesting when I can omit words or use stronger language. It has significantly improved the tightness of my writing. The writing style check flags everything from passive language to excess verbiage (and you know how much I hate excess verbiage). This report is worth the price of admission alone.
When I was trying to secure an agent, I was coming close but not quite getting there. I ran my novel manuscript through another pass of editing, including using ProWritingAid for the first time, and eventually secured an agent. I think ProWritingAid had a part to play in that. You can always make your writing tighter, and this helps.
I also run the overused words check, to make sure I’m mixing up my language. The readability check is helpful for making sure my writing is, well, easy to read. If you’re prone to info dumping, the pacing check is for you.
For the most part, the grammar check is helpful in flagging my terrible clauses or lack of commas. Make sure your document is set in the same language as the location of your story. Having ProWritingAid flag UK spelling in a story set in London is annoying but can be fixed through setting the document’s language. I run my documents through both ProWritingAid and the Word spell check, to make sure I’ve got everything.
Another advantage of ProWritingAid is that you can specify the type of writing in the settings. It’s useful for people like me, who swap between creative writing and web copy.
What could be improved about ProWritingAid?
While the pros of ProWritingAid outweigh the cons, there are a few details about how it works that can be frustrating.
ProWritingAid can’t do large chunks of text, so if you were hoping to run through your entire novel with one report, don’t. But it’s generally not beneficial to run the complete document in one sitting, because you’re likely to be working one chapter at a time. I edit a chapter at a time and do three passes. I highlight the text, run the grammar report, the overused words report and then the writing style check. Next chapter.
One thing that could improve the Word integration is the addition of shortcuts to go through the text. While the report jumps to the next item in the list, when there’s a long list you can find yourself clicking and scrolling to find the next item. Frustrations aside, ProWritingAid still saves me a lot of time.
As always, with any writing tool, you still need to decide on whether the editorial suggestion is useful for what you’re trying to achieve in your work. Occasionally ProWritingAid has flagged grammar that would be incorrect in context. It’s not so useful if you have a lot of dialogue in dialect. You can ignore flags by clicking the eye icon. When it comes down to it, you know your style best.
Should you use ProWritingAid?
Despite the speed and resource issues in running ProWritingAid, the software is worth its weight in gold for the time and mental energy saved in editing your work. I’ve used it to edit two novels and several short stories, and it’s become an essential part of my writing workflow. You can read about how I use ProWritingAid in my editing process here.