Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Editing Software

What’s the best option for you?
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
As writers, we need a little help. We’re unfortunately not born with the knowlegde of all the grammar and writing rules out in the world, and that’s where editing software comes into play. For the sake of time—and my limited experience with a lot of them—I’m going to contain this post to only talking about three major options. 
Grammarly
I think most of us in the Writing Community have heard about this one, the good and the bad. I will admit, I do use Grammarly on a regular basis, and it’s my favorite out of the three, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its pitfalls. 
So how much does it cost?
That depends. There is a free add-on for the Chrome browser that’s great for checking your spelling and making sure you don’t send an email to your boss littered with spelling mistakes. If you want to go premium for yourself, it’ll cost you anywhere between $29.95, $19.98, or $11.66 a month, depending on if you sign up by month, quarterly, or yearly. Yearly is obviously the best deal, but that’s still a lot of money per year ($139.95) as you have to pay it upfront. 
There’s also an option for businesses in which you can have up to 149 members on your team, according to their website.
Grammarly is a great stepping stone for your writing journey, and once you learn the rules a little better, you’re not going to need it nearly as much, if at all for anything other than spelling mistakes—but that’s why there’s spellcheck (or as MS Word now calls it, Editor).
The good
One of the best things that I’ve found about Grammarly is that it’s super fast in its check in either the web browser or the add on for Microsoft Word. When I’m using it, I can get a full 140K manuscript checked for me in mere minutes. It’s very user friendly, and it’s mostly accurate. There are occasionally some weird corrections that Grammarly wants to make, like when a character in one of my client’s manuscripts, “…didn’t recognize anyone, and didn’t expect that she would,” it suggested that she “would die.” But those instances are usually funnier than they are annoying. 
Grammarly checks spelling, grammar, tone, and style. My favorite feature of Grammarly is its easy-to-understand explanation of their suggested corrections. This not only tells you why something is wrong, but gives examples of the correct ways to do it. This teaches you the rules of grammar and how to be a better writer.
One last benefit that I want to talk about that’s especially useful for us fantasy writers is that you can add your fantasy words to their dictionary so that you never misspell a unique name again.
The bad
There aren’t really a lot of downsides to Grammarly, but there are still a few. The first and biggest downside is that it’s expensive. Genuinely, the only reason that I renew my membership each year is because I’ve managed to find a 50% discount when it’s about to expire.
Another is once you’ve learned the rules of writing, it slowly starts to become superfluous because you’re not making the same mistakes over and over. 
Lastly, if you’re using the Microsoft Word add on, it regularly fails and doesn’t integrate well into the program. There have been many, many occasions where I’ve not been able to update the software because it can’t be found (even though it’s still clearly working on my Word document), or it will kick itself off of my document and have to be reinstalled, or I have to go through several steps to click a checkbox (I’d tell you where it is, but I’m technologically inept, and I would not be able to tell you where to find it if my life depended on it) to make sure that it works again.

Prowritingaid
This is one I heard about on and off and decided to give it a try because I had a discount. Plus, they had a very good money-back guarantee, which I was able to use without issue. It simply took an email to their customer service, and I had my refund within 24-hours.
Prowritingaid is definitely one that I would recommend getting the yearly subscription right off the bat with the intention of getting a refund if you don’t like it. Their monthly subscription is $20/month, the same as signing up for Grammarly quarterly, and their yearly subscription is $79, which comes to about $6.58/month.
Prowritingaid does a lot of the same things that Grammarly does, like checking your spelling, grammar, tone, and style, but I’ve found that it has a lot more downsides than it does up.
I’ll be honest, my review of Prowritingaid is going to be a lot shorter than the one for Grammarly; I made it only a week in before I asked for my refund because it just didn’t work for me.
The good
Since I last tried Prowritingaid, they’ve now started offering a free Chrome extension the same way Grammarly does. 
One of the biggest pluses that Prowriting aid has over Grammarly is that for $300, you get lifetime access to their software and all of their updates. This includes their resource library on writing and grammar, how to plan your novel, how to edit, etc. 
This is a really big deal for new authors and for such a low price. 
The bad
Prowritingaid is not very userfriendly. For those of you like me who are technologically inept, you need an easy-to-use and easy-to-figure out software, and that’s not going to be Prowritingaid.
The biggest downside I found to Prowritingaid is just how freaking slow it is. The same 140K manuscript that took only minutes with Grammarly took a full six hours for Prowritingaid to check with a single one of its features. Comparably, Grammarly checks tone, grammar, spelling, and style all in one go, while Prowritingaid checks these in individual passes. This is not very helpful, because if you accidentally switch between the functions, it takes forever to recheck the work.
This is as far as I got in using Prowritingaid before I gave up on using it. For my work, it wasn’t feasible to use as much as I use other writing software on a day to day basis.
Hemmingway Editor
I hadn’t heard much about Hemmingway Editor until I got involved in Authors 4 Authors Publishing and one of our Founders, B. C. Marine, told me about it.
Out of the three softwares that I’m talking about today, this one is by far the cheapest. It has two options, a free online version and an app you can download to your computer that is a one-time cost of $20.
This editing software will take a look at your sentence length and help you cut out the superfluous words, track your adverb usage, check the readability of your sentences, and help keep your work clear and concise by highlighting passive voice and (according to their website) dull words.
The good
With Hemmingway, everything is color-coded for your convenience. If you’re wanting to look at a specific aspect of your writing, like getting rid of your run-on sentences, Hemmingway will highlight your extra, extra long sentences in red. This makes it easy for quick spot checks for essays, emails, or short stories pasted directly into the website for a free check, or in your downloaded app. Like Grammarly, its checks are also incredibly fast in finding the above-mentioned issues within your work. 
The app is also really easy to interface with other programs on your computer. For instance, it’s very easy to import a full novel into the application from Microsoft Word to give yourself one last edit for the fifth time before you send your manuscript to an agent or a publisher. 
The bad
This application is truly a testament to its namesake—what it’s best used for is making sure your work is concise and to the point. This means that if you enjoy purple prose or being Tolkienesque, this application is not going to be for you in the slightest. 
Some of the downsides to this app include the fact that, unlike Grammarly or Prowritingaid, it doesn’t take a look at spelling, grammar, or style. If those are things that you’re wanting most out of your editing software because you might not know all the rules yet, this isn’t for you.
One last, and major downside of Hemmingway Editor, is that only the desktop application allows you to save any of your work. It’s not possible to do in the free online version, so if you need to take a couple of days to work on a piece, you’re going to have to pay $20 for the pleasure. 

Which one you decide to use is entirely up to you, but this post will hopefully help you make an informed decision about which software is best for your needs. 

Join us next week for our latest installment in our Misused Advice series about never having a prologue. 

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