Anyone that knows me knows I do enjoy technology. If I can order a latte, a breakfast sandwich, my groceries, you name it via an app and NOT speak to another living person? It is a win for me. Do not get me wrong, I like people, well, most, alright, some to a few of you. I do though very much enjoy watching people interact with other people. Mainly though not with me. I take my amateur flaneur status seriously. Yes, if you don’t know what a flaneur is? Research the word. You might find out you are one too. Surprise!
Wow, long winded to get into today’s blog post topic. Writing software. Now, first to define what I mean. This is not software that helps you with your storyline, keeping character profiles, or even doing an outline. There are already a host of products that do. No, this is sentence mechanics and the area I admittedly. Yes, I should stand up and shout. “HI, I’m Thieves Guild and I have a horrible Grammarian. I thought I might have created the word but alas no, Microsoft Word didn’t hesitate to give it’s OK
Next step is to make sure you understand what I’m talking about. I am talking about Pro-Writing Aid and Auto Crit
. Now both are fine products. They each have subtle differences in how they approach writing. I’ve been using Pro-Writing Aid now for over a year, I used Auto Crit for a week. The reason why I only used Auto Crit for a week is they offered me a free trial period and I jumped at the chance to try out their product.
So, Pro-Writing Aid
. This is a relatively inexpensive product. I was able to get a lifetime subscription for over $150.00. I had purchased a one-year subscription. I wanted to see how it worked, would I use it, would it help me? So, let’s review those things, shall we?
Pro-Writing Aid is an add-on for Microsoft Word. Unlike Word, there is no check as you write options. Word does the red lines, the double blue lines, etc. to show issues. Pro-Writing Aid is a click option. You choose to run the program at your convenience. Pro-Writing Aid is added to the toolbar which you can use whenever you like.
Pro-Writing Aid has its own mini-ribbon, things can be checked is grammar, overused word count, plagiarism, etc. I must admit I don’t worry about plagiarism, I worry about grammar and overused word count. One of my addictions is to the word “that”. I seem to love the word. Never knew I had a problem until I used this program.
To be clear, there is an option for “Full Analysis Check”. I did that once. I might have been able to read “War and Peace” while the program was running. It would not have been all that helpful. The amount of information thrown at you would’ve been too much to deal with. In 2000-word blog posts or stories, it took forever the one time I attempted to use it. I do not blame the program, it might be due to the RAM and processor in my computer. (BTW while I was typing this, I saw I wanted to put the word “That” in two sentences and I removed the malefactor before it could infect the sentence. Heh.)
I do always run the grammar check in Pro-Writing Aid, even though I have grammar check on in Word. Pro-Writing Aid picks up on things that Word misses or sees as being a problem. Pro-Writing Aid likes commas, not as much as I do, but more than Word does. It is picky about “Quotation” marks and the writer should be aware of this. The problem stems from putting quotes around titles and the program thinking it’s dialogue and that there are open quotes somewhere.
The “Writing Style Check” section is the beneficial area of the program. That is where it checks for adverbs, passive speech, readability, and repeated sentence starts. Yes, I am running the program for this blog post and will look to fix most issues as I write. After running the scan I removed another three “that’s” and the program didn’t like that seeing the word “I” six times at the beginning of a sentence.
Another thing that I do like is the ability to “Re-run just this report” in the area where the results are listed. There is a section of “More about this report” that takes you to prowritingaid.com and gives suggestions on how to use the “More” section of the program. The suggestions for corrections are color coded and there is a cute eraser that you click to remove the marks. If the program likes your grammar for instance? You get a green check mark in the details section and the words “No spelling or grammar issues found” Me? I would prefer a gold star or a badge, I will settle for a green check mark.
Thinking about this for a moment, I was confused at first ono why I would want to “Disable this report” I am going to surmise that I can customize the “Full Analysis” section and do one click checking.
There are a few things I don’t like about the report. The ability for the report to make suggestions would be great. Especially in the passive verb section as well as over used word choices. Giving help on how to remove the word “Know”, that would be helpful. For the most part, I remove the overused “That” words. A large problem being pointed out to me is “Tense”. Present, past, future, suggestions would be great. A very small issue is that the word count feature in Word stops working once you run a Pro-Writing Aid report. Annoying not enough to give the program a large ding, a mini-ding. If you save what you wrote, close Word, open back up, word count is back.
Pro-Writing Aid does offer a free package I should point out. It is as far as I can tell Web-based. Meaning that you copy and paste your text into the box on their website. Analyze the report, copy and paste it back into Word. I didn’t use this feature before I bought it. I rented? The program for a month to try it out, then signed up for a year, and in March purchased the lifetime option.
Almost forgot, Pro-Writing Aid’s website is filled with helpful, multiple sections to their blog and all sorts of help for writers. Even if you aren’t using their product if you aren’t checking out their blog you are doing your writing career a disservice. Pro-Writing Aid gives monthly emails to changes on the blog/website.Auto Crit
is another option on a journey to find an online or technology-based editor. Again, remember to me not having to deal with people is a huge win. Plus, if a program is correcting me I don’t feel like I’m being made to feel small or disciplined. I swear that I did listen in high school composition and in college as well. There are times I do wonder if my brain threw out all of that information and made room for trivia from “Lord of the Rings” or something.
To use Auto Crit you must use their website. A writer can upload a file directly to the website or copy and paste into a box provided. Use is not an issue. Personally, the color choices for the website please me. Weird right? Using a program because you like the colors? No idea, just know that I do like the colors.
There is also a feature that grades your work, according to genre. This was not something I had seen before plus I have NO idea what the score means or shows. The stories that I scanned got scores on the first past of somewhere between 75% to 85%. After using the tools provided, there was never a time I got a score higher than 85%. Yes, so I might have gotten a 75% on the first pass through and then raised the score up to 85%. There was one story that started at 85% and using the suggestions given by Auto Crit, the story never went any higher. The issues were fixed, but the score did not change. No idea why.
Their program broke things down into six or so sections. The writer could work on several things, dialogue being one, tense, grammar, etc. Each of those sections had subsections, Tense, the past, present and future tense examples. Overused words, grammar. It generally has the same things that Pro-Writing Aid has.
Each section has a button that you can click to get more information about the area that you are in. One of the better features is the offering to have your story read aloud to you. Many books talk about making sure to listen to your story read aloud. I enjoyed this feature. If the section read like a person, not adding odd pauses or breath sounds at odd intervals? That would have been better.
Price is an issue for me. Auto Crit is $29.97 a month, that was the only option I was offered after the one-week trial. Now to be fair to Auto Crit, they were offering the “Winners” of “National Novel in a Month” an opportunity to get Auto Crit for half off. Multiple months could be purchased, not taking advantage of this pricing is entirely my fault. Being thrifty, spending money quickly is not something I do. Again, to be fair to Auto Crit, they gave the NANOWRIMO people till Feb. to decide. Yep, was still deciding.
So, with pricing being $359.64 a year, that does seem a little pricey to me. Is it cheaper than an editor? You bet it is. Is it better than an editor? I can’t say I know, I have yet to work with one yet to make a comparison.
Everyone likes to have multiple eyes on their manuscripts, so using another program would not be an issue. Auto Crit scoring my story by genre is a bonus. Not having a clue who Jocelyn is, however she does send me a very nice email, often, letting me aware of offers and of what is new on the blog of the Auto Crit website. Yes, I did go to the website to see if the woman was someone on the site, she isn’t. I’d like to hear the story. Why is there an Auto Crit? Yes, that was going to be my first question. I did hear the rumor that this was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, I can’t say I know that for sure.
I’m using Pro-Writing Aid, if the price comes down on Auto Crit, I would consider purchasing the program. Not being able to afford something doesn’t mean that it is bad. There is a free option on the Auto Crit website. You copy and paste your story into the box provided. Type in your email address. Auto Crit will email you the results. So, you would see what is wrong, not be able to fix it with their program. Not sure if you are then offered a 7 day trial or not.
What do you think? Do you use something else? Are you lucky enough to be an expert Grammarian? Let me know, curiosity is contagious. Get reading, get writing.
If you are at all curious? My short story "Challenge
"? I used both Pro Writing Aid and Auto Crit to check the grammar mechanics. The story "Uncle Mortimer's Day at the Beach
"? I only used Pro-Writing Aid if you want to see a comparison.