Editing Software Compared
A key tool for all writers is editing software. Grammarly, ProWritingAid, perfectest, SmartEdit—which one do you buy (or subscribe to)? I’ve spent the money and time and tried each one of these, but I would highly recommend that you at least spend the time to test out each one and see which works best for you.
It all depends on what you’re looking for in your editing software.
Grammarly I loved for several years. It was great at finding punctuation problems, misspelled words, and typos. It also gives suggestions on how to write more concisely and other stylistic ideas, which I always ignore–I’m not looking for an editor to correct my writing voice and these programs really don’t understand historical fiction writing no matter what they say. One hiccup with Grammarly is that if you use Atticus, they two don’t play nice together, and I eventually had to uninstall Grammarly to get Atticus to work right. ☹
ProWritingAid is used by a great many authors. Many people absolutely swear by it (including Dave Chesson of Atticus). Like Grammarly, it does a good job at finding places where I’ve missed commas or put them in unnecessarily. It also checks for conciseness, which, again, I ignore. One thing my editor catches frequently in my writing is repeated words and phrases. I tried out ProWritingAid’s “Echo” check. It took a good minute or two the check a 1100 word document (extremely slow!) and then found a number of places where I might want to look at repetitions. One nice thing (I haven’t entirely decided whether I like it or not) is that when you click on a word they say is used often, it gives you other options to use instead:
You’ll notice that there are lots of words and phrases underlined. That was actually useful so I could skim through and decide which I thought I needed to change—obviously, not all of them.
Another very useful tool in ProWritingAid was the “Overused” report which tells you which words you use a lot. I know I’ve got a problem with the word “that” (I went through my manuscript manually searching for instances of the word and in an 80k book there were over a 1000 instances of “that” and I could easily delete over 200 of them!). Now, I wish I’d used ProWritingAid to find and correct them!
It will also check for consistency—to make sure you always use curly or straight quotes, that you don’t spell the same word in a few different ways or always capitalize the same words (or not).
All of this is for a subscription price of $40. Not too bad!
SmartEdit is another editing software that I’ve tried (and purchased). It doesn’t check for grammar mistakes, but it does a good job at checking for consistency within your document. It will also check for adverb use, possible homonym mistakes, and, strangely enough, “risqué” words and foreign words. Here’s a list of what it looks for:
For $77, it’s a bit on the expensive side, although that’s not a subscription, that’s buying the software outright.
And finally, PerfectIt is another editing software (recommended by a number of professional editing organizations). I also bought a one year subscription to this. It does, basically the same as SmartEdit, but allows you to fix mistakes with the click of a button. This is what you can choose for it to check:
The other nice thing about PerfectIt is that you can set it to different spelling conventions if, for example, you’re based in the UK and prefer British spelling. You can also link the Chicago Manual of Style to your program and it will follow those rules.
The price for PerfectIt is $70 for an annual subscription and then you save 10% a year if you purchase a multiyear subscription. Still pretty expensive.
So, now I see why so many authors prefer to use ProWritingAid – it’s definitely the least expensive of all of the editing software tools you can get. On the other hand, it’s not as good at finding inconsistencies as PerfectIt and SmartEdit. PerfectIt is easier for making corrections, SmartEdit really good and finding how many times you use a word or phrase.
Each one of these apps allow you to download a trial version and I highly recommend you do so before making any purchases. Find which one works best for you and use it—often. You don’t want to be caught with silly mistakes that make you look less professional.
So, what editing software do you use? Can you make any recommendations for the rest of us?
And I hope I don’t need to say that none of this software should be used alone. Despite how good your software is, it will never replace a real, live proofreader.