Today’s post is brought to you by Resident Writing Coach, April Bradley, who knows her way around the editing desk (and then some!). Read on to get her take on ProWritingAid, a great piece of editing software for writers.
When Angela asked me to review some editing software, I was intrigued. I had never used this kind of tool before and wondered how developers could create something that performed better than a sophisticated grammar program. As a writer, I use self-editing strategies during revision. As a developmental and line editor, grammar programs are, of course, useful, but do not help me with nuanced problems that interfere with elements such as structure, character development, pacing, flow, voice, technique, style, and momentum. ProWritingAid exceeded my expectations.
ProWritingAid is an editing and style software that provides support to writers after the drafting stage. Users may compose within the program or work with other platforms such as Microsoft Word, Mac, Scrivener, Open/Libre Office, and Google by import within the on-line editor, as an add-on plug-in, and as a desktop application.
Premium users have unrestricted access to the premium toolbar in addition to the free editor and a number of operations that allow a user to analyze and edit on several levels, including a plagiarism checker. ProWritingAid does not supplant developmental, line, and copy editing, but it helps writers become better ones, and for those of us who do edit, it is a useful and fun program, especially for those of us who enjoy data.
This is no mere grammar and spell-checker. This product has a great deal of depth, and yet it is intuitively easy to use. Users easily can become dependent on the generated reports and neglect the features that provide more extensive analysis.
ProWritingAid provides 25 reports, including a Summary Report and an option to customize reports. The following reports are among my favourite:
- The Writing Style Report, a comprehensive report that revels elements that weaken readability such as passive voice and repetitive sentence starts.
- The Grammar Check works much like one in any word processor but with the added benefit of the expertise of copy editors.
- The Overused Words Report identifies problematic words that falls into five main categories: Too Wishy-Washy, Telling Rather Than Showing, Weak Words Dependent on Intensifiers, Nonspecific Words, Awkward Sentence Constructions. In the drafting stage, these kinds of words on the sentence level is often where writers like to revise.
- The Sticky Sentence Report tallies “glue words,” which are the most commonly used articles, prepositions, and conjunctions that obscure clarity. The software’s suggestion is that sentences contain less than 45% glue words.
- The Sentence Length Report and The Pacing Check Report provide users with information about sentence variety and a bar graph to show how readers experience the speed of your prose.
- The Sensory Check looks for words and constructions that refer to the five senses.
- The Alliteration Report looks for instances of words with repetitive consonant sound at the beginning. I found this particular report fascinating and helpful. Along with The Eloquence Check that is another technique report, writers who are working on the sentence level and over the arc of an entire work, word choice and the relationships between words is vital.
- The House Style Check is a feature I appreciate. Many businesses have their own style, even if it jumps of AP, Chicago, or MLA. This feature allows a user to look for specific issues in a document that are not standardized in word processors.
(Learn more about the full array of reports here as well visit as these articles on The Summary Report and The Combo Report.)
ProWritingAid analyzes seven types of writing: General, Academic, Business, Technical, Creative, Causal, and Web. I uploaded drafts and finished works (my own, and those solicited from friends) in the following categories: fiction, creative nonfiction, academic, blog posts, business technical writing, and casual email from 150 words to 15,000.
Here’s what a couple of the reports looked like for one of my published flash creative nonfiction pieces (click to enlarge):
The summary report is too long to grab in a single screenshot, but here is a sample:
According to this tool, my sentences are sticky with empty words and the pacing is slow. I agree. This is something I’d like to revise, but not for pacing. The slow pacing is deliberate. One thing I also notice: I never, ever break the 67 percent on editing.
The final feature I’d like to mention is Word Explorer. This feature is so much word-wonderful fun. I could fall into it and not emerge for days—and I am one of those people who fool around on the OED site.A sound bite from the site:
“The Word Explorer helps you break through writer’s block. It shows you definitions, synonyms, examples, rhymes, collocations and more. Type a word in the search box to get going.”
Word Explorer provoked a gasp from me, and I ended up playing with it for quite a while. This aspect of ProWritingAid is a writing prompt as well as a resource for finding the perfect word and make “semantic leaps.”
Overall, the program offered the most helpful analysis with Business, Creative, Causal, and Web writing. When I used it to analyze academic and technical writing, it focused too much on end notes and minutiae. This is unsurprising, however, and my samples were highly polished: one was a soon-to-be-published article in a peer-reviewed journal, and the other was a report for the State of Tennessee by the Commission On Children.
ProWritingAid did offer a good analysis of readability and clarity. Overall, I enjoyed the program. It doesn’t take the place of discernment and good judgment with what to do with the information. Pricing is currently $40 for one year, $60 for two years, $80 for three year, and $140 for a lifetime subscription. Plagiarism checks are very reasonable from one-time charges to package deals.
Final Takeaway: Writers and editors, check it out! And if you do, there’s a special code for Writers Helping Writers readers and One Stop For Writers users: type in WRITERSHELPING into the discount code box and you’ll get 25% off.
How awesome is that?
Have you used ProWritingAid before? Would something like this help you strengthen your writing? Let us know in the comments.
April Bradley has a Master’s in Ethics from Yale University and studied Philosophy and Theology as a post-graduate scholar at Cambridge University. Her fiction has appeared in many literary magazines and has been nominated for the 2015 Best of the Net Anthology as well as the 2017 Pushcart Prize.
She is the Associate Editor for Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press and the Founder and Editor of Women Who Flash Their Lit. Find out more about April here, visit her website, and catch up with her online.
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Sue Elam says
How easy is this software to use? Is this software that you would recommend for someone just starting out? If not, can you suggest software that might be easier?
John 'Grumps' Hamshare says
Thank you for bringing this tool to my attention. I’m hooked. I tested it on a short story which I’d thought complete after editing with a different software product.
Surprise, surprise! ProWritersAid kept me occupied for two hours and improved my story by huge amounts — and there are many of its functions still unexplored.
I bought the Premium version on the strength of your discount (as my senior-citizen income lacks the expansive qualities of my imagination). I look forward to an exciting and productive interaction with PWA. It has regenerated my enthusiasm and got my brain cells buzzing.
Missy Welsh says
Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems like a voice killer to me. I write in deep point of view with half-finished thoughts, repetition, whatever the character requires in that moment of expression. Sounds like this program would hate me entirely.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I think PWA’s strength is in later stages when you’re looking to clean up your writing and get it that last mile. Any automated program really depends on the user to be able to weigh when to accept a suggestion and when not to, or as you say, it will affect the voice.
April, this looks absolutely amazing! To have this much help in writing and revision in one tool sounds so wonderful. It’s bookmarked on my wish list and I have a VERY strong feeling I’ll end up trying for a year at first. Thank you!
Traci Kenworth says
Sounds like a winner!
Terry Montague says
Thanks, April. I’ve heard you mention this program before and subscribed for a year. You are right in saying it is a helpful tool. Like other editing tools, though, some of the features don’t work for me and some I just ignore. I’m wondering. I thought I knew all the nooks and crannies of this program, but I can’t find the Sensory Check feature. Is it part of the prime membership?
April Bradley says
Hi Terry! I wonder what my doppelgänger has been up to lately? This is the first time I have ever used this program or any editing software. How are you using the software? Within a program or directly online? And if within a program like Scrivener, Microsoft Word/Word for Mac or Google Docs, which one(s)?
This blog post over at ProWritingAid mentions NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) Predicates in relation to sensory writing. https://prowritingaid.com/art/356/How-to-use…-The-NLP-Predicates-Report.aspx
Here’s a link that gets into representational systems theory and how we experience the world.
This is how you find the NP Predicate/Sensory Check feature in *ProWriting Aid*: 1) Run the SUMMARY test and look for the result for “emotional tells.” 2) Select SETTINGS under the drop down MENU. You will then see a window that provides you with options for the COMBO report and the FULL ANALYSIS report. Check ‘NLP Predicates’ in the COMBO section to run this specific report in your COMBO report, and of course, any other analysis you’d like. Save the settings at the end of the page, and click on Close to exit the window. Go to the main page, click on the MORE button to reveal the drop-down menu. Choose the COMBO report and look for the results reported in “emotional tells.”
I apologize for taking so long to answer. There also may be a quicker work-around. I fiddled around and that’s how I figured it out. You can contact ProWritingAid Support at email@example.com. I hope I helped you Terry. Thank you so much for asking about this vital aspect of the program.
Robert Stephen says
I tried the Free Trial and tested a few passages. Found that it helped improve a sentence or two. I use other programs but the detailed report on this is helpful. Thanks for the tip. I will try it for a year.
April Bradley says
Wonderful, Robert! I’m so glad you liked it! Do please check back in and let me know how it goes.
I’ve used a similar program before and though it was helpful and maybe this program is slightly different I wonder if it works the same? What I didn’t care for was each report had to be run each program separately which I found time consuming. There may be no way around that. On the upside, this program is about half the price of the one I tried. For that reason alone Im tempted to check it out. Thanks
April Bradley says
I had to run an analysis on each story/piece individually. If there is a way to run batches, support would know. That would be terrific, and if they don’t, maybe it’s something they should be working to accomplish. 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org –go grab that credit for a great idea.
Lisa Lepki says
You can run multiple reports at the same time with the Combo Report. Just go into your settings and you can choose the reports that you want to include. We don’t recommend running too many together though as it will slow the software down.
Hope that helps!
Lisa from ProWritingAid
This sounds fascinating. I’m getting better at my own editing, but this sounds like it would be a big help. Maybe a “bit” of a rabbit hole, but a good one. 🙂
April Bradley says
It is a fascinating rabbit hole, Amanda, and it finds things I certainly miss on the first pass, and things that I typically need to read over and over to detect. It’s a time-saver and I am going to enjoy working with it.
Ann Marie Ackermann says
This program sounds interesting! Thanks so much for the review and analysis.
April Bradley says
You are very welcome, Ann Marie! Thank you so much!