In last week’s blog, I introduced you to a new editing
program—ProWritingAid. Now, as promised, here’s how the correction process
worked for me.
When I tested ProWriting Aid, I started with Style. The style
problems included readability issues, glue words, passive verbs, hidden verbs (I had to
look that one up!), long subordinate clauses, adverbs used outside of dialogue,
sentences with repeated beginnings (like words all ending in -ing), and
examples of telling rather than showing. The program underlined each instance,
explained why it was wrong, and usually offered suggestions for improvement.
The program identifies 73 style problems in my 2300-word chapter, each one of
which I corrected before moving on.
But that was only the beginning. There were nineteen other
categories. Each type of problem must be treated separately. Now, not all of
them had as many errors as my style section did. I even received a perfect
score of 100 on the section devoted to clichés. But the whole process—doing the
summary, running each of the twenty sections, and then running the summary
again to see if the scores improved (THEY DID!) took close to five hours. And
that was for just one chapter. By the time the book is finished, there will be
close to 50 chapters. That’s 250 hours—or 31 workdays of 8 hours a day.
Is ProWritingAid worth that much time? I don’t have enough
information yet to answer that question.
If my editing speed does not increase, and if every chapter has as many
errors as the first one did, my answer may be negative. However, if, as the ads
promise, using the program also trains me to be a better writer, then the
answer is yes. I noticed this morning
that, as I wrote, I stopped myself several times to reword a sentence and eliminate
a passive, to remove extra spaces, and to vary the length and beginnings of
sentences. So it has already alerted me to pay more attention to my bad writing
In general, if I compare this program to Grammarly, this one
covers more problems and offers more training. In Grammarly, the writer sees
all the errors at once, and the explanations bounce around from one topic to
another. With this one, the same topic repeats until only a complete blockhead
could miss the point. ProWritingAid also covers some issues that Grammarly
The best example has to do with the “sticky sentences” and
“glue words” I mentioned in the last post.
Once in a while Grammarly will point to an unnecessary word, but
ProWritingAid performs major surgery on long sentences.
Here’s a sticky sentence:
“Once in a great while, something or someone you’ve never
noticed before comes along and has the effect of catching every bit of your
attention.” [26 words]
And the fix:
“Sometimes a new idea catches your attention. [7 words]
Glue words add no information and slow readers down. They
make a sentence sticky because the reader takes a long time to find the end.
Particularly, glue words may come in expressions like “once
in a great while,” “has the effect of,” “every bit of.” My own worst glue words, I have discovered, are “all of,” as
in “I ate all of my dinner” instead of “I ate my dinner.” “I did all of my writing in bed” instead of
saying “I wrote it in bed.”
(I must pause here to point out that NaNoWriMo participants
may not want to eliminate sticky sentences. If a writer is only interested in
word counts, sticky sentences are great. If the same writer is more interested
in ideas, those extra words get in the way. My solution: Write sticky and then
cut with vicious abandon.)
For now, if you need to choose between Grammarly and
ProWritingAid, I suggest you try both
free versions and see which one you like best.
And about that terminally boring title: ProWritingAid. It's clear, descriptive, and serious, as all grammar police tend to be. But in my own mind from now on, I intend to call it "STICKY WICKETS."