From Grammarly to WordRake: A Review of 6 Automatic Editing Tools

Editing tools
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Have you ever wanted a magical editing wand?

Just imagine: A flick of the wrist would be all that stood between you and the end of editing your writing. No frustration. Minimal time investment. An amazing manuscript or blog post.

Alas, no such magic wand exists. But we do have automatic editing tools, which are the next-best things. Just remember that automatic editing tools are designed to make editing easier, not to eliminate the work completely.

Putting automatic editing tools to the test

During self-edits on my latest manuscript, I experimented with six editing tools, both free and paid, to determine which could be most beneficial to The Write Life’s audience. Besides being an author, I’m an editor, so I also weighed each tool against what I’d look for when editing.

Since editing, which is anything that improves your writing, has a broad definition, it’s not surprising that the tools I tried had different functions, from checking grammar and style, to eliminating unnecessary words, to identifying areas for improvement.

What you want your editing tool to do will influence which one (or ones) you choose. No one tool can do it all — nor can one of these tools wave away the work and critical thinking necessary for a well-edited book. An automatic editing tool doesn’t replace a human editor. Because language rules and elements of a good story can be so flexible, human eyes will always be superior to the rigidity of automatic tools.

Here are those six tools broken into three categories, based on function.

[Editor’s note: Some companies offered free access to the paid versions of their tools for the purposes of this test, but all opinions are the writer’s.]

Check your grammar and style

Sometimes, you just want to make sure you’re not making any silly spelling or grammar mistakes.

1. Grammarly

What It Does: Grammarly is a grammar checker and proofreader.

Price: $29.95 per month, $59.95 per quarter or $139.95 per year

Who It’s For: Anyone, though most useful for corporate business people and academics.

How It Works: Copy and paste the text into the online dashboard and let Grammarly work its magic. It flags potential errors, gives suggestions and provides an explanation if you need it.

The Best Part: Grammarly is easy to use and pointed out a vocabulary issue or two that none of the other tools did. It’s superior to Microsoft Word’s grammar checker.

What Would Make It Better: As an editor, I’ve found that many people don’t understand or care to learn the technical explanation for why something’s wrong. Plain language (or as plain as you can get) explanations for mistakes would make it accessible to more writers.

Our Recommendation: Grammarly is best for the final proofreading stage, or for people who want to learn more about the technical aspects grammar. If you’re an editor or strong writer, you might find yourself ignoring more flagged items than you fix.

2. After the Deadline

What It Does: Like Grammarly, After the Deadline is a grammar checker.

Price: Free for personal use

Who It’s For: Anyone

How It Works: Click “Demonstration,” paste the text you want to check, and click “Check Writing.” After the Deadline underlines any potential issues and explains its reasoning.

The Best Part: It’s free! You can also use it on your self-hosted WordPress site, as an extension or add-on for Chrome or Firefox, or with

What Would Make It Better: A definition of passive voice that explains how you construct it grammatically. After the Deadline rightly explains what passive voice does, but it seems to focus only on the “be” verb, which occasionally leads to falsely labeling non-passive constructions as passive.

Our Recommendation: You get what you pay for with After the Deadline. Use it for a final proofread, but exercise good judgment and don’t make every change it suggests — it’s not as sophisticated as Grammarly.

Improve your writing

If you’re looking for a critique that goes a bit deeper, try one of these options.

3. AutoCrit

What It Does: AutoCrit analyzes your manuscript to identify areas for improvement, including pacing and momentum, dialogue, strong writing, word choice and repetition.

Price: $5 per month, $8 per month or $12 per month. Your membership level determines how many words you can analyze at once, from 1,000 words to unlimited.

Who It’s For: Fiction writers

How It Works: Paste your text into the online dashboard or upload a document and click on AutoCrit’s tabs to see their analysis.

The Best Part: I spent the most time in “Compare to Fiction” tab, which is a comprehensive look at common issues. It highlighted my tendency to start sentences with “and” and “but,” and identified my most repeated words. I felt like I learned something about my writing, and that’s something I don’t think I could say about the other tools.

What Would Make It Better: A more accurate definition of passive voice. It highlights any use of the “be” and “had” verbs, neither of which fully capture passive voice (you need a past participle in addition to a “be” verb), and many active voice constructions were falsely labeled as passive.

Our Recommendation: AutoCrit is great to guide your edits in the self-editing stage. It’s best used for developmental edits, rewrites and avoiding common writing no-nos.

4. ProWritingAid

What It Does: ProWritingAid analyzes your writing and produces reports on areas such as overused words, writing style, sentence length, grammar and repeat words and phrases.

Price: Free, with a premium membership that gives you access to more options such as using ProWritingAid in Microsoft Word and Google Docs, the ability to edit text within the text editor, and access to more reports.

Who It’s For: Anyone

How It Works: Click on “Editing Tool,” paste your text, then click “Analyze.” Only members can paste over 1,000 words at a time, but membership is free with an email address or social media account. Use the sidebar on the left to view potential edits to make.

The Best Part: ProWritingAid delivers similar results to AutoCrit, and though ProWritingAid has a premium option, most of the areas you’ll want checked are available for free.

What Would Make It Better: Though ProWritingAid checks grammar, I slipped in a your/you’re mistake without getting flagged. I wasn’t overly fond of the website design, especially with its big ads, but it’s functional and ads are the price you pay for a free tool.

Our Recommendation: Use ProWritingAid in the self-editing stage to guide your edits. It may not be as comprehensive as AutoCrit, but for a free tool, it’s a decent contender.

5. Hemingway App

What It Does: Hemingway App provides a readability score — the lowest grade level someone would need to understand the text — and analyzes your writing to identify areas for improvement.

Price: Free online, $6.99 for desktop version

Who It’s For: Anyone

How It Works: Paste your text into the dashboard and scan for highlighted sections of text. The highlighted text is color coded depending on your area of improvement: hard to read sentences, presence of adverbs, simpler phrases or passive voice use.

The Best Part: In addition to providing examples on how to fix passive voice or complex phrases, Hemingway App also identifies how many -ly adverbs and passive voice constructions you have and suggests a maximum number to use based on your word count.

In my prologue, for example, I had one use of passive voice, and Hemingway App suggested aiming for six uses or fewer — which I nailed. These recommendations reinforce the idea that not all adverbs or passive voice constructions are bad, and that’s something other tools miss.

What Would Make It Better: Hemingway App was the cleanest and easiest to use of the free editing tools, but it’s not a grammar checker or proofreader. Even though it’s not meant to catch grammar and spelling mistakes, any editing application that catches those mistakes is instantly more attractive.

Our Recommendation: Use Hemingway App to increase the readability of your writing and identify problem sentences during the copyediting stage, but supplement your efforts with a grammar and spell checker.

Eliminate word fluff

Those unnecessary words and phrases are getting in your story’s way.

6. WordRake

What It Does: WordRake cuts out the unnecessary words or phrases that creep into your writing. It works with Microsoft Word and Outlook, depending on which license you purchase. I tested the Microsoft Word version.

Price: $129 for one year, $229 for two or $259 for three years (Microsoft Word-only version)

Who It’s For: Bloggers, authors and editors using Microsoft Word

How It Works: WordRake is an add-in for Microsoft Word and requires you to install the program before using it, though it’s as easy as following the instructions. In Word, select the text you want to edit, then use the WordRake add-in. It uses track changes to suggest edits, which you can accept or reject.

The Best Part: WordRake is as close as you can get to an automatic editor. It appealed to me more as an editor than writer, but it’s great at eliminating unnecessary phrases and words — and it’s those words that bog down your writing.

What Would Make It Better: I threw a your/you’re mistake in to see if WordRake would catch it. It didn’t, even though Microsoft Word flagged it. If WordRake could catch common writing mistakes like your/you’re, their/they’re/there in addition to unnecessary words, it’d be a hard tool to beat.

Our Recommendation: WordRake is a great tool for the copyediting stage. Verbose writers, authors wanting to cut down on editing costs or editors looking to speed up their editing process will most benefit from WordRake. Watch out if you’re running Word on a slow computer: WordRake increases your load time.

Do you use one of these editing tools or something else? What’s been your experience with automatic editing tools?

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Amanda Shofner satisfies her desire for adventure with the written word and helps others do the same at The Path of Least Revision. Her debut novel, Elusive Memories, is out now.... .

Amanda Shofner | @amshofner

Amanda Shofner
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  1. I’ve used both AutoCrit and Grammarly (am currently a Grammarly subscriber) and have been disappointed with both. AutoCrit offered some good insights, particularly overuse of words but I found far too many false positives with both products. Reviewing the reports and investigating potential errors as opposed to stylistic differences is very time consuming and it’s frustrating to go through that process only to learn/decide there are no problems. I should mention that I am focusing on fiction and creative nonfiction. I think investment in something like the online Chicago Manual of Style and a rigorous self-editing routine would take less time and be more cost effective. As with spellcheckers, “outsourcing” editing to software can result in flabby language and grammar muscles. When it comes to the final draft of my novel, I’d rather apply the steep fee I pay to Grammarly to hiring a good living, breathing editor.

    • Keith, I think you’re hitting on something important here, that “automatic” doesn’t necessarily mean faster and easier, as counter-intuitive as it sounds. A lot of these tools are good starting points, but not replacements. Nothing beats the human eye and brain.

      Have you used macros with MS Word? I think if you create them to highlight known issues, it would function a lot like AutoCrit (and others) and would be a good supplement to a self-editing routine — one that would easily flag potential words/phrases to address. Especially since you can customize it.

    • I was unsure which to use and I found an article comparing grammarly and another software not mentioned here known as Ginger, has anyone tried that?

  2. Thanks so much for the tips! This is a helpful list. I am just starting out on writing my first draft on my first novel. I need all the help that I can get when it’s time to revise. My problem is not having the money for much as I am on disability now, and I honestly don’t have extra to even save at this point. I am curious about Smart Edit. Have you heard of it or tried it? I have downloaded it, but I haven’t tried it yet. I have heard of Auto Crit, and of course, Grammerly. One of the Grammerly writers was a guest blogger on my blog. Thanks for your help. 🙂

  3. This is a great list. I usually use Paper Rater. It’s free (I’m on a budget), does an excellent spelling and grammar check, checks your vocabulary use, and even checks for plagiarism. I’ve used Hemingway as well but find Paper Rater far better. I will definitely check out some of the others!

    • Thanks for letting us know about Paper Rater, Shivani!

      TWL Assistant Editor

      • Thanks Amanda, for this great analysis! Shivani, I just tried Paper Rater- thanks for the info. It has some useful information, but you have to be careful not to connect to Grammarly’s ads. I look forward to checking out the Hemmingway app, and some of these others mentioned.

  4. AlexKhlopenko says:

    Hey, I’ve been using ProWriting aid for the entire trial period of two weeks the gave and enjoyed it. Yes, the marking system they use is indeed pretty disastrous, but antiplagiarizer is useful when writing academic papers and everything else worked great for writing short fiction.

  5. They sound great – I’ll have to check them out! I’m most inclined towards the free ones. 🙂 While I guess nothing beats self-editing, it’s always nice to have some help.

  6. Very nicely done. Lots of good information. Thank you.

    Grammerly is WAY over-priced; corporate use is all it’s good for.

    I’m going to give ProWritingAid a whirl. Being a starving aspiring writer, it is at least in the right price range. =)

    Thanks again.

    — Chris F.

  7. I use Auto Crit. I liked the previous version [that I paid for] MUCH better. This new version doesn’t give grade level of the writing, which I used. I also agree with the previous commenter in that it gives a LOT of false positives, especially on things that shouldn’t ever come up. For example, yesterday I copied a chapter of my work-in-process into Auto Crit and used the Compare to Fiction – Overused Words tab, which is the one I most commonly use. It flagged 12 occurrences of initial “ing” and 30 occurrences of initial conjunction. For some reason, the program divides my sentences in the middle in odd places, so more than half of those occurrences were false positives. The “ings” and the conjunctions were words in the middle of sentences, not the first word. I review all my flagged items anyway, so I don’t just take the Auto Crit suggestions as required changes, but it’s really frustrating to have paid money for the service, then in the middle of the year I paid for, they make “improvements” and now the program makes mistakes that should be fixable with simple coding parameters [like if the word isn’t following a period, it is not an initial word]. I just looked at the Smart Edit site and I think I’ll download the trial version this weekend and see if it works better for me. Thanks for this informative page.

    • Interesting about Auto Crit, Dena. I must have used the updated version — and the number of false positives is definitely frustrating. The Hemingway App (free!) also gives you a grade level score if you need it.

  8. I use Grammarly, and it helps with the initial edits. I like that it interfaces with Microsoft Office quite easily. I’ve used Hemmingway and I like it. By using both, I’m able to catch some things before I send my work off to the editor.

    Thanks for the list!

  9. Lee Jackson says:

    Slick Write is a resource that should be on your list. There are plugins for Wordpress, LibreOffice, and Firefox, and the author says he plans to create a plugin for Word soon. The site is fast, customizable, and well-maintained, and the author is open to suggestions on how to make it better.

  10. Sae Kyung says:

    Nice Blog! I really like this post. Now-a-days grammar and sentence checker tools are playing a very important role. I am always using NounPlus tool. This tool through I improved my writing skill easily. Thanks for sharing with us such an informative post. I will suggest to everyone to follow your blog.

  11. I’ve been trialing EssentialEditor it’s very slick and easy to use. Similar to WordRake.

  12. Hi, Amanda,

    You and your readers might be interested in the results of an extended comparative study of 20 grammar checkers I did using published sources as test documents. Among other things, I tried to find out how many false positives the checkers delivered and how many writing problems they “corrected” with new mistakes. The checkers in Word and WordPerfect are included. The test documents included more than 360 mistakes and problems in grammar and contextual misspelling (the ones that spelling checkers can’t catch) and another 360+ problems with style (redundancies, tautologies, wordiness, cliches, pretentious and outmoded terms, etc.).

    Spoiler alert: I am co-author of a grammar checker on the list, but the results for it can be ignored if the reader suspects bias. Results for the other 19 checkers are comparable, because they all analyzed the same documents. There are comments about “readability” scores, about the use of passive voice (a necessity in scientific and legal writing), and about beginning sentences with “And” or “But”–all mentioned by your commenters as problems, but all long ago debunked by editors, teachers, and good writers.

    The study is at I think you’ll find it interesting.

  13. I just gave Grammarly a try with a full manuscript and wasn’t too pleased. It kept suggesting I change words into other words because they were similar (like slap into slam or bard into board). The thesaurus included with it has few suggestions for those overly-used words. I plan on checking out some others for that additional set of “eyes”. Thank you for this article!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Steve. Interesting that Grammarly thought those words were wrong! Let us know if you try any of the other tools on this list.

      TWL Assistant Editor

  14. Hello – it’s Lisa here from prowritingaid.

    Thanks for all the feedback. We have removed most of those distracting big ads from the free editor. Now that our premium subscriber base is growing, we are much less reliant on those ads to make the free version available. We are working on the website design so hopefully our new version will address some of the usability issues that you brought up.

    Happy Writing!

    • Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

      TWL Assistant Editor

    • Daniel Westerdale says:

      I am thinking of trying out Pro Writer Aid for technical writing: requirements documents, progress reports, software design documents and WordPress blogging. I am keen to know if anyone has tried it out for this. I think Grammerly is over marketed and seems very highly priced. I pasted a paragraph into the online Grammerly dashboard and was told I had “two advanded errors” so needed the premium version. That got me thinking of UK alternatives.

      • Hi Daniel,

        Yes, we have lots of users that use the software for technical and academic writing. All I can suggest is giving it a try. You can paste into the online editor for free and it has about 90% of the functionality of the paid version.

        Or, the annual licence is only $35. You can test it out for free for two weeks and see if you think it’s worthwhile. The good thing about the paid version is that it has add-ins for word, google docs and wordpress (

        Let me know if you have any questions or need any help.



        • Daniel Westerdale says:


          Thanks, does the $35 anual license cover WordPress, Google addin and Word addin. Yes I am keen to give it a try as I have a shed load documents to work on

          • Yep! It includes access to everything. The only additional expenses you would ever have would be for plagiarism checks. Otherwise everything else is included.

            Good luck with it!


        • Daniel Westerdale says:

          Thanks Lisa, I will give it a try out today.


  15. Your review of the editing/proofreading tools available free or for a price helped me very much. I did read separate reviews of some of these aids, but your article covers a number of them in one place. I finally decided to buy a lifetime licence of ProWritingAid and I like the fact that it has a Word Add-in that I can use offline. Thanks for the excellent coverage!

  16. I have used a few checkers. I found Grammarly the best-BUT it continues to crash. After several weeks of doing everything their support suggested, it still does not work.

    It’s one thing to build a good product. It’s another thing to have it run well.

  17. Hugo Benjamin Minney says:

    Good article, especially the notes that say when these tools are most useful.
    I came across your page because I’m deluged with adverts for Grammarly, and when I see so many adverts, I have to do some research. I conclude from this that Grammarly is slightly better than Word’s own spelling/ grammar/ Fleisch score, and I’m not going to pay for that small an improvement.
    I’ve used StyleWriter for years. It seems to address most of the above concerns (in the comments as well), as
    1) it identifies the obvious process errors (spelling, grammar), but
    2) before it tries to tell you how to improve, it lets you define your audience and then tells you how well your current piece matches what it thinks your audience will find most persuasive. Examples: How long and sophisticated should the sentences and words be (the reports of a professional association should be a little more demanding than a book for children, or the readers will feel insulted)? Are there Sticky words that slow down your reader or interrupt their train of thought?
    What I particularly like is the graphical report. It can display my whole document in terms of sentence length and sentence complexity, so I can spot the super long and super short sentences, and by clicking on the graphical representation, get taken straight to them to make whatever corrections.
    Of course it isn’t live – once I’ve made a series of corrections/ improvements then I have to rerun the report. And it doesn’t correct for me – I have to make the corrections. But my readership seems to find the results impressive.
    By the way, none of the other tools are live either.

  18. I use PerfectIt for cleaning up copy (not grammar, but things like acronyms that come before definitions, table numbers that aren’t correct, double spaces after periods, hyphenation consistency, etc.) and like it a lot. It’s a MS Word add-in. I forget the price.

  19. While I read about ‘econometric algorithms’ and software writing entire books I still must type all I am then blamed for. Doing it the pretty old-fashioned way, though on a notebook and no longer with a typewriter or handwriting, seemed the way it is to me.

    I tested software, and online software embedded into websites. I found the time learning to handle them is often better invested into either writing or researching, as those skills remain with the author.

    Still thanks for your overview, it is, besides others, an appreciated shortcut to restart research!

  20. Hi! What about StyleWriter4? Any thoughts?


  21. Thus was great. I was looking for editing tools and found at the best time 🙂

  22. hey, these were really awesome tools.

  23. i like your website sir. i got many use full material on this site. Thanks

  24. Jacob Bergen says:

    I have used WordRake and Grammarly.
    Wordrake is quite good, it does miss some grammar errors, as said earlier.
    I only tried the trial, so I only had a week.
    I ran through 140000 words in five days.
    I would have liked a longer trial period, I found a week not quite enough to give up 140. 00 for a year subscription.

    I subscribed to Grammarly for a month, 30. 00 worth.
    It was okay.
    If I went over a Grammarly copy of my book, more than a few times, and it kept changing its mind on what I should do. It would give me a choice of words to use for an overused word, and I would choose one, and the next Time it said to use something else.
    Sometimes it told me to go back to the original word.
    Sometimes it said to use a comma, and the next time it said to remove it,.
    It is a huge memory hog.
    I would hesitate to pay the yearly subscription price 130. 00
    I think I will continue to use Microsoft Word, and use my head to do what Grammarly offers,. I will say they taught me to rely on good editing human skills well learned.
    I wasted a Lott of time with Grammarly Word Addon.

    • Great post! I use a Mac and I’m having trouble finding software that is compatible. Ideally, I’d like something that performs the functions of both Autocrit and Wordrake. In other words, I love the detailed analyses of Autocrit (other programs offer this too, as mentioned above), but I’d really like suggested edits too! Not just correcting grammatical mistakes, but cutting extra words.

      Does anyone know of a program that does both really well? If not, I can use Autocrit on my Mac. Does anyone know of something like Wordrake I can use on a Mac or IOS device?


  25. Grammarily is fine for basic writing errors, but breaks all hyperlinks of anything edited on line and causes typed text revisions to appear in odd places.

  26. This post is a good find at the right time. If you visit my blog, please know that I transferred all blogs into my husband’s name because he has a book coming out and I could not figure how to separate our blogs ( transfer one). I appreciate the ton of info your research provided and your conclusions.

  27. Luis Thillet says:

    What about StyleWriter 4? What are your thoughts? I just recently downloaded the trial version. Looks great but I’m no editor so am not sure if it’s the best option. Also MasterEdit looks handy.

  28. Ron Beal says:

    ‘Thanks for all of the information and reviews- priceless!! Looked at one site for recommended products and it didn’t mention any of those mentioned in this review. Good Job. I am writing a nonfiction book on the spirit realm, expanding the information provided in the Bible. Any suggestions of “comparing” this genre for language, audience etc? Would welcome any emails on whatever subjects.

  29. Both Grammarly and WordRake are expensive tools.

    When using Grammarly, I purposely made grammatical and spelling errors in my content. Grammarly found all spelling errors but overlooked basic language errors.

    I used WordRake for a week. It is not designed to correct grammar or spelling errors–it is designed, specifically, to remove useless words and phrases from the doc that do not add meaning.


  1. […] next useful thing I found was this article by Amanda Shofner. She tries several online tools, some of which cost. I wasn’t […]

  2. […] Three: Get some tools. This list from gives you some options to choose from. This is not your final step. This is […]

  3. […] but the stress of missing an error and hurting your future writing prospects can be terrifying. Automatic editing software often misses errors and paying for editing services isn’t always an […]

  4. […] an automated editor. My personal poison is AutoCrit, but you can view a comparison of services HERE. When that’s done, move on to #3 or […]

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