6 Automatic Editing Tools That Will Make Your Writing Super Clean

6 Automatic Editing Tools That Will Make Your Writing Super Clean

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(s) 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 post, 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 for premium service. A limited version is available for free, and Grammarly also offers a number of other free services such as a plagiarism checker and various plug-ins.

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

How It Works:  Copy and paste or upload your 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. There is also a free Grammarly Add-in available for Microsoft Word, along with a plug-in for web browsers.

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. ProWritingAid

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

Price:  Enjoy limited use of the tool for free, or upgrade to the premium membership to edit where you work (i.e., in Google Docs or MS Word), access a desktop app and Chrome add-ins, and — best of all — lose the word-count cap. A year’s membership is $60, but you can get two years for $90, three for $120, or go whole hog and buy a lifetime membership for $210.

Who It’s For: Anyone

How It Works: Click on “Editing Tool,” create a free account, then paste in your text.

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, but its overall functionality is hard to argue with.

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.

3. 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 OpenOffice.org.

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.

Which automatic editing tool is best for writers? We tested six popular options.

4. AutoCrit

What It Does: AutoCrit analyzes your manuscript to identify areas for improvement, including pacing and momentum, dialogue, strong writing, word choice and repetition. Depending on what level you choose, you can also compare your writing to that of popular authors like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

Price:  Three different levels are available: the “basic” for $10 per month, the “professional” for $30, or the Elite for $80 per month. (Both of the latter offer a 14-day trial for $1.)

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.

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, $19.99 for the desktop version (available for both Mac and PC)

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, whether it’s hard-to-read sentences, the presence of adverbs, or passive voice.

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:  The Microsoft Word version is available for Mac or Windows, and you can pay $129 for a year or $259 for three years. The Microsoft Word and Outlook package version is only available for Windows, and it costs $199 for a year or $399 for three.

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

How It Works: WordRake is an add-in for Microsoft products and requires you to install the program before using it, though it’s as easy as following the instructions. 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 or 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?

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

This post was updated in January 2019 so it’s more useful and relevant for our readers! It was originally written by Amanda Shofner and updated by The Write Life team. 

Filed Under: Craft
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198 comments

  • Sahil kumar says:

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

  • 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.

    • Laura Zam says:

      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?

      Thanks!

      • dave goodling says:

        Did you try Grammarian PRO2 for the Mac? It was the first. Best of them all period.

        See http://linguisoft.com

        • JE Colger says:

          How did it do on fiction? For about $ 50 USD it seems to be quite affordable.

          • Grammarian has selectable writing styles that accommodate your current writing style. “Casual” and “Chat” are two informal styles that work well with fiction. Grammarian has a default “Common” writing style. This is the one I use, and I’m happy with this setting.

            Personally, I can’t believe that people are paying $139 for Grammarly. It’s not worth it. Grammarian costs only $50 and works directly on the WP document. No browser and no internet needed. I guess Grammarly’s social branding with fake news made a brand for it… a social media blitz that seems to have worked.

    • Angela says:

      I also tried Word Rake and after 5 days it crashed my Word program. I could not use my Word program until I unplugged it in the add-in area. The first couple of times I did use Word Rake I enjoyed the flexibility it offered as far as using it in Word. I have also tried Ginger, Grammarly and Pro-write. Ginger was difficult to navigate. And the other two were complicated and messed up my paper. Thank you for offering this blog- I will try the others you mentioned here.

    • Tyler Berding says:

      I use both Wordrake and Grammarly. They each have a different focus. I work with lawyers and they struggle to be concise, so Wordrake is great for wordiness. Grammarly and Word spellcheck do most of the rest.

  • Linda says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ambika says:

    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.

  • Dewald says:

    This is depressing. English isn’t my first language and knowing these apps aren’t perfect (“aren’t” approved by Grammarly), makes me want to run for the hills. What is one supposed to do? I don’t have time to read day and night to try and catch up on these ‘false positives’, and I certainly would not be able to spot one even if it smacked me against my forehead — repeatedly.

    So, what is the best way (non-automated), to increase my ability to pinpoint grammatical errors and bad sentence structure?

    Thanks

    • Yvonne Ravenwood says:

      Take some writing classes to improve how you write, then you only need these programs for a light check to your work. Like with photography – you take the best picture you can so you don’t have to edit it after. Good luck.

    • Melanie says:

      Use an online editing service. Try Scribendi. If your docs must be perfect, it will be worth the money.

    • Melanie says:

      P.S. Many good editing services will explain their corrections if you ask them nicely.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I absolutely love Grammarly and Autocrit. The problem with autocrit (paid subscription) is that promises –I think about 1,000 words but it keeps going back to 3 sentences. We had this issue for as long as I can remember but it was once fixed, then I had my computer clean up and had to do a relogging…and I’m back with the 3 sentences issue. Even though I don’t need too many pages loaded at once, 3 sentences are impossible to work with.

  • Poom says:

    Hi, great article, I wish I read this article before I naively went in and subscribed to Grammarly for a year. I know that Grammarly is not perfect, far from perfect in fact, but as a non-native speaker and writer of English, I find it useful to a large extent. First, I do make silly mistakes all the time (there’s no singular/plural and tenses in Asian languages, so these are something I could never fully understand). Second of all, I write scientific journal articles that will eventually have to go through a human proof-reader before submitting to the peer-reviewed process. I used to get complaints from the editor of how it’s annoying to see basic errors I kept making. So I find Grammarly quite useful, it certainly avoided potential scolding from the editor.

    If I could make a wish, I would love it if you could write about the software from a non-native speaker’s point of view. I’m not sure if this is out of your website’s scope and readership. Last thing I want to mention is about learning from your mistakes, the most improtant part of using such software is that eventually you make less and less mistakes. Again this is from a non-native speaker point of view.

    Thank you.

  • Dale Debber says:

    I am appalled that Grammarly decides to tell users what is politically correct speech and what might offend someone. Policeman becomes police officer and spokesman becomes spokesperson. It gets worse.
    I love the gramatical help, I don’;t really need someone else’s moral authority or values shoved down my throat.

    • john graham says:

      Dale, I agree so much. I jut don’t like Grammarly … even its “grammatical help” can too often be a nuisance with creative writing.

    • Taren Randal says:

      I use Grammarly myself and noticed this also. I decided that inside my book I would not bother with being PC, but in the back cover blurb I accepted the PC nonsense believing that once someone is involved in the story they wouldn’t care, but if offended by the back of the book they may put it down.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Scrivener…is a nightmare. I lost all my files to Scrivener. I was told by Scrivener employees not to worry about downloading a new license from the link Scrivener sent to me…wow…what a nightmare. No amount of work from technicians could recover those files.

    EVery writer should know that Scrivener is an unstable app.

    • Melanie says:

      It’s not an app, it’s an online editorial service, and the name is Scribendi, not Scrivener. Two different animals.

      • Agreed – two different peices of software. Scrivener is very stable and is so very much unlike grammar checkers in that Scrivner does not have a grammar check…which strikes me as odd considering the purpose of Scrivner.

  • Suertz says:

    I use Grammarly Premium and to be honest; it does a decent job. I have no complaints. I wish it were a little more affordable, but it is what it is.

  • I use Grammarly Premium and am happy since it catches a lot of little things. (The Chrome Add-on is correcting this post as I write.) After running my chapter through Grammarly, I print it then read it out loud. I also workshop my chapters and find even more when I read it aloud to others.
    Ultimately, I am responsible for my output.

    • James Hindle says:

      So true. Grammarly, or any editor program, is only an aid to a writer. While it can catch a lot of mistakes (not always right, but it gives you a choice), when you’ve finished with the program you still have to either edit again, and again, and again, or hire an editor. No program could become a writer’s final editor.

  • Harriette says:

    I use grammarly as I am writing and most of the time I agree with the changes they suggest. As a writer I believe that I reserve the right of expression,so sometimes I would just ignore it’s suggesting. I am a college professor, so I also have access to another grammar/spell check program. The bottom line to me is that the writer must have a good grasp of the language basics.

  • Daniel Naber says:

    As After the Deadline isn’t maintained anymore (i.e. there won’t be new releases), I thought I’d mention my own software, LanguageTool (https://languagetool.org). Like After the Deadline, it’s Open Source and free, not just for personal use but for any use. Several add-ons are available, e.g. for Firefox and Chrome.

    • Taren Randal says:

      I’ve used language tool, but it needs to be used with another program. It is not sophisticated enough to be used on its own. It does, however, catch some mistakes not caught by Grammarly.

  • Taren Randal says:

    I like the number 13. I know it’s bad luck and all, but I like it.

  • Jose C Moraes says:

    Great post and comments! I’m going to try some of the alternatives mentioned.
    English isn’t my native language. I’m a teacher of English in Brazil and a writer as well (Portuguese and English).
    Sometimes I feel that the sentences I write aren’t exactly what a native writer would choose. The feature I’m looking for most is the ability to recognize grammatically correct sentences that don’t sound natural for a native speaker.
    I’d been using Autocrit – I liked it – but the newest version has an unbelievable high price, (for me, at least) – $59.97/month!
    I’d appreciate any additional suggestion.

    Thanks

    • JP Carsten says:

      I tried Grammerly to edit two drafts of short stories. When I went to save them in my OpenOffice files as OpenOffice documents it balked and would not let me do anything with the work. When Grammerly is allowed to edit a piece it takes over the piece- It is theirs. You will not be able to open such a piece without the Grammerly editor attached. It becomes a Google web page. Fortunately I had made other copies of the pieces prior to letting Grammerly work on them.

      I have since purged my computer of all Grammerly related files.

      Be careful with this parasite!

      • Taren Randal says:

        I use Grammarly too, but I use it with WordPerfect. What I’ve noticed is that it changes or removes formatting codes. This is extremely annoying and I almost did as you said. It may seem like a pain, and it is, but I now copy and past things to the website then copy and paste the corrections to notepad. This removes all formatting codes then I copy and paste it back to WordPerfect. It’s not the best, but it works. I hope that helps someone.

        • dave goodling says:

          Wow. You are right What a hassle and a bother. That really destroys the whole writing and editing flow. Really, I’d look for something else. Grammarly really isn’t that great.

        • JP Carsten says:

          I find the basic version of HEMINGWAY ($10) to meet almost all my needs and is not parasitic as is Grammerly.

        • Thomas Lewis says:

          I am not happy with the fact that Grammarly left-flushes all my text, but I found a workaround.

          I compose in Scrivener (usually) and DO NOT format there. Then I run it through Grammarly (it can’t unformat something that isn’t yet formatted). Then I paste the corrected version into iBooks Author and format there, then run that through Calibre to get a KIndle version.

    • Melanie says:

      That’s a hard one. For written documents, my opinion is that the only foolproof way to ensure that your style is indistinguishable from that of a native is to have your docs reviewed regularly by a reliable native speaker whose style resembles what you aspire to and who is also willing to coach you on the use of idiomatic expressions and other nuances that a grammar/style program will never catch.

      Another trick you might try is to write your document in English, translate it into Brazilian, and then translate it back into English. That may bring to light some issues that you weren’t aware of. You may be oversimplifying your English, and translating into your native tongue may help you become more aware of instances where your native sentence structure is more complex and fluid. Translating it back into English might help you incorporate that natural fluidity into your second language.

  • Eugene says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I love it.

  • Incredibly helpful! But I’ll still use my human editor after using one of these.

  • Kelee Morris says:

    Nothing beats a human editor, but I might give one of these a try just out of curiosity. But writers should never use one of these as their sole editor.

  • Gary says:

    Amusing how so many posters on here write Grammerly instead of Grammarly…

    • Thomas Lewis says:

      Yes, and these are ‘writers’.

      I always weigh their suggestions and advice in a somewhat different light than ‘writers’ who can spell and pay attention to detail.

  • Rachel says:

    I use Grammarly for the main bulk of my corrections. It also helps to Americanise my writing (the novel is set in the US, I am not). After I’ve finished using Grammarly I usually have a quick look on AutoCrit for overused words etc. It’s a lot of work but I feel overall it makes my writing better and I learn at the same time.

    • JP Carsten says:

      I couldn’t get Grammerly to let go of my work. If I transferred it to another location it would also attach the program to the work. I found no way to avoid that. I finally gave up and purged Grammerly from my system. Way too invasive for me. I guess there is a way to avoid or rectify the issue but I found none.

      • James Hindle says:

        I found that disabling Grammarly before I saved the document, made it Grammarly free. Then again, these computers often have independent minds of their own. It may not work for you.
        James Hindle