6 Grammar Checkers and Editing Tools to Make Your Writing Super Clean

6 Grammar Checkers and Editing Tools to 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 grammar checker tools, which are the next-best things.

Just remember that grammar checkers are designed to make editing easier, not to eliminate the work completely.

Putting the best grammar checker 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 has a broad definition — basically anything that improves your writing — 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 in a grammar checker or editing tool 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 blog post, magazine article or book.

A grammar checker 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 six of the best grammar checker tools.

1. ProWritingAid

What It Does:  ProWritingAid is a web editor and plugin that will clean up your writing by detecting grammar and spelling mistakes, plagiarism and contextual errors. It also analyzes your writing and produces reports on writing style, sentence length, grammar, and repeated words and phrases.

Price: There’s a limited free version. If you upgrade to the premium membership, you can edit in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, access a desktop app and Chrome add-ins, and — best of all — lose the word-count cap.

A year’s membership is $70. Or get two years for $100, three years for $140, or go the whole hog and buy a lifetime membership for $240.

Who It’s For: Anyone, including students, authors, freelancers or ESL writers.

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

The Best Part: ProWritingAid has a premium option, but 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 tool’s inability to work offline, but its overall functionality is hard to argue with.

Our Recommendation: Use ProWritingAid in the self-editing stage to guide your edits. 

More Details: For an in-depth explainer of ProwritingAid’s free and premium versions, check out our full ProwritingAid review.

2. 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 plan you choose, you can also compare your writing to that of popular authors like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.

Price: Three different plans are available: the “Free Forever” plan, which is free; the “Professional” for $30, or the “Elite” for $80 per month. Both of the latter offer a 14-day trial with a money-back guarantee.

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 its analysis. This tool uses data from more than a million books to provide a word-by-word level analysis of your writing and shows easy ways to improve the readability of your work.

The Best Part: I spent the most time in the “Compare to Fiction” tab, which provides 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 some 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.

More Details: For an in-depth explainer of Autocrit’s Free Forever and paid versions, check out our full Autocrit review.

3. Grammarly

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

Price: A limited version is available for free, and Grammarly also offers a number of other free services such as a wordiness checker and tone detection. The full-featured premium service costs $29.95 per month, $59.95 per quarter or $139.95 per year.

Who It’s For: Anyone, including writers, 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 so you can learn why it suggests the change. There’s also a free Grammarly Add-in available for Microsoft Word and a Grammarly for Chrome extension that’s also compatible with Google Docs.

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. Its synonym suggestion feature is pretty nifty, too.

What Would Make It Better: As an editor, I’ve found 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 of grammar. If you’re an editor or strong writer, you might find yourself ignoring more flagged items than you fix.

More Details: For an in-depth explainer of Grammarly’s free and premium versions, check out our full Grammarly review.

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

4. Hemingway Editor

What It Does: Hemingway Editor is like a spellchecker, but for style. It provides a readability score — the lowest grade level someone would need to understand your text — and analyzes your writing to identify areas for improvement.

Price: Free online, and $19.99 for the desktop version, which is 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 Editor also identifies how many “-ly” adverbs and passive voice constructions you’ve used and suggests a maximum number based on your word count.

In my prologue, for example, I had one use of passive voice, and Hemingway Editor 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 Editor was the cleanest and easiest to use of the free editing tools, but it’s not a true 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 Editor 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.

5. 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’ll 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 a writer, but it’s great at eliminating unnecessary phrases and 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 could increase your load time.

6. 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 spelling, grammar and style 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 the other five editing tools mentioned.

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!

The original version of this story was written by Amanda Shofner. We updated the post so it’s more useful for our readers.

Photo via rCarner/ Shutterstock 

Filed Under: Craft


  • Pamela B says:

    I have a student who swears by Grammarly, so I checked it out, but I have a major problem with the massive volume of unsolicited emails that Grammarly sends out after you sign up for it.

    After reading this article, I also looked at “After the Deadline” and “Hemingway Editor.” I pasted in a couple of college documents that have zero errors. Both programs flagged things as errors that are not really errors, making arbitrary assumptions that all adverbs are bad, for instance, or that it’s always better to use the word “place” than “position.”

    The most interesting aspect to me was learning details about readability from Hemingway Editor. I checked to see if the same readability details are available in Microsoft Word. They are. You have to check “Show readability statistics” in your proofing options. I believe that Microsoft Word is hands-down the best proofing tool for text editing. Get yourself a writing handbook for reference when you need to know about commas or whatever.

    • Thomas Lewis says:

      Hemingway App has some value, just not a lot of value. I have a minor character named ‘Lt. Stokely’. It flags ‘Stokely’ as an adverb. Why? Because that name ends in ‘ly’. So the level of sophistication here in flagging adverbs is ‘everything that ends in ‘ly’ must be an adverb’. And of course, it could not be more wrong about that.

      Also, what it considers ‘very difficult to read’ regarding individual sentences would only be difficult if your IQ was sub 75, which is classified as ‘imbecile’. It also classifies ‘difficult to read’ which only would be difficult if the reader is half an imbecile. So those things also have little value. There is value in the app getting you to take a closer look at these things, but rarely would this end in revision, because most of us are not targeting our writing to imbeciles.

  • Beth says:

    I purchased Grammarly and wish I didn’t. Their software support is tenuous at best. THEY DO NOT TROUBLESHOOT VIA TELEPHONE CALLS and I’ve been corresponding back and forth for a week with no solution. Loading, not starting, Im not the least bit happy.

  • DJ says:

    Hi, I wanted to thank you for providing this info and for all of the posters who added their thoughts. I’m going to try Hemingway and see how it works for the moment. I’ll work my way to the others and see what works best for me before paying. I had AutoCrit and paid for life but now they keep wanting me to upgrade and pay more, which I’m very disappointed to be treated like that when I was promised I’d have it forever, I was not aware it would not include new improvements. I have it still, but w/ the soliciting they send me, it appears I don’t get all the newest upgrades to the program. I have Scrivener and StyleWriter and use StyleWriter most often. I’ve had both for several years and never have had an issue with either of these and techs are quick to help which I love. I have only needed them a couple of times, like when I get a new computer. I never automatically assume the programs are correct, but I like that that they bring possible issues to my attention so I can double check. I tried Grammerly however, it was too buggy at the time and more annoying than productive. I’m working to get back to writing much more, so I really appreciate the info you and everyone has provided. Thanks again to all!

  • Thomas Lewis says:

    Here is a prime example why robot style critique is pretty mindless:

    I have a minor character referred to as ‘Lieutenant Stokely’.

    The Hemmingway App flags his last name as an adverb, simply because it ends in ‘ly’. Really? Ernest is spinning in his grave.

    I could have saved 20 bucks by just searching for ‘ly’ and done exactly as well as the Hemingway App does, because that is apparently exactly what the Hemingway App does.

    • Taren Randal says:

      It seems to me that everyone is trying to get a computer to do all the work for them. I use two editing programs, Grammarly and Serenity Editor, but then I print it out and circle all my subjects and underline all my predicates. There just is no substitute for hard work. So the question is how badly do you want your manuscript to be error free? Or how error free do you want your manuscript to be? Writing is not a vocation or avocation for the lazy.

      • Thomas Lewis says:

        I will acquiesce to the benefit of the doubt and assume that is not an insinuation.

        And thanks to Captain Obvious for that important information. No one here knew you couldn’t write well and also be lazy. No one imagined that it might be hard work.

        I would like to think that researching these things on the internet and trying to find tools to assist one is an indication that the people who came here to read this nice, helpful blog are indeed willing to do the hard work.

        I also believe that in certain circumstances you can do better work if you have tools. Go figure. And that is what these things are. Tools, designed to aid the process. Use them; don’t use them.

        I don’t consider them a swerve towards laziness. Readers will probably realize that there might not be an app that can circle all the subjects and predicates, and there might be a reason why.

        For myself, I don’t need to circle or underline them to be aware of them. I don’t need a tool or even a procedure to do that. But I also don’t pound nails in with my fist, because I believe in using a tool for that.

        So if you’ll all excuse me, I’ve got butter to churn.

        • Lisa Lepki says:

          Hi Thomas,

          Thank you for this reply! It’s brilliant. I love your comment about not using your fist to hammer nails. May we use it?

          All the best,


  • Thomas Lewis says:

    I tried Hemingway today. I could find the free online version nowhere, so I coughed up the 20 bucks, twice what it cost a year ago.

    I have only tried it on a single chapter so far. But it pointed out that I am using way too many adverbs (so I reworded to remove about 10% of them). Not now at the recommended amount, but a significant improvement.

    I cut my complex phrases from 6 to 4, my use of passive voice from 13 to 10 (91 were ‘allowed’ here) and reworded a few sentences that were deemed ‘hard to read’

    This is the puzzling part. While it is helpful to look at sentences with the question ‘is this hard to read?’ in mind, and then reword them to make them better, it is a VERY LOW BAR.

    The sentences that were hard to read might have had only had three clauses in them or less, and maybe 15-25 words. I would assume that anyone with an IQ of 70 or higher would have no issue at all with reading and comprehending them.

    And changing them to get under that VERY LOW BAR would make my writing simplistically annoying.

    it also seems that the algorithm for detecting passive voice is primarily based on detecting the words ‘be’ or ‘was’, and I think there is a lot more to PV than that, and that this leads to false positives.

    So while I find Hemingway a helpful tool, It has its caveats just like the rest of them. $20? One time? Probably still worth it.

  • Very nice post! You’ve shared every point in detail and thanks for writing this 🙂 Really a great post.

  • Tim Giles says:

    Microsoft Word will provide the Flesch-Kincaid reading grade level. My experience with these programs has been that none are any better than Word’s grammar checker.

    • Dave says:

      Grammarian PRO2 calculates Flesh, Flesch-Kincaid, and Gunning FOG.

      Flesch-Kincaid is the US government of Defense standard. Gunning FOG is widely used for publications. Grammarian PRO2 is far more advances with readability statistics calculations.

      As a matter of fact, Grammarian PRO2 even graphs the readability as well as human interest of each sentence for analysis.

  • Taren Randal says:

    I use about three editing programs, and they are all useful. However, I have found that by circling all my subjects and underlining all my predicates I find many more errors than the software can find. I also analyze the sentences in my book backwards forcing my mind to forget what I already know about what it’s supposed to say. It’s a lot of work, so I recommend using the software first, but forcing yourself to focus on every sentence individually is the best way to edit long manuscripts.

    My book is 75,000 words and 7500 sentences. It has been a lot of work, but I have found about 750 errors that three different programs didn’t catch. The downside of this method is that you have to know grammar yourself.

  • Dan says:

    I was wondering if anyone has used PerfectIt Pro by intelligent Editing? Can it be compared with Pro Writing, or is it software that should be used in addition to Pro Writing?

  • Di Ross says:

    I Downloaded trial version of Grammarian PRO2 X? and found it completely useless for my use, as it only uses US English, not International English (British English. Way to many differences in spellings and some grammar differences.

  • There is a writing tool that hasn’t been listed here, Credosity. I am a corporate writer and author. I have been using this great tool for some time now. It not only finds the grammar and spelling errors it also looks at Active Voice, Verb Nominalisation, and long sentences and paragraphs. It even finds that pesky double spacing I had trained into me many years ago and are now not acceptable. It looks at the document based on readability and professionalism. It also integrates with Word and Outlook.

    As a writer, I believe I am good at my craft. But I wouldn’t send a document to any client without having it checked by Credosity first. I recommend this tool to anyone who is writing documents, emails, letters, or even writing a book.

  • Richard says:

    I’m new to this site.
    I’ve been looking for a good editor and have yet to find one. I’ve been taking courses at Stanford; concentrating on the craft. The courses gave me a foundation but I’m a science major with only English 101 under my belt and need help with grammar and punctuation. Style? I need to read more.
    My present solutions are: Human, Word for spell and punctuation checker and then “StyleWriter “. I’ve just tried StyleWriter for fourteen days and it found style issues with a short story which had been edited by a major literary magazine. Granted, most of the style issues required judgement.
    Note: After Word I used StyleWriter on the above and it made the following comments: Bog: Good; Style: Good; Grade Easy.
    It made the following Suggestions: First sentence: Too many “glue words” try revising. Suggested two alternative words to “required”, preferred spelling to “judgment” (Word didn’t make this suggestion), I interchanged “that” and “which” neither program preferred one word over the other. Finally: possible passive voice “had been”.
    Hope this helps someone

  • Lucia says:

    I’ve been using Grammarly, and it’s a very useful tool. I’ve written a recent review which can be found on my site.

  • Sherri says:

    I purchased a Premium subscription to Grammarly today only to find out that I can’t directly upload my files from Scrivener. They lose all formatting.

    I’ve read through just about all of these comments and have been searching for something that I can use to polish up what Scrivener misses. The grammar/spellcheck is awful on Scrivener. Suggestions?

    • Rekka says:

      Sherri, compile your Scrivener project, outputting to a Word format, then upload that file. If it’s your first time compiling, you may want to review the output file first to make sure it looks the way you want and includes the Scrivener docs it’s meant to.

  • Roxanne Corbin says:

    “Many people are disturbed over k ”

    I just used MS Word, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid on a letter that has the above incomplete sentence. The sentence wasn’t flagged by any of the programs. Yes, there is still reason to manually review documents.

    • Taren Randal says:

      When I quoted it Grammarly caught all three. I didn’t notice the space before the comma but the subject-verb agreement and the two word that should have been one caught my eye.

  • Thanks , I belongs to Hindi back ground, so I always draft my post on Microsoft World to correct silly mistakes. But believe me your post is amazing…..

    • Taren Randal says:

      Case in point: “Thanks , I belongs to Hindi back ground,”

      In the first 7 words of your comment, there are 3 errors. The comma after ‘thanks’ should not have a space before it. It should be “I belong” –subject-verb agreement. And “back ground” should be one word.

      These errors make it obvious that English is not your primary language. If you used all the checking capabilities in word then this shows the limitations of that program. That is why other grammar checking tools are necessary in the first place.

  • Taren Randal says:

    I use Grammarly and it is checking my grammar as I type right now, but I find that it makes many mistakes of its own. I like the click to correct and using it on web pages like this one, but it leaves a lot to be desired.
    I also use Editor by Serenity software. I consider this to be the best software available to correct grammar, but the user interface is abominable. It also crashes constantly and catches many false doubled words. The most irritating thing about it though is that the troubleshooting guide blames windows for many of its problems.

  • Victoria says:

    I would love to find a program that performed these capabilities that worked with Scrivener. After paying for Scrivener, I really do not want to be stuck with using them only with Word.

  • Sakhi says:

    I have grammarly and I love it. It feels like magic. Though it shows all my content in passive as I am writing several books on the go, and one of them is a medieval epic. But yet, combine grammarly, Hemingway, pro writing and a bit of article spinner and voila ! You have a impeccable first draft. It’s best for my blog.

  • Carly says:

    Great blog post! Exactly what I was looking for! I’ve used grammarly, prowritingaid, and autocrit. I found grammarly the best for, well, grammar issues. Basics like commas etc. autocrits price increase turned me off. I was a member forever but going up to 29/month was a deal breaker. Pro writing aid does basically the same thing AND bridges with Scrivener which is AMAZING! It’s terrible at checking grammar but works for the other stuff.

    I’m really excited to give wordrake a try. My sentences tend to get wordy. I wish there was a program that would point out issues with sentence structure. Lately I’ve had descriptions that modify the wrong noun. Or prounouns that identify the wrong noun. Like “they” should’ve mean the people in the previous sentence but instead referred to the ropes the people carried. Oh brother. Haha. Anyway, EXCELLENT list! Thanks a bunch!

  • James Hindle says:

    I have used Grammarly and ProwriterAid with Word 2013. Grammarly works well, although, like any writing aid program, I find myself in frequent arguments with it.
    I was looking forward to the extra features of ProwriterAid but found the Word add-in locked the program and would not allow me to close Word. I had to reboot my computer to close Word. I’ve since removed the ProwriterAid program from my computer, and all is well. Now, I would like to get either a favourable fix from ProwriterAid or a refund for my year’s subscription.

  • Taren Randal says:

    Before you post several pages of text please make sure it’s on topic.

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