Bells and Whistles: Fancy Grammar Editors for Writers

from openclipart.org by j4p4n

 


As I shared recently on my personal blog, grammar is the bane of my existence.  I’m so excited to tell the story or express my idea, that I never push pause and wonder if I’m structuring well. Then, I have comb through everything looking for missing letters, forgotten articles, passive voice, adverbs, missing commas, and the list goes on.

This is NOT a post about the weakest element of my writing (though my rambling could transform it to that in an instant).  Instead, I would like to present writers with some tools to combat the grammar demon.  After all Microsoft Word and Open Office’s tools, don’t catch most mistakes writers fear.  

ProWritingAid: Is hands down my favorite editing tool.  I use the “style” and “grammar/spelling” report the most and it helps me find all my major pitfalls.  There are over 20 reports a writer can comb through.  It allows me to hunt down overused words, pacing problems, and repetitive sentence structure.  When I’m “into” my story, I can spend days pouring through the reporting procedures making every element perfect.  And I walk away with the sense I improved my writing

Beyond the different reports, there are different evaluations for different writing.  I set my editor to ‘Creative’ on default, but you may prefer, “business”, “casual”, “web” or one of the other seven styles.

I use ProWritingAid in the web editor mode, but it has add ons that connect it to Mac, Scrivener, Word, and more.  I’ve been working with the software for a little over the year and there are major quality of life improvements with this software.  For example it doesn’t get rid of my bold, italic, or underlined text anymore when I copy and paste from one document t to another.  

ProWritingAid allows you to use their editor for 500 words or fewer for free.  To use the editor on longer works you must purchase.  They have many pricing options and it’s affordable (less so than when I bought in but still WORTH IT).  

Grammarly: This was the hottest grammar software on the market three years ago when I first poked around in the blogging world.  I was convinced this thing would 100% make all the right corrections, and I was disappointed.  A fellow writers’ group member, Ashley Saunders, (who is an expert on all syntax and structure) pointed out how much the software missed in my writing.  She complained my “edited” draft still read like a rough draft.

Because I was so disappointed with the free services of Grammarly, I never investigated if the paid version provided better corrections.  The pricing is more reasonable now than it was then.  It may be worth consideration.  Still, ProWritingAid offers more evaluation tools.  For a writer looking to make their work the best and not just grammatically sound, ProWritingAid exceeds Grammarly.

Hemingway App: An excellent free web app that offers writers insight into readability, adverbs, and passive voice.  I used to run everything through here.  Since I’ve worked with ProWritingAid a year, I’m convinced the software finds everything Hemmingway App does and makes more helpful suggestions on how to correct issues I’ve encountered.  Still, this a wonderful free app and perfect for an aspiring writer not ready to invest any money in a new editor.

Word Counter:  I haven’t played a lot with this online tool, but it’s an interesting cross between Grammarly, Hemmingway App and a word production app.  Their evaluations look interesting and the service is free.  They send me emails about twice a week and the topics are interesting.

Do you have a grammar editor of preference?  Am I missing the BEST one?  Have I over hyped one editor while downplaying another?  Talk to me, tell me more about the tools you use to make your writing everything it can be.

looking for more Writing tools Check out the First in the “Bells and Whistles”
series: applications that encourage writing.  Or check out “What’s In a Name?”  for name generating tools.

The Rules of the Game

image from open clipart.org by nicubunu

 

I am the self-appointed editor of our group round robins.  Anyone who’s read our work knows I am LEAST qualified of the four of us.  ProWritingAid is the great equalizer, or at least I have to tell myself it is.

As the editor I have self-imposed rules.

 

1. Don’t change the core of other’s sections.  Whatever they wrote is what they intended and I have to work with that, not hack and slash around to change inherent meaning.  Too much change makes it “my story” instead of “our story” which runs contrary to the round robin’s goals.

 

 2. Seamless flow from one writer to the other is the goal, but I can’t change all the phrasing to be “Jessica” (or anyone else’s) style to achieve this.  It’s not right to erase someone else’s voice on a joint work to showcase another’s.

 

This worked well in our first round robin.  I used ProWritingAid first to correct grammar, style, to catch and rework repetitive phrasing, and to delete adverbs.  The major change I made was plot continuity driven.  One writer misread another’s part of the story.  Where Anges finds a dead body that writer interpreted it as Anges being the dead body.  I had to change content.  I adjusted three lines.

 

Fast forward to our second round robin project.  We used Reedsy to find a prompt.  The gist was: “Your grandmother makes pancakes for you every morning.  Your grandmother dies, but there are still pancakes the next morning.

 

This prompt was a different challenge from the last.   The first story blooms from three words/themes.  Using a specific scenario, encouraged more partnership instead of competition to “take over” the story.  This second round robin was smoother and required a lot less finessing to make it seem like one person had written the work.

 

If reworking it was simple why isn’t it posted here?

 

The “problem”: I hate my part of the story.  Not all.  I’m happy with the first three almost four paragraphs, but it goes downhill fast.  My ambitions to churn the most words and be the first to “finish” a round robin in fifteen minutes left me with a rambling sticky mess.  I do not want to publish such a poor expression of my writing.  Everything I think is weakest in my form is on display.

 

What might be worse, my closing section only drives towards a handful of endings.  I broadcasted the only natural conclusion, and that’s driving me to play with the less obvious choices to thumb my nose at myself (because I hate authority so much I’ll rebel against myself when I become the authority and isn’t that an unattractive personality quirk).

 

Help!  Do I publish and unfinished story as it stands?  Do I scrap this work as hopeless?  Do I make my changes because if I cut the last two paragraphs I could write three kinds of separate endings on my own?  Are more drastic changes to my section a benefit I gain as the person completing the editing work?  Do I have to keep everything I wrote in the spirit of the exercise and endure the cringe?  Tell me what’s a “professional” writer/editor to do in this situation with my minor conflict of interest.

All About Writers’ Group Round Robin

image from openclipart.org by oksmith

 

What is it? 

The Blitz Round Robin is a work we create in our meeting.  We pick a random theme, choose a member to start us off, and they have to write for fifteen minutes.  After time is up, the next member gets a chance to read the work and then they have fifteen minutes to write.  We do this until all of us have a chance to write.

Why?  

There’s a lot of reasons to do this exercise.  For our group the primary reason is to encourage speed of production.  Generally, we are a group that spends too much time thinking or editing and not enough time pounding on computer keys.  But there are other reasons to participate

  1. It might jumpstart some creative juices
  2. The process offers unique challenges each of us struggles with in our personal writing and sometimes we try to trip the following writer up
  3. It provides writers a chance to collaborate and work together
  4. The Round Robin gives us a chance to complete something small while we toil with larger works
  5. The activity forces forward movement where all of us sometimes linger our own projects to languish in interia
  6. Since we’ve decided to publish the final products to our blog, these activities give us a chance for publication and perhaps create an audience for our personal style.

Hear From the Group:

The round robin is a great opportunity for me to develop speed in my writing.  The group challenges everyone to write the other in a corner, to call back to an early passage or develop and introduce new character on the fly.  I believe we all hone spontaneity and versatility every time we slam on the keys.”- Zach Stanfield.

For me, the round robin is all about collaborative writing and melding four distinct styles into a coherent story.  I enjoy seeing all my fellows’ contributions and moving the story forward with my personal flare.  The best part comes after the exercise, when we edit.  It’s inspiring to see a work created to try and make each of us fumble transform into a story in which I can’t tell where one writer’s words ended and another’s began.” -Jessica Donegan

The round robin provides me with an opportunity to practice on thinking on my feet when it comes to having an idea and throwing it on the page. A lot of times I have an awesome idea that I start but falter two paragraphs in. The round robin also creates a accountability to get something down. Plus, I love coming in where someone left off and going crazy with the story. Painting someone in a corner can be fun as well.” – Patrick O’Kelley

Where to Go From Here: 

We will publish our first group round robin.  Since the work was not completed during the exercise, we each decided to add our own alternate ending.  I, personally, am beyond thrilled to post the work and hope all our readers are able to enjoy some quick, fun stories!

Want to Read our First Round Robin?  Check our Murder Love and Romance for our beginning with Christopher M. Palmer’s ending, Patrick Jospeph O’Kelly’s ending, and Jessica Donegan’s ending all available.