There are a great number of technical tools and apps for writers available – but which of them will actually help you get your work done? In this post we inspect ProWritingAid, a tool that helps you edit.
Writing needs editing. There is a reason that the “ugly first draft” has become so proverbial. Your first draft is written with the brain in creative mode, and it’s often better to not get caught up in specific word selection and sentence construction. Writers who think they can skip editing are almost certainly wrong. You can almost always come up with stronger words to express your ideas, and clearer ways to get your point across. And since most of your everyday texts don’t justify the expense of a professional editor, the way to go is self-editing. This is where ProWritingAid excels.
Automatic Text Analysis
ProWritingAid conducts an automatic analysis of your text according to various statistics and its proprietary algorithms. These analyses are based on established rules for good writing that actually can be measured, e.g. to use adverbs sparingly, use more transitions, use fewer pronouns and glue words, and many more. If you care for good writing, you’ll probably try to stick to these rules more or less subconsciously. ProWritingAid makes them systematically visible.
How to Use It
You’ll first have to register on ProWritingAid.com to be able to use the tool. There are several ways to work with ProWritingAid. Ulysses writers can either make use of the free online tool, or download the desktop application (requires Premium membership). The second is the fastest and most comfortable option, albeit still in the beta phase.
The desktop app can read and write a couple of file types, Markdown among them. So you can export a Ulysses text as Markdown File, conduct the editing with ProWritingAid, and import back to your Ulysses’ library for further processing. This is fast and convenient, with the only drawback that you can’t keep your images and sheet attachments such as writing goals. After some playing with the app I found the following procedure suitable for my workflow:
- Open ProWritingAid and create a new Markdown file.
- Go to your Ulysses sheet, select a text passage, and use the “Copy as Markdown” command from the Edit menu.
- Paste into ProWritingAid.
- Now go one by one through the reports, and edit within ProWritingAid.
- When you’re done, select and copy the edited text.
- Paste back to your Ulysses sheet replacing the old version of the text passage, and using the “Paste from Markdown” option from the Edit menu.
In every ProWritingAid report, the issues found in your text appear underlined. When moving your cursor over an underlined passage, you’ll get an explanation and/or recommendation. Where applicable you can simply click on a suggestion, e.g. a simpler word or a synonym, to make use of it.
The reports come with a short explanation and a link to comprehensive information about the report’s subject on the ProWritingAid website. I’ll go into more detail with some examples to give you an idea.
Writing Style Check
This report is meant to help improve your writing style, based on various rules for good writing. As an example, the report identifies the use of passive voice in your text, as sentences in active voice are more engaging to read. Writing Style Check also highlights adverbs, repeated sentence starts, and makes proposals for readability enhancements.
Overused Words Check
This report identifies words so commonly used in everyday life that they have become boring and almost meaningless, e.g there and have . It is impossible to always avoid them, but ProWritingAid can identify if you have used them to excess.
Sentence Length Check
Texts with sentences of varied lengths are more interesting to read. This report visualizes your sentence lengths in a bar graph, so you can see at a glance if there’s room for improvement. What’s more, the report will identify particularly long sentences, as they tend to make a text less understandable.
The ProWritingAid online tool is free of charge. It is less comfortable to use, and you don’t have access to all available reports, but it may serve for a first impression. A premium membership will let you use the desktop app and various add-ons, and is available from $40 per year. You can take your time to figure out if ProWritingAid is for you, because it comes with 14-day money back guarantee.
ProWritingAid can’t (and is not meant to) replace a human editor. The tool highlights particular measurable aspects of a text and does a thorough job. You will still have to edit your texts yourself, but ProWritingAid can improve this process and make it faster.