Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Editing Software

There's a little controversy over whether or not "machine" edits are sufficient for writers to depend on when editing their novel. (For this article, I use Autocrit).

I think most anyone from the writing community will give you a resounding "no."

But why?

These programs are fabulous tools, especially for beginning writers who need to see their tendencies in bold letters. However - they are just that. Tools.

A nail gun doesn't build the shed. You do. One nail at a time. Granted...you could use a hammer, but that's a lot more work and takes a lot more time.

Same goes with editing software. It's just faster than our own human editing. But...you can't depend on it to guide you to that pristine and perfect manuscript because what it does not and cannot check for is style. Voice. Tone. And if you're not careful, you could end up editing all that right out of your work.

For example, I ran a piece of dialogue through the wizard and after editing per the software, you couldn't even tell it was my MC speaking anymore. You have to remember... it's a machine. You, the writer, have the final say so.

That being said, once you learn to use the software as a tool and not a Bible, editing software does have advantages other than making edits faster.

Even for the experienced writer, it's nice to be able to plug in your manuscript and see a report on how many times you began a sentence with a conjunction. Or how many times you used the word had. You can also check the rhythm of your sentences since it gives you a word count breakdown by sentence.

Here is an example of reports based on the first page of my MS:

Now...keep in mind that it gives me suggestions. I still have to work through the document, read the sentences, and decide whether an overused word can be changed or not.

Here's another report: Sentence Length Variation

Again...this is just a report. Have I varied sentence length? Yes. Can I break up some of the longer sentences? That's for me to decide. Just because I have a long or short sentence doesn't mean I need to edit it. I have to take into account sentence structure, simple, compound, and complex sentences, and fragments.

Next up: Cliches and Redundancies

Luckily I had no cliches or redundancies. If I had however, I would definitely go back and double check whether they worked or needed to be removed.

Now...keep in mind that these three reports are all free on Autocrit. For additional reports, you have to pay. You can enter up to 500 words at a time 3 times a day at no cost.

So...bottom line: Don't depend on Editing Software to "fix" your novel. It can definitely help you see your tendencies and point out potential issues, but in the end, it's all on you. 

Happy Writing!!


  1. It is fascinating to plug portions of work into this type of software. I think another one is Edit Minion, right? But voice can definitely be edited right out of the manuscript, so we have to be careful!

  2. Miss Julie! I've never used Edit Minion so I just hopped over and tried it. Very neat...like that it detects a few different things than Autocrit. Thanks for mentioning it!!! XOXO

  3. Excellent points. The nail gun analogy is great and so true!

    I think this tool would be ideal for a writer AFTER they've edited the story structure of their manuscript. This tool is good for nitpicky kinds of stuff, not plot or character arcs.

    I have to work hard not to get caught up in the little things, when I really should be working on the big things first. It's downright painful to spend 20 minutes polishing a paragraph, only to find I need to delete the whole thing.

    Thanks for sharing the Autocrit screenshots. This looks like something I can use.

  4. I love "AutoCrit". It helps edit out repeated words and phrases and forces me to tighten up certain scenes. I use it to clean up chapters after I finish a few drafts of a manuscript.