Every serious writer needs an editor. The problem is not every serious writer can find (or afford) one.
Fortunately, there are several manuscript editing software programs available to help. Imagine them as robo-copyeditors. They offer automated and detailed critiques of your writing, highlighting both obvious and subtle areas that require improvement.
Make no mistake—these programs are much more than simple spellcheckers (though that's part of their functionality). The best editing software catches awkward phrasing, esoteric word choices, chunky sentences, and more. Also, it does it all at a fraction of the cost of an editor; in some cases, at no cost at all.
In this article, we'll review some of the best options available.
Free Manuscript Editing Software
Full disclosure, this is our own manuscript editing software. We strongly believe that it's the best on the web, in no small part because you can access all our reports for free on our web editor.
In addition to the functionality mentioned earlier, ProWritingAid offers a cliché catcher, a diction check, a repeated words finder, a pacing report, a contextual thesaurus, and more. In total, we have 20 different reports for your writing. You can even create your own rules with our House Style report.
ProWritingAid's features are like an automated line editor and proofreader. The Summary Report is a great place to start, as it will point out readability, sentence structure, and word choice issues. The Style Report is one of the most in-depth reports of any online editing tool. It checks passive voice, adverbs (both in and outside of dialogue, readability, and repeated sentence starts. It even points out emotion tells where you may want to "show" in your writing instead.
The Sticky Sentences feature is also unique to ProWritingAid. We call the most commonly used words "glue words." Sentences with many glue words can slow down your reader and bog down your writing. The editing tool will point these out to you and help keep you at a reasonable target.
This manuscript editing software gives you a report on your writing by highlighting errors in lurid colors. There is only one report, though, and it can be very hard to work with longer documents. It's best to use editMinion with smaller excerpts of your text.
EditMinion can check adverb usage. Too many adverbs can weaken your writing. It does not, however, differentiate between adverbs in and out of dialogue. This tool is good for word choice and diction. It checks for weak words and overused words. It picks up on your average sentence lengths and finds the longest sentence, but it doesn't show all of your sentence lengths for variety and fluency.
One strength of editMinion is it evaluates your tense usage. If you struggle with switching between past and present tense, the report will show you how often you use each tense. It also checks for passive voice. It does not check grammar and spelling, though, so you'll need to use another program for proofreading.
Another free app is the Hemingway Editor. For a free tool, this app is quite powerful. It can pick up on a few things with great accuracy, but it is limited in what it can evaluate.
Hemingway Editor is great for writers who struggle with using too much passive voice. It will also highlight your adverbs. The targets on the right side are helpful. It tells you how many passive verbs or adverbs you have while also giving you a recommended maximum based on your sentence length. The tool also highlights words or phrases that can be simplified for easier reading, although it's not comprehensive.
The app also helps you evaluate your sentence length. It will highlight sentences that are hard to read in yellow and sentences that are very hard to read in red. Hemingway Editor also evaluates your readability based on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.
Paid Manuscript Editing Software
Autocrit has been around for a while. It contains many similar reports to ProWritingAid. However, the free version is very limited. They have gotten rid of the word limit, but you cannot run all the reports. For more features, you'll have to buy a subscription, which is pricey and only offered monthly. The Elite version is $80 a month! It doesn't include features of ProWritingAid such as spelling and grammar. It also doesn't allow in-place editing.
Autocrit is geared toward fiction writers. It has detailed reports that include evaluations of dialogue and identification of clichés. Like most of the other editors, it runs a report on your adverbs, and it also has a pacing report. The filler word report is also helpful to clean up your writing.
Autocrit does have two features that are unique. First, it will compare your writing style to that of famous authors, like Stephen King and Suzanne Collins. Second, it will evaluate your novel based on your genre. This report will give you suggestions to make your manuscript fit its genre.
StyleWriter is a manuscript editing program that can be downloaded to your computer. It highlights some of the same issues as ProWritingAid but comes at a hefty, one-time price of $150. For some reason it is not supported on Mac, so a large percentage of writers won't be able to use it. It's also a download, so using it in your browser is not an option.
This app is geared more toward professional and technical writers. It's most unique feature is a jargon-buster to make your writing more accessible. The main goals of the StyleWriter reports are to make your writing more succinct and concise. This can be a problem for fiction writers who need some flowery prose, but it works well for nonfiction writing.
StyleWriter does check spelling. However, it's synced with Microsoft Word's dictionary and spell-checker. It won't offer you a larger dictionary than what comes with Office. It also checks for glue words like ProWritingAid does.
Which is the Best Fit?
Well, you probably know what we're going to say. ProWritingAid combines most of the features into one program with some additional reports you can't find anywhere else! Instead of trying to convince you, we'll let our product do the talking. Start your free 14-day trial of ProWritingAid today!