Articles by ProWritingAid

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How to use... Readability Scores

by ProWritingAid May 15, 2016

How to use... Readability Scores

Your ProWritingAid Summary Report will provide you with a variety of readability scores that have been calculated using some of the top tools out there. Each tool calculates their score in a slightly different way but the results should be within the same ballpark.

The Flesch Reading Ease Score is the most well-known readability test out there (even the US military use it to assess the readability of their technical manuals). It calculates the total number of words in each sentence, and then the total number of syllables in each word, and gives you two scores.

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Why We Love the Oxford Comma

by ProWritingAid May 09, 2016

Why We Love the Oxford Comma

What is the Oxford comma? And why is there so much debate around whether it should be used? ProWritingAid advocates a nuanced approach to the Oxford comma depending on the clarity of the sentence.

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How to use... The Grammar Check

by ProWritingAid May 09, 2016

How to use... The Grammar Check

The Grammar Check is similar to the grammar and spelling checkers that you have probably used in within your word processor. It highlights any word that’s not in our dictionary in case it’s misspelled. It also looks at the construction of the sentence to make sure that the structure, punctuation and tense are correct.

But, in addition to these standard grammar checks, our team of copyeditors have been inputting thousands of specific checks that they have come across in their years of editing. Our goal over the next couple of years is to have a simple explanation associated with every grammar issue that the software picks up.

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How to use... The Writing Style Check

by ProWritingAid May 03, 2016

How to use... The Writing Style Check

The Writing Style Check is one of the most popular and comprehensive reports that ProWritingAid offers. It highlights several areas of writing that should be revised to improve readability, including passive voice, overuse of adverbs, hidden verbs, overused words, clunky phrasing, repeated sentence starts, and more.

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How to use... The Transition Report

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Transition Report

Imagine a road with no street signs. How would you follow the right route if you didn’t have a sign showing you which way to go?

Transition words are the road signs in writing. And great transitions help your reader follow your train of thought without becoming bogged down trying to discern your meaning. Words and phrases like “similarly”, “nevertheless”, “in order to”, “likewise,” or “as a result” show the relationships between your ideas and can help illustrate agreement, contrast or show cause and effect:

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How to use... The Clichés and Redundancies Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Clichés and Redundancies Check

Whenever you use a cliché, you are knowingly writing something unoriginal. Clichés are what you write when you don’t have the energy or inspiration to think of something new to say.

Writers often use clichés when they are working on their first draft because thinking up original wording takes time and can interrupt creative flow. That’s fine. But, when you go back to edit, be creative and brainstorm for fresh ideas. A new analogy or metaphor will make much more of an impression on your readers than a dusty old cliché. A good writer may create and reject over a dozen images before finding the right one, so don’t worry if it takes you a while.

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How to use... The Dialogue Tags Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use...  The Dialogue Tags Check

Dialogue tags are the words that refer dialogue to a specific character. The two most common examples are “said” and “asked”.

  • “I’m not going!” said Charlie.

They are essential in writing, particularly in scenes that include several characters, because they help the reader follow the conversation. Novice writers, however, have an annoying tendency to use more flowery dialogue tags and pepper them with adverbs.

  • “I’m not going!” said Charlie angrily.
  • “I’m not going!” shouted Charlie.
  • “I’m not going!” roared Charlie furiously.

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How to use... The Overused Words Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Overused Words Check

There are some words and sentence constructions that are fine to use occasionally, but become problematic when they are overused. They fall into five main categories:

1) Too Wishy-Washy

Words like “could”, “might” and “maybe” are indefinite in their meaning. “I could bring a salad to dinner” feels hesitant and unsure, whereas “I will bring a salad to dinner” feels resolute. If your writing is peppered with these non-specific words, it will feel unconvincing. Try to limit your use of these undefined words to times when they are really necessary and replace them with definite words when you are able.

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How to use... The Pacing Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Pacing Check

Pacing refers to the speed at which a story is told and how quickly the reader is moved through events. Good writing contains faster-paced sections, such as dialogue and character action, as well as slower-paced sections, such as introspection and backstory.

A book that is entirely composed of car chases without taking the time to make you care about the character being chased just won’t be effective at bringing readers into the story. Likewise, a story that has four chapters in a row dedicated to your main character’s Zen contemplation may need a bit of action to keep readers interested. Differently paced sections should complement each other, allowing the reader to move with you through the narrative.

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How to use... The Repeats Check

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Repeats Check

Repeating a word or phrase happens to the best of us, especially if you’re writing an article and using a specific vocabulary for your topic. You won’t even notice you’ve used the same word several times in the span of one paragraph because it’s foremost in your mind. But those repeats can set off an echo in the reader’s mind – that subconscious feeling of “Didn’t he just say that?” It can be irritating to read and, worse, it can detract from what you are trying to say. The more uncommon a word or phrase, the more likely it is to echo, even pages apart.

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How to use... The Sentence Length Report

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Sentence Length Report

Varied sentence length is an important feature of good writing. To maintain your readers’ interest, use a variety of sentence lengths: some short and punchy, others long and flowing.

The late Gary Provost illustrated it best. Click through to see how.

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How to use... The Sticky Sentence Report

by ProWritingAid Apr 25, 2016

How to use... The Sticky Sentence Report

A sticky sentence is one that is full of glue words.

Glue words are the empty space that readers need to get through before they can get to your ideas. Generally, your sentences should contain less than 45% glue words. If they contain more, they should probably be re-written to increase clarity.

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What is Passive Voice and How Do I Make It Active?

by ProWritingAid Apr 22, 2016

What is Passive Voice and How Do I Make It Active?

Passive voice occurs when you take the object of your sentence—the part that the action happens to—and make it the subject of your sentence.

Here are some examples:

  • Passive: The flag was raised by the troops.

  • Active: The troops raised the flag.

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What are simple, compound, and complex sentences?

by ProWritingAid Apr 15, 2016

What are simple, compound, and complex sentences?

One thing that ProWritingAid is great at pointing out is the variety of sentence lengths you use in your writing. You know that varying the lengths creates a more lyrical bend to your writing. You don’t want all short sentences. Nor do you want all long sentences that complicate your reader’s understanding.

Simple, compound, and complex sentences are all ways of varying the length. Let’s see how they work.

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Introducing the ProWritingAid Grammar School.

by ProWritingAid Mar 23, 2016

Welcome to the ProWritingAid Grammar School. Grammar School posts will take technical writing terms, rules and concepts and make them simple and understandable. Expand your knowledge and make your writing stronger.

If you have a question that you would like answered by our Grammar School pros, please send it to grammarschool@prowritingaid.com.

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“Show. Don’t Tell.” What do they mean?

by ProWritingAid Mar 17, 2016

“Show. Don’t Tell.” What do they mean?

You’ve heard it before, most likely from a teacher, an editor, or your agent. But Anton Chekhov said it most eloquently:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

It may seem apparent when Chekhov says it, but sometimes it’s hard to put that advice into practice. There are times when your reader needs to be “told” because brevity is called for. On the other hand, no one wants to read your brain dump on every little matter.

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Win a publishing package worth over $5000!

by ProWritingAid Mar 15, 2016

Our good friends over at Standoutbooks love helping writers succeed as much as we do and they've put together a publishing package giveaway worth $5222. To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer a simple question before May 1, 2016.

Click here for find out more about the prize package and to enter!

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What’s Wrong with an “ly” Adverb After a Dialogue Tag?

by ProWritingAid Mar 04, 2016

What’s Wrong with an “ly” Adverb After a Dialogue Tag?

When you paint a picture with your character’s actions instead of using an “ly” adverb to try to set the mood, you give your reader a much deeper understanding and pull him or her closer into the drama.

It all comes down to “He said, She said” eventually. Professional editors and authors agree that you want your dialogue tags to be invisible to the reader so that it doesn’t slow him or her down or bring notice to the writing itself.

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Past…Present…What are Participles?

by ProWritingAid Mar 02, 2016

Past…Present…What are Participles?

Sometimes verbs get confusing, so here’s a little trick to help you figure out participles:

Participles, both past and present, are verb forms that can be used as an adjective or a noun.

Take a common verb like jump. It can be used as a noun as in:

  • Jumping over the hedgerows is exhausting.

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What Are Infinitives? And Can We Split Them or Not?

by ProWritingAid Feb 24, 2016

What Are Infinitives? And Can We Split Them or Not?

Infinitives are verbs preceded by the word “to” that function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs in a sentence. An infinitive does not function as a verb. This means you can never add s, es, ed, or ing to the end.

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