Every year about this time, the question of purchasing editing software arises in one or another writers’ forum. These programs are expensive, but for me, they are a good investment. I have used ProWriting Aid in the past, but it didn’t play well with MS Word and often glitched.
I understand that slight incompatibility has been resolved. In my opinion, both programs are good, and both have pros and cons.
Grammarly is a tool I use to self-edit my blog articles in conjunction with the Read Aloud function that comes with MS Word. No matter how good we think we are, self-editing is problematic. We will overlook many flaws in our work unless we can view it from a different angle.
I use these two tools to turn out three articles each week, hoping to be as professional looking as possible.
I still miss obvious errors.
I find working with editing software as annoying as heck.
Editing software is good at alerting you to some errors. But these helpful programs are not as valuable as we wish they were. The suggestions they make concerning phrasing are based on algorithms and often make no sense.
What is an algorithm? Wikipedia says:
In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm (/ˈælɡərɪðəm/ is a finite sequence of rigorous instructions, typically used to solve a class of specific problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are used as specifications for performing calculations and data processing. More advanced algorithms can perform automated deductions (referred to as automated reasoning) and use mathematical and logical tests to divert the code execution through various routes (referred to as automated decision-making). 
This means that editing software is defined by finite rules. Suggestions are made based on the placement of a word or punctuation. Editing programs will often strongly suggest changes that may not be right for that situation because software isn’t intuitive. It is unable to understand the fluid nature of creative writing and how the way we combine words evokes emotion.
Most word processing programs have some form of spellcheck and some minor editing assists. Spellcheck is notorious for both helping and hindering you.
When a word is misused but spelled correctly, your word-processing program’s spellcheck may not alert you to an obvious error. But editing software probably will.
- There, their, they’re.
- To, too, two.
- Its, it’s
The BIG problem for those who don’t remember the basics of grammar or were never taught them is this: editing programs cannot see the context of the work they are analyzing.
That is where your eye and understanding of context and grammar must prevail.
New writers must learn how their native language works. Editing programs are helpful but can mislead and confuse authors who are new to the craft and don’t understand the mechanics of grammar. One must know:
- how to construct a sentence,
- how to construct a paragraph,
- how to write dialogue.
At this stage in our technology, understanding context is solely a human function. Context is defined as the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.
I find software for editing useful. I do rely on it as a way to turn out articles in a timely fashion.
You might disagree with the program’s suggestions. You, the author, have control and can disregard suggested changes if they make no sense. I regularly reject weird suggestions.
Each time the editing program highlights something, I examine the problem sentence. Knowing that how I phrased a sentence tripped the program’s algorithms encourages me to look at that passage with a critical eye.
I may not use the program’s suggestion, but something triggered the algorithm. I search for a better way to get my idea across.
Even editors must have their work seen by other eyes. My blog posts are proof of this, as I am the only one who sees them before they are posted. Even though I write them in advance, edit them, and then look at them again before scheduling them, I still find silly errors two or three days after a post has gone live.
Grammarly isn’t as helpful in my creative writing as it is for a blog post. It’s too difficult to ignore the oddball suggestions it makes while I’m writing, so I don’t waste time by running my raw work through that grinder.
Instead, I write a chapter or scene and move on. Later, I access the Read Aloud function and read that section along with the mechanical voice. It’s annoying and doesn’t always pronounce things right, but this first tool shows me many places that need rewriting.
I use this function rather than doing it myself, as I tend to see and read aloud what I think should be there rather than what is.
What does the Read Aloud function help me see?
- I habitually key the word though, when I mean through. These are two widely different words but are only one letter apart. Most, but not all, miss-keyed words will leap out when you hear them read aloud.
- Most but not all run-on sentences stand out when you hear them read aloud.
- Most but not all inadvertent repetitions also stand out.
- Most of the time, hokey phrasing doesn’t sound as good as you thought it was.
- Most of the time, you hear where you have dropped words because you were keying so fast you skipped over including an article, like “the” or “a” before a noun.
I am wary of relying on Grammarly or ProWriting Aid for anything other than alerting you to possible problems. If you blindly obey every suggestion made by editing programs, you will turn your manuscript into a mess.
Editing software in conjunction with a style guide can be a tool for learning if you really want to learn the fundamentals of your native language. If your native language is English and you wish to invest in editing software, you should also invest in one of two books, depending on whether you use American or UK English:
The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation (American English)
The Oxford A – Z of Grammar and Punctuation (UK English)
Both American and UK writers should invest in:
The Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms (UK and American English)
Each time the software makes a suggestion you disagree with but don’t know why—look it up in the grammar book. Learn why something looks right to you but is technically wrong. Then choose to write it the way you like it best. If you know the rules, you can break them with style.
Also, it never hurts to have a book of synonyms on hand. We all tend to inadvertently repeat ourselves, and the Read Aloud function will shed light on those crutch words. A dictionary of synonyms and antonyms can help us find good alternatives.
My best advice is to never stop learning about the craft of writing. I have taken advantage of every opportunity to learn, both from books and from my editor.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Grammarly points out things I need to reexamine. By the time the post goes live, it has been run though Grammarly, read aloud, and set aside for a day. Then I read it again, make more revisions, and schedule it.
Credits and Attributions:
 Wikipedia contributors, “Algorithm,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Algorithm&oldid=1127589631 (accessed December 17, 2022).