Tag Archives: editing programs

Editing Programs – the pros and cons #amwriting

With NaNoWriMo 2021 behind us, it’s time to talk about editing programs again. Several writers in our region have asked me if I use one in my own work.

MyWritingLife2021I do use Grammarly—but also, I don’t.

I rely on my knowledge of grammar and what I intend to convey more than I do an editing program. While they are good at alerting you to some errors, these helpful programs are not as useful as we wish they were.

No software can replace knowledge of grammar. An author must have confidence in what they intend to convey and how they wish to say it.

For this reason, editing software may not be a good tool for every author.

A person with no knowledge of grammar will not benefit from relying on an editing program for advice. There is no way to bypass learning the craft of writing.

You may have found that your word processing program has spellcheck and some minor editing assists. Spellcheck is notorious for both helping and hindering you.

they're their there cupSpellcheck doesn’t understand context, so if a word is misused but spelled correctly, it may not alert you to an obvious error.

  • There, their, they’re.
  • To, too, two.
  • Its, it’s

Grammarly is an editing program I use for checking my own work, in tandem with Pro Writing Aid. I pay a monthly fee for the professional versions of these two programs. Each one has strengths and weaknesses.

For me, especially in my first draft, some words are like tics—they fall out of my fingers and into my keyboard randomly and out of my voluntary control. I don’t self-edit as I go because, at that point, I’m just trying to get the story down. The second and third drafts are where I shape my grammar and phrasing.

I want to write active prose, so I don’t want to use words with no power behind them.

Often removing an adjective or adverb strengthens the prose. Descriptors are easy to find because these words frequently end with the letters ‘ly.’

You could do a global search for the letters ‘ly,’ and a list will pop up in the left margin of your manuscript.

However, the most ludicrous advice I’ve ever heard at a critique group came from an author who was about to publish his first book. He had a great deal of enthusiasm for the craft but was armed with too little knowledge: he told a new writer to remove all adverbs from her narrative.

Unfortunately, he forgot that words like “later,” or “everywhere,” or “never” or “alone” are also adverbs.

That sort of wrong-headed advice survives because it is based on a writing truth: unnecessary adverbs and adjectives inflate the word count but add no value. Worse, they sometimes fail to tell us something that we need to know.

In other words, use adverbs and adjectives when they are necessary and cut them when they aren’t.

In my own work, I seek out adverbs, descriptors, qualifiers, and “weed words.” I look at how they are placed in the context of the sentence and decide if they will stay or go. Many will go, but some must stay.

The BIG problem for those who don’t understand the basics of grammar is this: editing programs cannot see the context of the work they are analyzing.

In one of my older manuscripts, this sentence triggered the algorithm:

“The tea was cool and sweet, quenching her thirst.”

Grammarly suggested replacing quenching with quenched and then suggested a comma at the end instead of a period.

Pro Writing Aid made the same suggestion but didn’t tell me to add a comma.

These programs operate on algorithms defined by finite rules. They will often strongly suggest you insert an unneeded article or change a word to one that is clearly not the right one for that situation. That is where your eye and understanding of context and grammar must prevail.

chicago guide to grammarNew writers should invest in the Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation and learn how grammar works. For people new to the craft and who don’t understand grammar or how to construct a sentence or a paragraph, or how to write dialogue, editing programs will confuse and mislead them.

To get the best out of editing software, you must know the basics of how to write.

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.

A person with no knowledge of grammar will not benefit from relying on Grammarly or any other editing program for advice. There is no way to bypass learning the craft of writing.

Because context is so important, I am wary of relying on these editing programs for anything other than alerting you to possible comma and spelling malfunctions.

You might disagree with the program’s suggestions. You, the author, have control and can disregard suggested changes if, as illustrated above, they make no sense. I regularly reject weird suggestions.

However, when the editing program highlights something, I examine the problem sentence. Just knowing that the way 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. That means my phrasing might need work. I may need to find a better way to get my idea across.

Timid WordsEven 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, go over them with two editing programs, and then look at them again before each post goes live, I still find silly errors two or three days later.

Certain words and phrases don’t add to the narrative and only increase the wordiness. Used too freely, they separate the reader from the experience.

In my first draft, these words are like tics. They fall out of my fingers and into my keyboard randomly and out of my voluntary control. I never self-edit as I write the first draft because I am just trying to get the story down. The second and third drafts are where you deal with grammar and phrasing.

When I begin revisions, I will seek out adverbs, descriptors, qualifiers, and other “weed words,” look at how they are placed in the context of the sentence, and decide if they will stay or go

You can’t take shortcuts. If you are too impatient and choose to “Replace All” without carefully thinking things through, you run the risk of making a gigantic mess of your work. Some weed words are parts of other words, for example:

  • very—every
  • has—hasten, chasten

powerwordsWordCloudLIRF06192021If you have decided something is a “crutch word,” examine the context. Inadvertent repetitions of certain words are easy to eliminate once we see them with a fresh eye.

Context is everything.

I can’t stress this enough: take the time to look at each example of the offending words individually.

It’s unfortunate, but there is no speedy way to do this. You will be rewarded, though, when your book is finished to the best of your ability.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Using Editing Software #amwriting

When you complete NaNoWriMo and get that winner’s certificate, you unlock many special deals on various software created for writers. I have tried Scrivener and didn’t find it useful for my writing style, but many people swear by it. My head doesn’t work that way.

Three of the many offers NaNoWriMo winners can get and which I am familiar with are:

All of these are good, reputable programs. Many people ask if I use them in my own work. I use editing software, but I don’t follow their suggestions blindly.

No software can replace knowledge of grammar. An author must have confidence in what they intend to convey and how they wish to say it.

For this reason, editing software is not as useful as we want it to be.

A person with no knowledge of grammar will not benefit from relying on an editing program for advice. There is no way to bypass learning the craft of writing.

I use Grammarly, an editing program for checking my own work. I also use ProWriting Aid. I pay a monthly fee for the professional versions of these two programs. Each one has strengths and weaknesses.

These programs operate on algorithms defined by finite rules.

Not every recommendation is right. However, when the editing program highlights something, I look at the problem sentence carefully. Just knowing that the way 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. That means my phrasing might need work. I may need to find a better way to get my idea across.

Editing programs will only confuse and mislead you if you don’t understand grammar, sentence construction, paragraph construction, or how to punctuate dialogue.

New writers should invest in the Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation and learn how grammar works.

You may have found that your word processing program has spellcheck and some minor editing assists. Spellcheck is notorious for both helping and hindering you.

Spellcheck doesn’t understand context, so if a word is misused but spelled correctly, it might not alert you to an obvious error.

  • There, their, they’re.
  • To, too, two.
  • Its, it’s

For me, especially in my first draft, some words are like tics. They fall out of my fingers and into my keyboard randomly and out of my voluntary control. I don’t self-edit as I go because I’m just trying to get the story down. The second and third drafts are where I shape my grammar and phrasing.

With each revision, I locate adverbs, descriptors, qualifiers, and “weed words.” I look at the context of the sentence and decide if they will stay or go. Many will go, but some must stay.

An excellent program to help point out when specific passages are passive and need to be “made active” is ProWriting Aid. I use the professional version for my own work. However, they have a free version that will alert you to a few of the most common problems.

These are expensive purchases and for that reason I would recommend trying the free versions first. The main reason for those who don’t understand the basics of grammar to NOT invest in them is this: these programs are unable to see the context of the work they are analyzing.

“The tea was cool and sweet, quenching her thirst.”

Grammarly suggested replacing quenching with quenched.

ProWriting Aid made the same suggestion.

I have no idea why they make that suggestion. You can see how a person blindly following mechanical advice could go wildly astray.

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.

Currently, at this stage in our technology, understanding context is solely a human function.

Because context is so important, I am wary of relying on these editing programs for anything other than alerting you to possible comma and spelling malfunctions.

You might disagree with the program’s suggestions. You, the author, have control and can disregard suggested changes if, as illustrated above, they make no sense. I regularly reject weird recommendations.

Good editing software is not cheap, but for my specific needs it has been a worthwhile investment.

If you do choose to invest in some, use your common sense. Remember, you have the final say when it comes to your work.

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The pros and cons of using editing programs #amwriting

A number of people have asked me about editing programs, and if I use them in my own work. I do–but also, I don’t.

I rely on my knowledge of grammar and what I intend to convey more than I do editing programs, which are not as useful as we wish they were.

You may have found that your word processing program has spellcheck and some minor editing assists. Spellcheck is notorious for both helping and hindering you.

Spellcheck doesn’t understand context, so if a word is misused but spelled correctly, it may not alert you to an obvious error.

  • There, their, they’re.
  • To, too, two.
  • Its, it’s

Grammarly is an editing program I use for checking my own work, in tandem with Pro Writing Aid. I pay a monthly fee for the professional versions of these two programs. Each one has strengths and weaknesses.

For me, especially in my first draft, some words are like tics—they fall out of my fingers and into my keyboard randomly and out of my voluntary control. I don’t self-edit as I go because, at that point, I’m just trying to get the story down. The second and third drafts are where I shape my grammar and phrasing.

I want to write active prose, so I don’t want to use words with no power behind them.

Often removing an adjective or adverb strengthens the prose. They’re easy to find because these words frequently end with the letters ‘ly.’

You could do a global search for the letters ‘ly,’ and a list will pop up in the left margin of your manuscript.

It’s ridiculous to tell someone to remove all adverbs from a narrative. Words like “later,” or “everywhere,” or “never” or “alone” are also adverbs.

That sort of wrong-headed advice survives because it is based on a writing truth: unnecessary adverbs and adjectives fluff up the prose. Worse, they sometimes fail to tell us something that we need to know.

In other words, use adverbs and adjectives when they are necessary and cut them when they aren’t.

In my own work, I seek out adverbs, descriptors, qualifiers, and “weed words.” I look at how they are placed in the context of the sentence and decide if they will stay or go. Many will go, but some must stay.

A good program to help point out when certain passages are passive and need to be “made active” is Pro Writing Aid. I use the professional version for my own work, but they do have a free version that will show you some limited problems in your prose.

The BIG problem for those who don’t understand the basics of grammar is, these programs are unable to see the context of the work they are analyzing:

“The tea was cool and sweet, quenching her thirst.”

Grammarly suggested replacing quenching with quenched.

Pro Writing Aid made the same suggestion.

I have no idea why they make that suggestion, but you can see how a person blindly following mechanical advice could go wildly astray.

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.

A person with no knowledge of grammar will not benefit from relying on Grammarly or any other editing program for advice. There is no way to bypass learning the craft of writing.

This is because these programs operate on algorithms defined by finite rules and will often strongly suggest you insert an unneeded article or change a word to one that is clearly not the right one for that situation.

New writers should invest in the Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, and learn how grammar works. If you don’t understand grammar or how to construct a sentence, a paragraph, or write dialogue, editing programs will just confuse and mislead you.

To get the best out of editing software, you must know the basics of how to write.

Currently, at this stage in our technology, understanding context is solely a human function.

Because context is so important, I am wary of relying on these editing programs for anything other than alerting you to possible comma and spelling malfunctions.

You might not agree with the program’s suggestions. You, the author, have control and can disregard suggested changes if, as illustrated above, they make no sense. I regularly reject weird suggestions.

However, when the editing program highlights something, I look at the problem sentence carefully. Just knowing that the way 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. That means my phrasing might need work. I may need to find 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. I am the only one who sees them, and even though I write them in advance and go over them with two editing programs, and then look at them again before each post goes live, I still find silly errors two or three days later.

A good editing program is not cheap, but I feel it is a worthwhile investment. If you don’t have an editing program, you can find these words on your own.

If you are hasty or impatient, a global search can be dangerous and can mess up an otherwise good manuscript. I warn you, this is a boring, time-consuming task, but it is a crucial part of the job.

You can’t take shortcuts. If you are too impatient and choose to “Replace All” without carefully thinking things through, you run the risk of making a gigantic mess of your work. Some weed words are parts of other words, for example:

  • very—every
  • has—hasten, chasten

If you have decided something is a “crutch word,” examine the context. Inadvertent repetitions of certain words are easy to eliminate once we see them with a fresh eye.

Context is everything.

I can’t stress this enough: take the time to look at each example of the offending words individually.

It’s unfortunate, but there is no speedy way to do this. Every aspect of getting your book ready for the reading public must be done with the human eye, patience, and attention to detail.

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