Friday, December 9

How To Use An Editing Program To Improve Your Writing

How To Use An Editing Program To Improve Your Writing

A good editing program will tell you how many words your story has, how many of those words are unique, how many sentences there are, how many paragraphs, how readable your text is, the number of cliches you’ve used, and so on. 

And that’s great, but one thing I don’t like about editing programs is that, often, the numbers displayed don’t give any context. For example, if I have 10 adverbs in my story is that bad or good?

The trick, I’ve found, is to compare my writing with that of my favorite authors; those people whose work I both love and envy. For me that’s writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood.

What follows is a comparison of two of my trunk stories—I wrote them when I was a teenager—with sections of Stephen King’s and Neil Gaiman’s work. 

Here are the results:

As you can see, the major difference between my old work and my favorite authors is the number of cliches in dialogue and redundant words. Beyond that, my old stories had more vague and abstract words. Also, my sentences were shorter than my favorite authors and I used shorter paragraphs.

That information is valuable. It shows me ways I can work on improving my craft.


Editing programs can be wonderful if you take the stats they give you with a grain of salt. Their value is in letting you compare your writing with others, to see the differences and similarities. If I love Stephen King's writing but he uses a few adverbs, I'm not going to be overly concerned about using a few adverbs even though I agree that they are weeds that deserved to be plucked from one's writing.

My own personal yardstick is the authors I admire, the authors I want to write like (and I don’t mean exactly like; each writer needs to have his/her own voice). But you have ideas about what good writing is and what bad writing is, and you've acquired these ideas from reading other writers. There are authors you think are terrific writers and authors you would be devastated if anyone compared you to.

The editing program I use is Pro Writing Aid. It doesn’t work well on larger blocks of text (10,000+ words) but it tells you many things about your manuscript: grammar, overused words, readability statistics, cliches, sticky sentences, vague words, repeated words, sentence length, consistency, dialogue, pacing, pronoun use, and much more. I’ve used the program on and off for a couple of years and, because I personally use and like their product, I’ve become an affiliate for them. 

What editing programs do you use? Have they helped you become a better writer? I'd love it if you shared your experience. :-)

Every post I pick a book or audiobook I love and recommend it to my readers. This serves two purposes. I want to share what I’ve loved with you, and, if you click the link and buy anything over at Amazon within the next 24 hours, Amazon puts a few cents in my tip jar at no cost to you. So, if you click the link, thank you! If not, that’s okay too. I’m thrilled and honored you’ve visited my blog and read my post. :-)

Today I'd like to recommend The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success by James Scott Bell. Lately I've been struggling with anxiety and find reading "you can do it!" books soothing. And James Scott Bell is a really nice guy (I met him!) who gives terrific advice.

That's it! Have a great weekend and I'll talk to you again on Monday. Till then, good writing!


  1. Thanks for this idea. I have Pro Writing Aid but had a similar problem with lack of context. Love your articles!


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