Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you know how hard it is to catch those last-minute mistakes! You may have had your best friend, mom, and co-workers read your manuscript for clarity and general ideas, but they can’t catch everything. Maybe you've seen free tools offered online, like Pro Writing Aid -- do they work? And what's the catch?
http://prowritingaid.com/en/Analysis/Editor is a website where you copy and
paste your text into a viewer. Click "Analyze," and the tool produces a list of problem areas in
your document, such as spelling, cliches, overused words, and
grammatical mistakes. With the free tool, you can click on some these problem areas to get more details -- for example, when I analyzed the first two pages of one of my short stories, I found out I had used the word "probably" way too many times!
The tool is definitely not foolproof – you can only submit
4000 characters at a time, and for the complete collection of error reports, you have
to pay for Premium membership (at $35 per year, that’s not too
steep). But in highlighting one or two areas that need revising, it gives you an idea of what else might need work in your manuscript, such as passive voice or redundancies.
Another tool is http://www.grammarly.com/. This one is a little bit sneaky in that after the software "analyzes" your text, a new page appears with a list of "critical writing issues." But it doesn't give you any specifics -- unless you sign up for the free 7-day trial. The first time I clicked "Check your text," the software said I had 24 errors. The second time I did it (with the same text), the software said I had 7 errors! My theory is that the software is not really checking the text -- it's just for show so that you will sign up for the free trial. Reviews for the paid service are decent, however: http://www.writing-skills.com/grammar/review-grammarly-app/. If you sign up for a year, you'll be paying $11.66 per month. So, Grammarly is more expensive than Pro Writing Aid, but perhaps you get more for your money.
While online tools may be useful for
blatant errors, it’s always a good idea to hire a professional
proofreader, if you can afford one. Proofreading is NOT the same as
copy editing – proofreaders check documents in their final stages
for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. A proofreader will
also check for typos and details like formatting and layout, but
he/she won’t drastically alter the text or make any stylistic
changes to improve the flow of the document or how well it reads.
You’ll need a copy editor for those types of revisions. The Editorial Freelancers Association website is a great resource to help you find editors (of all kinds) in your area.
For more handy tips, check out Publishing and Selling Your Ebook on Kindle. I'm co-author, along with writer friend Lisa Logan, and we hope to create a whole series of writing guidebooks in the next two years!