• Amanda Clemmer

ProWritingAid vs. Autocrit: Comparison and Review


These days, you can find a variety of online editing software options that can meet a variety of your editing needs. The top-rated copyeditors include ProWritingAid and Autocrit, which we’ll take a look at below.


ProWritingAid works with any style of writing: fiction, blog and social media posts, and even technical writing. It specializes in identifying weak and unneeded words and highlighting which parts of your writing you need to change.


AutoCrit was designed with fiction authors in mind. It compares your writing to your genre’s standards or to the writing of an author you admire.


Because my budget is limited and I’m not currently copyediting a WIP, I will compare the free offerings below. I have used the paid allowances on both in the past and will mention those as needed.


As with my outlining software review, here’s a list of what I want to see before I get started:


  • Mechanical/typo errors.

  • Overused words/weak sentences.

  • Larger structural edits.

  • A better draft when I meet the edits.

  • Ability to edit inside the platform.


The section I’m using is from a current WIP that I’ve been editing for structure. I haven’t touched the line editing or proof-reading, but this scene is one I’ll want to include in later drafts:


Margery Jones had boasted excellent hearing since childhood. She heard the foxes that lived behind the barn. She heard the children reading in their beds at night. She’d heard the bold red convertible (an older model, if she guessed) when it parked in their driveway, and she’d heard the stiff black heels of the woman who had stepped up the porch to the door.

“Who is it?” Margery asked her husband after he’d opened the door.

“The pest exterminator,” said Abner Jones. He sounded more stunned than convinced.

Margery tiptoed to his side and sneered at the girl on the other end. No older than twenty-five, flowing red dress and elaborately curled dark hair. Pest exterminator, indeed! “I’m grabbing the phone book,” she huffed. She didn’t care at all how her words stunned the girl. What kind of hussy could walk over and snare husbands under such a guise? The attitude was ungodly in the least. “Come on, Abner.”

“I’m sorry,” the girl stuttered, confused. “I don’t need much equipment. You can call any of my references, and you don’t need to pay me until it’s done.”

“Is this a consultation?” Abner wondered, stepping aside for the brunette.

“I can do the job here and now, if you want,” she said.

“You don’t have a truck,” said Margery. “You don’t have equipment.”

“It’s new equipment.” The girl reached into her black handbag and fetched a small, gun-like instrument. “Allow me to demonstrate.”

The instrument glowed and beeped as if it belonged on a different planet. The brunette aimed it at an anthill near the porch, and it glowed and whirred. All the ants in its path dropped.

Abner Jones whistled. “Well, I’ll be.”

Margery Jones huffed.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to walk around your property,” said the young woman. “I don’t need to go inside. You’ll get your bill in the mail later, if the pests don’t return.”

“We have a dachshund,” said Margery. “You won’t hurt animals, will you?”

“Of course not; this tool can’t harm anything larger than a cockroach,” said the girl.

“I’ll be,” Abner said again. “You sure you don’t want to stop in for anything? Water? Milk? We get our milk from a farm, you know.”

Margery pursed her lips.

“No, I’m fine out here,” said the brunette. “Thank-you very much for offering, Mr. Jones.”

“I’m Abner,” he said.

“Alanna,” the woman corrected.



It’s not Jules Verne, but this content has a lot I can polish. Off the bat, I can see a handful of typos, a few passive sentences, and a lot of weak words. My fear is that fixing everything now will lead to barely comprehensible babble with little to do with the story I’m trying to tell.


Let’s start with ProWritingAid.





ProWritingAid


ProWritingAid provides detailed overviews of your writing for free--but limits features like wordcounts higher than 500 to upgraded accounts.


Here’s my sample after working it through ProWritingAid:


Margery Jones heard the convertible first. She heard the door slam shut after it parked, and then she heard the stiff clacking of the bold black heels that marched up to the front of the house.

“Who is it?” Margery asked her husband after he’d opened the door.

“The pest exterminator,” said Abner Jones. He sounded more stunned than convinced, and that signaled danger.

Margery tiptoed to his side and sneered at the girl on the other end. No older than twenty-five, flowing red dress and styled dark ringlets. Pest exterminator, indeed! “I’m grabbing the phone book,” she huffed. She didn’t care at all how her words stunned the girl. What kind of hussy could walk over and snare husbands under such a guise? She couldn’t welcome the woman’s ungodly attitude. “Come on, Abner.”

“I’m sorry,” the girl stuttered, confused. “I use only a small setup. You can call any of my references, and you don’t need to pay me until the job is done.”

“Would you come in?” asked Abner. “We have time for another consultation. Or we can stay out here. No pests by the barn over there. The cats take care of that.

“I can work right away,” said the brunette.

“You don’t have a truck,” said Margery. “You don’t have equipment.”

“I work differently than the others, and I don’t need a setup.” The girl reached into her black handbag and fetched a small gun-like instrument. “Allow me to show you.”

The instrument glowed and beeped as if it belonged on a different planet. The brunette aimed it at an anthill near the porch, and it began to whir and hum. All the ants in its path dropped.

Abner Jones whistled. “Well, I’ll be.”

Margery Jones huffed. Her man had already decided, and any words she gave now would come to no avail.

“I’ll start with a brief examination, if I may,” said the young woman. “I don’t need to go inside. You’ll receive your bill in the mail later, if the pests don’t return.”

“We have a dachshund,” said Margery. “You won’t hurt animals, will you?”

“Of course not; this tool can’t harm anything larger than a cockroach,” said the girl.

“I’ll be,” Abner said again. “Can I get you anything while you work? Water? Milk? We get our milk from a farm, you know.”

Margery pursed her lips.

“No, I’m fine out here,” said the brunette. “Thank-you very much for offering, Mr. Jones.”

“I’m Abner,” he said.

“Alanna,” the woman corrected.


In the end, I have sharper, tighter sentences and stronger word choices. I'm seeing the most change in the scene's opening, where I realized I wanted to pull readers in with a faster pace instead of boring people with inconsequential details. I'll probably keep a variation of this opening for this chapter in the future.


One concern I have using ProWritingAid is that I find it easy to get so caught up fixing one problem that I cause another, which leads to an unpleasant see-saw effect. Balancing a good sentence length without stuffing my sentences with filler words trips me up.


Still, I found numerous ways to strengthen my earlier writing, and I believe that my draft is stronger overall.


Features of ProWritingAid


My favorite parts of ProWritingAid are its overview report, its listing of repeated words and phrases (I hadn’t realized I described the tool as “glowing” twice in a row… good catch, ProWritingAid!), and the sticky sentence index, which helps significantly with building pacing and cutting out the flack.


Here are some of the features at work:



Autocrit instant summary
My instant summary. I need to fix my style!

ProWritingAid
ProWritingAid excels at finding weaker areas of text for easy edits.

I miss repeated phrases a lot, which gives a terrible reading experience if unchecked!

Looking at all the different colors gets dizzying after a while, so it's best to focus on only one issue at a time while you polish the writing, filtering everything as needed.


Let’s check out the same piece on Autocrit.



Autocrit


Autocrit has a free account option and a free 30-day trial of their upgraded account (which I highly recommend, if you choose this service). The free account still offers a solid taste of what to expect, so we’ll start with that.


Here’s my sample of writing after Autocrit:


Margery Jones had boasted excellent hearing since childhood. She heard the foxes that lived behind the barn. She heard the children reading in their beds at night. She'd heard the bold red convertible (an older model, if she guessed)when it parked in their driveway, and she'd heard the stiff black heels of the woman who had stepped up the porch to the door.

"Who is it?" Margery asked her husband after he'd opened the door.

"The pest exterminator," said Abner Jones. The man sounded more stunned than convinced.

Margery tiptoed to his side and sneered at the girl on the other end. No older than twenty-five, flowing red dress and elaborately curled dark hair. Pest exterminator, indeed! "I'm grabbing the phone book," she huffed. She didn't care at all how her words stunned the girl. What kind of hussy could walk over and snare husbands under such a guise? The attitude was ungodly in the least. "Come on, Abner."

"I'm sorry," the girl stuttered, confused. "I don't need much equipment. You can call any of my references, and you don't need to pay me until it's done."

"Is this a consultation?" Abner wondered, stepping aside for the brunette.

"I can do the job here and now, if you want," she said.

"You don't have a truck," said Margery. "Where's your equipment?"

"Right with me." The girl reached into her black handbag and fetched a small, gun-like instrument. "Allow me to demonstrate."

The instrument glowed and beeped as if it belonged on a different planet. The brunette aimed it at an anthill near the porch, and it glowed and whirred. All the ants in its path dropped.

Abner Jones whistled. "Well, I'll be."

Margery Jones huffed.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to walk around your property," said the young woman. "I don't need to go inside. You'll get your bill in the mail later if the pests don't return."

"We have a dachshund," said Margery. "You won't hurt animals, will you?"

"Of course not; this tool can't harm anything larger than a cockroach," said the girl.

"I'll be," Abner said again. "You sure you don't want to stop in for anything? Water? Milk? We get our milk from a farm, you know."

Margery pursed her lips.

"No, I'm fine out here," said the brunette. "Thank you very much for offering, Mr. Jones."

"My name's Abner," he said.

"Alanna," the woman corrected.


You might notice (if you read through it!) that this is almost identical to the original draft. That’s because while Autocrit gives a lot of information upfront, including comparing your book with other genres or authors and offering a detailed readability report, the free edition offers little in terms of specific changes you can make right here, right now. It acts more as a consultation of what you can expect to work on if you subscribe.


Features of Autocrit:


The colorful summary report gives you a grade and highlights your core needs. I need to fix my words!

Here I see what moods I project. It's not what I thought.


My favorite: the author comparison. I need to work on my showing vs. telling to catch up!


Comparison Time!


Mechanical/Typo errors.


Neither editor acts as a spell-checker, and neither caught a couple of minor grammatical mistakes I noticed in my own work, so I won’t give a point. I will mention that ProWritingAid was better at picking out “bad” words even if they were not necessarily wrong. Autocrit also offers a free adverb check which is fantastic for writers who struggle with using too many.


Overused words/weak sentences.


This point goes to ProWritingAid, as its central distinctive feature is the way it picks out glue words and identifies phrases or sentences you should re-write. Autocrit offers similar features, but they are slightly weaker and under their paid option only.


Larger structural edits.


This point swings heavily in the direction of Autocrit. While both editors allow you to upload an entire novel, Autocrit is the only editor that actively compares your work to other book-to-book, which facilitates larger-scale edits should you need any.


ProWritingAid is excellent for finding obscure details about your writing and bringing them to life, but uploading anything more than a couple of thousand words at a time will make for a confusing and frustrating experience.


A better draft in the end.


This is another point for ProWritingAid. While I enjoyed and arguably preferred the ideas presented in Autocrit, many of the reports didn’t give me anything concrete in the end. I learned where my writing stood on the Flesch-Kincaide reading scale, but not whether my opening paragraph was too slow--and those concrete action steps are what will show in the end.


Ability to edit inside the platform.


Both platforms allow you to edit inside, but Autocrit includes a handy-dandy export feature so that you can collect your manuscript without experiencing unwanted formatting woes. This gives the point to Autocrit and leaves a clean editing experience that works especially if you want to revise your entire novel in one go.


Final results.


In the end, we have a mixed bag: two for two. ProWritingAid gives more specific feedback with more measurable results, but Autocrit offers a cleaner interface with flashier features.


If you’re newer to writing and have never worked with a professional editor, ProWritingAid can level your book up even on a free budget. You’ll have to work for it, but it’s worth the effort. For more experienced writers who are looking to take broader strokes and hone a distinct style and voice, an upgraded Autocrit account will take your interests and concerns into account while allowing you to take your writing in your own direction.


Graphics also come into play. While ProWritingAid has improved its interface since I started using it in the mid-2010s, it still comes off as overpowering and unintuitive if you’re new to it. I sometimes use the site as a threat to force myself to strengthen my own writing. Autocrit certainly looks better, even if it doesn’t offer as much upfront.


Homescreen comparison:




Which editing software do you prefer? Have you tried either of these two options? Please let me know about it in the comments section below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing writers for further discussion!


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