Beyond Spellcheck: Software Can Help You Polish Your Prose

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January 2014
by Robert Etheredge

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Because small mistakes can make readers distrust and abandon books, it obviously pays to prune misspellings in a finished manuscript with the help of the spellcheck program you already have. But other turnoffs may lurk in the manuscript too—including clichés, jargon, misused words, sexist language, adverbs ending in -ly, long sentences, repetitive words and phrases, and sentences that will be hard to read. It’s important to get rid of them.

That’s the goal of several software programs, including two I created. I examined seven of these programs—AutoCrit, myWordCount and myWriterTools (both mine), ProWritingAid, RightWriter, SmartEdit, and StyleWriter. Two of them, AutoCrit and ProWritingAid, are Websites that analyze pasted documents online, and most of them have additional features beyond the scope of this article.

Here’s how they deal with the eight problems mentioned above.

Clichés. Are clichés always bad? Not necessarily. They have their place, particularly in spoken dialog. But readers may react negatively to them. Remember that definitions of cliché usually include words like “overused” and “lack of original thought.” Run your document through any of these programs and you will get a list of all the clichés found in it. Some of the programs highlight each cliché in the document and some also display the meaning of the highlighted cliché….IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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