Before you read on, I want to say that my experiences are only with ProWritingAid, but when I checked, Grammarly seems to have the same or very similar features.
My history with ProWritingAid
Years ago, when I first started submitting stories to different submission calls for anthologies, I needed a good grammar checker. Of course Microsoft Word also checks grammar and spelling, but I have noticed before that many mistakes slip through.
I needed something better.
I think someone on Twitter mentioned ProWritingAid. I tried the free version of it and loved what it did. In the free version, you can only check a set number of words, but it did what I needed it to do. I signed up for the ProWritingAid newsletter, and it must’ve been about six months later that they had a limited offer for a lifetime license.
I bought the license, but then for quite some time — it might have been two or three years — I didn’t use ProWritingAid. Until I started on Medium and had a couple of editors editing my stories. I loved that, but was ashamed at some of the stupid mistakes I made.
Then I remembered about ProWritingAid and the license I had with them!
Some things had changed
I found some things had changed in the years I hadn’t used the proofreader. For one, it looked different from before, and they had removed some reports they had in the past.
In the past, I was used to writing my stories or articles in Scrivener, then copy it to the web version of ProWritingAid to check grammar, spelling and style. It also checked overused words, and of course whether I used my tenses properly. Not having English as first language, all of those checks are important!
Then I discovered something new: they had added a Chrome extension. That’s when the magic happened, after I installed that extension.
Using the Chrome extension
I copy stories from my blog to share on Medium, and before I add them to any publication, I read them from top to bottom and edit. Not once, not twice, but closer to five times.
The first story I opened after installing the Chrome extension showed the magic: blue, yellow and red lines under words. Thankfully, the red lines were mostly non-existent, as those are spelling errors, and I pride myself on being an excellent speller.
Those blue and yellow lines were the ones I paid much attention to, as they pointed out:
- when you use the wrong version of the verb, for instance, when it should have been plural, but you used the single version, or vice versa, or when you used present tense and it should’ve been in the past;
- when you use the wrong preposition, for instance, when you’ve typed ‘in’ but it should’ve been ‘on’ or ‘of’;
- when you use an unnecessary comma, or forget to add a comma to a sentence;
- when you use unnecessary words — one word that is overused in writing is ‘that’;
- passive verbs, so you can make your writing more active;
- where you should use more inclusive language;
- where to use different words, such as these examples taken from the previous points:
- I first typed ‘one of the words that is greatly… and ProWritingAid suggested changing it to what you read above — ‘one of the words that’ and ‘greatly’ had yellow lines under them.
- I first typed ‘should consider to use more’ and ‘to use’ had a blue line under them.
- I first typed ‘where you should consider using more inclusive language’, and ‘consider using’ had a yellow line under them.
- I first typed ‘where you might want to use different words’ and ‘you might want to’ had a yellow line under them.
To change or not to change
When the editor points out the above and other things to you, then it is up to you to change it or not. Obviously, correct those spelling errors, or the wrong use of plural or single verbs.
For all the other things — passive verbs, or the ‘one of these phrases’ or phrases ProWritingAid suggests you remove — it’s up to you whether you change it. Sometimes a passive verb works better for what you want to say. Or maybe that phrase you should remove according to ProWritingAid is exactly the way you want to say it.
The thing with ProWritingAid is that it makes you think about your writing. It makes you look at those sentences again, and I have found that it strengthens my writing. It gives me a more powerful way of saying things, while still saying what I want to say.
Bottom line: it’s up to you whether you go with the suggestions of the editor.
One fun fact (or at least I think it’s fun!): because I have installed the Chrome extension, everything I type in Chrome — whether on Medium or WordPress, Twitter or Facebook — runs through ProWritingAid.
Shortly after I bought the lifetime license, I enrolled in the ProWritingAid affiliate program. This is not the reason for this post, but if you want to buy a license for ProWritingAid, I would appreciate if you can use my link. To be honest, I don’t even know if the link still does what it should!
The Blogable Fiction Marathon
The entries for the 2022 edition of the Blogable Fiction Marathon will open on 14 February, which is only 12 days from now. Together with this post, the following articles will help you guide your way through the marathon: