Practical Editing Software for Authors and Editors

Because professional editors are so expensive (and worth every penny), the purchase of electronic editing software can be a very smart investment to save you time and money in the long run. Here’s a review of my favorite tools, some of which offer “first-pass” or “last-pass” editing to clean up mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and one that actually helps you edit your story, kind of like a developmental editor. Magic? Yes! Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to help.

—(Updated on October 11, 2018; Originally posted November 2015)—

Because professional editors are so expensive (and worth every penny), the purchase of electronic editing software can be a very smart investment to save you time and money in the long run. Here's a review of my favorite tools, some of which offer "first-pass" or "last-pass" editing to clean up mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and one that actually helps you edit your story, kind of like a developmental editor. Magic? Yes! Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to help.

These tools do much more work than the built-in spelling and grammar checkers in your word processor. They alert you to overuse of adverbs, clichés, redundancies, overlong sentences, sticky sentences and glue words, vague and abstract words, diction, and misuse of dialog tags, to name just a few. Some of these tools will even connect you with a human editor with a click of a button.

Practical Editing Software Apps for Authors, Editors & Publishers

In alphabetical order, here are my picks for best editing software for creative writers, editors, and publishers.

  • AutoCrit for Mac and Word for Windows is $144/yr. 7-day money-back guarantee.
  • Grammarly for browser and Word for Windows plugin $139.95/yr. 7-day money-back guarantee.
  • Fictionary browser-based story editor $20/mo or $200/year. Free 14-day trial.
  • MasterWriter browser-based dictionary and thesaurus $9.95/mo, $99.95/yr, $149.95/2 yrs.
  • ProWritingAid is $50/yr, $75/2 years, $100/3 years, $175 for lifetime access.

To compare these tools I used the first chapter from a book I'm writing that I thought was pretty well edited. You'll see that it could still use some work.

Choose Three Out of Five

I recommend you choose between AutoCrit, Grammarly, or ProWritingAid, and add both MasterWriter and Fictionary to your arsenal of writing and editing tools. The expense is far less than hiring an editor to deal with the easier editing tasks so they can work on the hard stuff. You'll also become a better writer. I've become aware of some bad and lazy habits by using these tools.


Pricing & Unique Features

  • $144 annual subscription
  • 14-day money-back guarantee
  • Compare to published works feature
  • Plagiarism detection

AutoCrit offers a lot of information, well organized in a clean interface. In my story, it revealed an excess of generic descriptions, passive voice, and too many initial pronouns, names, and "ing" words. I also use too many "ly" adverbs. On the plus side, I'm great at showing and not telling, and I don't repeat words and phrases or use a lot of filler words or clichés.

All these were easy fixes once I was made aware of them. But hey, if you're feeling depressed about your errors, just click the "compare to fiction" tab to show how your writing stacks up against published works, including mass-market paperbacks and bestsellers. You may be surprised.

BookWorks reviews AutoCrit automatic editing software and other tools, by Carla King

Click to open a detailed manuscript analysis

Click the image to view a detailed manuscript analysis and you'll see that it provides a lot of constructive criticism in a clean, easy-to-read layout. I like the visual charts representing sentence length and paragraph pace, too.


Pricing & Features

  • $20/mo or $200/yr
  • Free 14-day trial
  • Chrome and Safari browser with docx import
  • Story editor that detects narrative arc overlaid with character, setting, etc.

When I demonstrated Fictionary to the authors in my last self-publishing workshop every jaw dropped to the floor. It does seem like magic, and I suppose it could be called artificial intelligence. You upload your story to the browser-based software and it evaluates each scene, creates a narrative arc, lists your characters, points of view, pacing, and other story elements so that you can visualize and improve your story. Developed by a best-selling author and editor, it includes tutorials on every aspect of storytelling to help you create a story that readers will love.

Fictionary Story Arc

I interviewed the co-founder of Fictionary in my Author Friendly Podcast in a 30-minute segment that takes you through the software's features. It's like magic!

Kristina Stanley, Fictionary, on the Author Friendly Podcast with Carla King

Listen to co-founder Kristina Stanley explain how Fictionary works.


Pricing & Features

  • $139.95 annual subscription
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
  • Free Chrome browser extension that follows you around the web
  • Send to human proofreader feature
  • Plagiarism detection

Grammarly delivers information both line-by-line and in summary form. I bought an annual subscription last March, and I like the way it follows me around the web to check my WordPress blog posts, my Google Docs, Gmail, and comment and feedback forms on others' blog posts and articles. It also corrects my social media posts and comment fields on others' posts. Because I am a professional writer, it is embarrassing when I make basic spelling and grammatical errors in quick, social media posts and emails, so I appreciate this feature.

Like most robust editing tools, Grammarly offers settings for various kinds of writing: business documents, novels, creative nonfiction, medical, technical, and casual. I set mine to creative nonfiction. And it looks like I have some work to do!

BookWorks review of Grammarly editing software by Carla King

Grammarly editing software offers line-by-line editing and a summary review.


Pricing & Features

  • $139.95 annual subscription
  • Free 10-day trial
  • 90-day money-back guarantee
  • Browser-based tool
  • $9.95/mo or $99.95/yr or $149.95/2 years

MasterWriter is a valuable addition to any of the editors described here. It’s a thesaurus on steroids in the cloud that will improve your vocabulary and your prose. Enrich your writing with its synonym finder, rhyming dictionary, alliterations, word families, phrases, dictionary, and even a set of 11,000 icons of world culture to add imagery to your writing.

MasterWriter thesaurus

Instead of your story’s sun being “hot,” you’ll find choices like blazing, sizzling, fiery, torrid, punishing, merciless, or raging. Just put a word in the left side and click the dictionary you want to use to get idea-generating suggestions on the right side.

Check out the video tour and I think you’ll be impressed. An audio page enables you to collect your thoughts or music. For creative writers and songwriters.


Pricing & Features

  • Free online or $35 annually, 2-year $55, 3-year $70, Lifetime $120
  • 14-day money-back guarantee
  • Google Docs add-on
  • Plagiarism detection
  • Create your own rules and house-style
  • Developer API

ProWritingAid offers both a Chrome plugin that follows you around the web to check your spelling and grammar and a browser-based checker that deeply evaluates your writing.  ProWritingAid's in-depth reports have definitely made me a better writer. As an additional bonus, the reports also help me communicate better with my authors. This is a very useful tool for editors.

BookWorks reviews the ProWritingAid electronic editing tool, by Carla KingProWritingAid displays helpful suggestions to improve your writing

ProWritingAid also offers a couple of advanced features you may be interested in using. As a publisher, I can create my own rules and house style that detects patterns, overused words, dialog, repeats, and lets me create customized advice messages for my authors. Their developer API allows software developers to add writing analysis to applications they are developing.

In Conclusion

Editing is the number one most critical element that determines a book's success. Editing is expensive, and these tools will help you fix the simple stuff so your editor can concentrate on the hard stuff that helps develop your manuscript into a work of art.

I would recommend choosing between ProWritingAir, Grammarly, and AutoCrit, and purchasing both Masterwriter and Fictionary. You might think that's overkill, but listen, you're worth it. Your book is worth it. Your readers are worth it. And your editor will love you.

What about free tools? Sure! Go ahead. But they're just not as robust as these paid apps. There are lots of free and low-cost simple editing tools, collaborative online editing tools, text-to-voice reading applications, and editing tools with unique features that may attract certain kinds of writers, editors, and publishers. Find some of them in my post on Great Free Editing Tools for Authors.

Your Favorites?

Are the tools I've listed in this post new to you or have you been using one or the other for a while? Did I miss your favorite tool? I'd love to get your input on the tools you like (and don't like), and tools you think I should include in future reviews, in the comments below.

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13 thoughts on “Practical Editing Software for Authors and Editors”

  1. Skip Schwarz says:

    Check out PerfectIt 3 and WordRake. PerfectIt 3 costs about $75 (one-time, not a subscription) and does a good job of catching consistency in acronyms, abbreviations, and other words–something that other editing tools don’t do. WordRake is used primarily by the legal profession and does a great job of eliminating unnecessary words. “My own house,” for instance, becomes “my house,” if you agree to the correction. I bought a 3-yr subscription for $225. Caution: stay away from WhiteSmoke, another editing tool. The problem isn’t the software; it’s their business practices. They advertise huge discounts off a retail price they never charge, advertise a “one-time” price which isn’t “one-time” at all but a three-year subscription, and then have a habit of prematurely terminating those subscriptions with no recourse. There’s a reason they’re rated “F” on the Better Business Bureau web site.

    1. Carla King says:

      Got it! Thanks much for making us all aware of those new tools and the warnings about the other. This list grows longer and longer!

  2. I ended up buying ProWritingAid and love the program. It takes time to correct/view the errors but the end result is you will become a better writer. I’m editing/polishing my WIP with it and have seen a major difference when I’m writing new things with less passive verbs, pronouns, -ly and initialing words in my manuscript or short story. You also notice starting sentences with the same word. I love how easy the program is to customize for your writing.

    I looked at Grammerly but the cost and some of the reviews put me off along with the extras not included in the program which I got with ProWritingAid. Autocrit is new for me, but again, the cost would have me looking elsewhere. SmartEdit is also a new one to me, but ProWritingAid does everything it does for less.

    No matter which one you use, you need to use it. Yes, it adds time to your editing, but in the end, you will love how your manuscript is more polished. No, it doesn’t mean you don’t need a professional editor, but it helps when they don’t need to do that much and it may get you a discount if they work with you all the time. (I know mine discounted my last manuscript due to having so few errors.)

    1. Carla King says:

      Wow, Barbara, you really did your research! That’s all valuable information. Thank you so much for letting me know. I may actually give PWA another go based on your experience.

  3. Jeff Tregan says:

    I have just finished my first novel. After a manuscript review my editor recommended that I get line edit service. I am using an Independent publisher so the amount of editing I pay for is what I get. My questions is do any of these programs replace the editor completely or do they just make it easier for my editor to do his or her job?

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Great question! No, these tools not a replacement for an editor, but you are right, they make it easier for your editor to do their part AND will save you on editing fees/time by helping you clean up your manuscript before handing it over. Self-editing is also an important part of the writing process itself as it will help you hone and develop your craft. You may want to also check out this recent post on the subject

      Thank you for your comment.

  4. Thank you for mentioning Fictionary! If anyone has any questions, I’m happy to answer them. I’m the CEO of Fictionary and love to talk about editing 🙂

  5. William says:

    Carla, like you I’m on Mac and have trialed both Autocrit and ProWritingAid. I could use and benefit from either of them but have not been able to make them work. Similar problems with both. I upload a Word docx, make changes, save expecting to see the changes appear in my original document. They’re not there. The one exception was with PWA whose customer service gave me specific instructions to try. I followed them with a two chapter test, made a few test changes, saved. The changes did appear in the original document but so too were there numerous format changes in font, spacing, etc. Very random.

    The customer service of both Autocrit and PWA went out of their way to help resolve the issues but nothing worked. I’d subscribe to either if they did. Do you have any suggestions to try or for alternative programs?

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi William,

      I suspect your problem is with Microsoft Word Styles. When you paste your text back into your document it isn’t automatically being formatted with the correct paragraph style. But if you apply the body text style to it, it should automatically format correctly.

      In other words, you’ve written your manuscript. Then you’ve probably (like most authors) manually changed all the body text to a particular font. And then you’ve manually changed the alignment (ragged right to justified), and the line spacing. All this manual formatting isn’t going to “stick.”

      What you need to do instead is go to the styles menu in word and apply a style to ALL of your paragraphs. Normal, or whatever. You can create a new one or two, if you have different styles (such as no indent for the first paragraph of the chapter). bodytext1 and bodytext2. You can change that style as you like and then it will be automatically applied everywhere, even when you paste your corrected text back in. (But if not, all you have to do is select and apply that style again).

      I have a whole post about this:

      I hope that helps! Please let me know William, I’d like to know if that’s it and that it isn’t a problem with these editors.

      Thank you!

      1. Thanks for the response Carla, I quickly read it last night and will give it a try tomorrow. Busy day today. I’ll let you know how it goes. One additional procedure question for you now.

        You said, “When you paste your text back into your document . . .” Do you mean literally paste as in cut and paste? PWA makes a point of saying changes made in an uploaded copy to their software will automatically go back to the original document when saved. This is a partial response from them to our attempts to work things out. “Your formatting will appear to be stripped out when you work within PWA, but when you click “Save” all changes will be synced back to your original uploaded file with the formatting intact.”

        I finally got that to work but with the added unwanted font, spacing, and other format changes as well.

        I don’t recall the specifics of working with Autocrit other than it was “buggy” with long delays, crashes, etc.

        Both seem to do what I wanted but I couldn’t get them to work as advertised.

        I reached out to Hemmingway yesterday with some questions. No response yet.

        Thanks again for you responding.


  6. Carla King says:

    Bill, try it out and please report back. I’m interested to know the results. Thanks!

  7. You’re right about me having changed style elements in my original test so I created a new test doc using “normal” formatting. I then reopened PWA, uploaded the new test doc and got a message saying my trial period had ended, did I want to purchase? I closed the message and was able to make a couple of test edits. I saved and closed PWA followed by reopening the test Word doc. Unfortunately, the test edits were not there.

    I just sent a message to PWA describing all this along with your suggestion. I asked them to renew my trial, thinking that may now be the problem. I’ll wait for their response before trying your suggestion again.

    Thank you Carla for your willingness to help, and you too PWA for your efforts. I’ll let you both know what happens.

  8. Update for you Carla.

    It’s been 5 days since I requested a trial renewal from PWA so I could try your suggestion. No response. I’ll move on and look for an alternative. Any suggestions you or others have will be appreciated. I tried AutoCrit prior to PWA. Great program in terms of what it does but for me, very buggy. Slow, screen freezes, crashes, etc.

    Thanks for your help, I will keep your suggestion in mind for whatever is next.

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