I've said it before and I'll say it again... you don't need to be Hemingway to be a great writer.
With an abundance of tools out there to guide your writing, it's a case of knowing your options and taking your best pick.
Some editing tools are better than others, and while tools like Grammarly and Ginger are better known, today, we’re looking at a potential underdog called ProWritingAid.
What is ProWritingAid?
ProWritingAid is a cloud-based copy editing tool founded by Chris Banks back in 2012.
Developed for authors, the editing tool now boasts a healthy user-base of freelancers, indie writers, copy-editors, bloggers and students.
The software is first and foremost a web app, but it's now also available as a desktop app, browser extension, WordPress plugin and Google Docs add-on for those who prefer to write via other platforms.
So that's a quick overview, but how well does it perform from a practical standpoint?
Editing & Suggestions
Later in this review I'll go into more details about the different apps and addons, as well as how they impact your writing environment.
But, as important as those things are, that’s not really why people buy text editing software.
The primary role of software like this is to find issues in your writing, and (spoiler alert), that’s ultimately where ProWritingAid excels.
Whether you’re using the web app, desktop app, or Chrome extension, the toolbar is where you’ll find your… well… tools.
From here, you can run a myriad of checks at the click of a button.
If you’re looking for a quick overview of everything, you can click the summary button to see where the majority of your issues lie.
Always a good place to start, but what if you want a deeper analysis?
The dedicated reports is where ProWritingAid really shines, proving that it’s a lot more than just a grammar checker. It's an all-in-one solution.
These include reports on:
- All repeats
An impressive list by anyone’s standards, but we both know this war isn’t won on features alone.
As with any editing tool, accuracy is key.
I spent some time going through each of the reports to see not only how they work, but also how accurate and reliable they are.
(To make this a more robust test, I threw in some deliberate errors to see how, or if ProWritingAid handled them. So don't judge me, k? :P)
In the interest of keeping this review sane, I’ll only a mention a few of the reports to give you a sense of how ProWritingAid performed.
First up for inspection, the ‘Style’ report.
As you can see, the editing tool flagged several issues in my writing, many of which I struggled to argue with.
This opened my eyes to how fluffy my writing is, especially considering that I tend to get compliments on my work.
In this instance, only one suggestion didn’t quite make sense to me:
(To be fair, it does say "may" be enhanced)
Aside from that, I was very impressed with the accuracy of these suggestions, and it read much better after the changes.
Next up, the ‘Grammar’ report.
Again, this offered up several valid issues to dig through.
I felt the spell-checker could be improved as it threw up a few false negatives on slightly more informal words.
Despite a few minor issues, this report was also very insightful, especially with catching my US/UK spelling inconsistencies.
Keeping things moving, let's fire up the ‘Readability’ report.
One of the best ways to maintain engagement on your content is to make it more readable.
That's why I actively strive for short and punchy paragraphs in my writing, and also why I wasn't surprised to score so well on this one.
ProWritingAid even complimented me. *blush*
Finally, let's look at the 'Sticky' report.
This one shows you sticky sentences in your writing, meaning you likely have too many "glue" words that can be removed.
By removing filler words like these, you instantly improve the readability of your content while maintaining the same message.
Basically, your readers will LOVE you for it.
All in all, these are a clearly great set of tools and I've only scratched the surface of what's possible.
Like any tool of this nature, the suggestions weren't always better (or even grammatically correct), so some common sense is still required to get the most out of these things.
As I said earlier, there are several avenues you can take for writing your content under the watchful eye of ProWritingAid.
I started with the web application (which is what I'm writing this in at the moment), and it didn't take long for me to get a good feel for it.
Here's what it looks like:
Aside from the toolbar, I think we can agree it's a fairly clutter-free writing environment.
I would have perhaps liked an option to hide those top buttons until I'm ready to use them, which is probably when I've finished writing.
It would've also been nice to see a full-screen, or otherwise known as “distraction-free” mode, which no doubt would've solved my toolbar issue at the same time.
As for fonts, the default 'Lucida Grande' is very workable. Not something I'd mess with, but again, the option to change font (and size) was something I expected to see. No luck there.
Must admit, I also found the line breaks a tad inefficient.
Pressing enter takes me down a single line, meaning I had to press it twice to start a new paragraph. Yet again, a setting would've made sense here.
Then there are headings...
As much as I tried, I couldn't find a way to mark section headings without resorting to standard formatting, such as bolding.
This makes it hard to visually divide the page, and it's something I'm struggling to overlook even as I write this sentence.
Finally... let's talk images.
As someone who writes a ton of blog content (like this review), it's important I take regular screenshots to illustrate and backup my points.
Since the editor doesn't support images, I had to improvise with personal notes so I could find where to insert those screenshots later.
Note — I later discovered that pasting in text will retain fonts and sizes, as well as the correct formatting for headings. Perhaps I'm missing something?
The desktop application suffers many of the same issues I mentioned, and strangely, it also doesn’t sync up with the web app.
Appearance wise, though, it looks almost identical:
Despite the impressive editing capabilities of ProWritingAid, I must admit I was a liiiittle disappointed with their own editing software.
Fortunately, the addons solve many of the complaints I outlined above, so let's explore those next.
Being someone who uses Google Docs on a daily basis, I couldn't wait to test the Google Docs add-on first.
Copying what I'd written into a blank doc, I instantly felt more comfortable in the new writing environment.
I could remove all toolbars, go into full screen, change font and size, format headings, and even add images inline.
Once installed, you can activate ProWritingAid in Google Docs from the add-ons menu, which then opens up a sidebar panel:
While being able to function directly inside my favourite editor was cool, I must admit there was a slight performance issue.
What I mean is, clicking on any highlighted text would result in a 1-2 second delay before the sidebar changes accordingly.
You can see this in the GIF below:
Not a huge issue for shorter documents, but I can see this becoming a nuisance for longer pieces with dozens of suggestions.
A nice touch here was the highlight feature, which leverages Google Doc’s highlight formatting to emulate the web app. Smart.
And once you’re done, you can clear the highlights with the click of a button. (I think it should clear when you close the add-on sidebar, but no biggie.)
Note — there is an add-in for Microsoft Word, but I'm using a Mac so I wasn't able to test it myself. Sorry.
Last up is my favorite way to use ProWritingAid.
You guessed it, the ProWritingAid Chrome extension.
This thing sits in your Chrome toolbar, and works with any virtually editing environment you use online, and I actually found it very efficient throughout my testing.
Below is a screenshot of me using it with a WordPress visual editor called Thrive Architect — a combination that seems to be the best compromise for both speed and writing environment in WordPress.
Side note — if you're looking for a visual editor for WordPress, I'd recommend Elementor (free) over Thrive Architect (premium).
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to (very) briefly mention a few interesting features that I wasn't able to cover in the bulk of the review.
The first is 'Writing Style' control.
This tells ProWritingAid what style and tone of writing you're going for, and how aggressively you want the software to evaluate your work.
As someone who tends to write in a casual manner, I was pleased to see that ProWritingAid has folks like me in mind.
Next, we've got the 'Plagiarism Checker'.
This tool will cross reference your article with the rest of the internet to see if the writing is plagiarized. Handy if you're hiring writers.
You will have to buy credits in order to use this, but that's pretty standard with these kinds of tools considering how resource intensive they are. (I normally use CopyScape for this.)
Finally, and this is a big one, we've got the 'Word Explorer'.
This little beaut gives you a crazy in-depth breakdown of any word you throw at it, including definition, alliteration, rhymes and even cliches.
You can access it by double clicking a word in your text, or going through the menu options.
So if you're ever stuck for inspiration, just fire up the Word Explorer.
There's plenty more little nuggets to be discovered inside this tool, but these are my personal picks.
When it comes to improving your writing, there are few software alternatives I've seen that are as comprehensive and accurate as ProWritingAid.
The web and desktop editor could offer a cleaner and better optimized writing environment, and that's undoubtably the biggest drawback of this software...
...but if you can overlook that aspect and use ProWritingAid for what it's designed for (copy editing), you'll soon struggle to live without it.
ProWritingAid—or the Chrome extension—has earned a place in my toolbox, and I'm excited to put it through its paces on future content.
Click here to get a free 14-day trial of ProWritingAid.