Once the rough draft is completed and the author has gone through the revision process, the next step is to look at your work line by line to check for basic copy editing mistakes, grammar, punctuation, style and spelling checks. As a writer, I would never suggest that any novelist skip the step of hiring a human editor to go over their work, especially for content changes. However, in the interest of saving money and time, I feel that running your novel through a computer based copy edit program before you send the manuscript to the editor is a good idea. When I use a copy editor program, I look for more than basic grammar, spelling and punctuation checks. I also like programs that will check out sentence lengths, adverbs, repeated words in nearby paragraphs, cliche use and more.
I’ve used the programs below, having purchased them as a customer or used them as free trials. None of the software companies offered me a copy of their program or asked that I review their product. All of these programs have had many recommendations to me, either through my local writing groups or via online reviewing sources that I trust. I’ve given my personal thoughts on each one as to their usefulness to me as a short story writer, ghostwriter and novelist.
After The Deadline
This is an addon program for OpenOffice that gives you additional grammar, spelling, and style checks for your writing. It is free of charge. If you are currently using the OpenOffice suite for your writing needs, this would be a good program to add to your arsenal. It is a basic program offering a better grammar check than what is available in OpenOffice. I used this program briefly with OpenOffice before I switched to RightWriter. It works fine for basic grammar checks, but it lacks many of the features a true copy editor should have.
$77 membership fee
This is a copy editor for creative writing that has quite a following on the Internet. The interface is powerful. It will catch many grammar, punctuation, and style mistakes in your manuscript. I have used the free trial version and found it worked well in proofing my stories and articles.
One of the interesting features of this web-based writing check is that not only will it check your grammar, spelling, punctuation and style as the other programs do, but it also checks for plagiarism! If it finds something similar to your work on the Internet, it will alert you. If you tend to do a great deal of research for articles on the Internet, this last check can be of considerable value to you. It can point out sources to footnote in your own work or allow you to change your manuscript so that it is more uniquely your own. This program has been designed with medical students, regular students and journalists in mind.
I owned and used RightWriter for a number of years when I was using AbiWord as my main word processor. I found that the grammar checks in AbiWord were dismal. I started to use this inexpensive program to correct my grammar. It helped me discover and remove much of the passive voice in my creative writing. It is a stand alone program that will work independently on your laptop and desktop. While it does work as a basic grammar check, I find that it lacked many of the additional reports that I find useful in copy editing.
I like the reports that SmartEdit generates. It picks up adverbs, checks your grammar, sentence lengths and other handy copy editor tasks that are useful for a creative writer. It makes no changes to your manuscript, instead it prompts you to decide if you will make the changes yourself. You can run all the reports at once or choose to do the various checks one at a time. If there are checks you don’t want to use, you do not need to waste computing time on them. It is a stand alone program without subscriptions which makes it more economical than the other choices. I find that I like this program as a first pass copy editor and the information in the reports to be more useful than some of the other programs I reviewed.
Pro Writing Aid
$35 per year
This is another online subscription editor. You must cut and paste your text into it online to gain various reports on your writing. You need to use a browser other than Firefox to use this program. I used windows explorer to access the online editor box successfully. The program did more than a simple grammar check, it broke down the different aspects of my writing into many different and useful reports. It allows you to look at your adverb use or at sentence lengths individually, allowing you to focus on certain aspects of your writing where you feel you need work. I found this online copy editor to be excellent and would recommend it as an one of the better options for creative writers.
$79 per year
This program is for spelling, grammar, punctuation, style and structure checkers. It will catch the small mistakes in your manuscript so that you will be able to send a cleaner manuscript to your copy editor. It is designed to work with your outgoing email and is more for business use than for creative writing. While I found this to be a good grammar checker, I felt that for editing it did not give enough information to serve as a first pass copy editor.