Online Editors - Which to Use?

Common sense and publishing experts all stress the need for careful editing before submitting for publication. And no matter how experienced you are in doing your own editing and proofreading, there is always room for another eye on your work.

The odd typo or missing punctuation mark pops up even in the best-edited books from famous authors and prestigious publishing firms.

But--and this can be a big but when you're starting out--editors cost a fair amount.  If you're only earning minimal royalties per book, you would need to sell 1000 copies at least to afford an editor. Add another few hundred sales to pay for a designer cover. And you may well be working at a loss, considering the average number of copies sold per book is said to be around 500.

So if you need to go the self-editing route, read your work aloud. That helps you hear where words are missing, misspelled, or where the dialogue sounds unnatural. At least use the grammar and spell checker options provided by Word.

Do your best to provide a manuscript that

  • a) follows all the guidelines laid down by your prospective publisher and 
  •  b) is as free of errors and as perfect as possible.

I don't think I have ever read a perfect book. Readers are forgiving up to a point but too many misspellings and awkward grammar mistakes get between a reader and the story.

And that leads to bad reviews. Amazon, too, is threatening not to publish poorly presented work. So, enter the robotic editor.

Try Online editors

Interestingly more and more online editors are appearing. And these can do a good job of catching things you  missed. Though, like those that tackle translation work, they are certainly not infallible.

Four that I looked at in the past month were EditMinion,  from Dr. Wicked--remember his Write or Die? ( A software download that punished dilatory writers with a shocking noise or even by deleting words if ever you stopped writing for too long to think.).

EditMinion is in beta at the moment, meaning it is still looking for bugs to iron out before its official release. But it looks for all the things most editors focus on when reading--too many adverbs, passive verbs, weak words, cliches, obtrusive dialogue tags, word echoes, homonyms and poorly placed prepositions.

I also liked Ginger. It is a great app but may not be for you if you hate seeing your errors highlighted as you go. As well as spellchecking. proofreading, and grammar inspection, this one gives suggestions for rephrasing sentences.

After the Deadline like the others offers a demonstration version on its website. I inserted the introduction to this article and it picked out one example of passive voice--which I dispute--and suggested provide was too complex a word. Its suggestions were "give" or "offer."

Grammarly is perhaps the best known for its browser extension which is well reviewed by many writers. Again it is free , checks against grammar rules, lets you know the reasons for its decisions. See what you think.

Download Warning

Be careful with any downloads to your computer or browser. Free software can come bundled with toolbars or allow search systems which do not agree with your computer. Keep reading to check exactly what is being downloaded.

My Avast antivirus and Comodo firewall complained hysterically when I tried to download some of these. Is it worth it? I'd find at least one of them very handy. The choice is yours. Let me know if your computer says no :-)

But at least try out the demonstration pages and see what you think. As good as a real person or not? For me, people are best. But the robots do an excellent back up check on tired days and can suggest interesting changes.

Anne Duguid
Anne Duguid Knol

A local and national journalist in the U.K., Anne Knol is now a fiction editor for award-winning American and Canadian publishers. As a new author, she shares writing tips and insights at Author Support

Her Halloween novella, ShriekWeek is published by The Wild Rose Press as e-book and in print  included in the Hauntings in the Garden anthology. (Volume Two)


Linda Wilson said...

I enjoyed your article very much, Anne. I will keep the information and try your suggested sites. I've had my work read by several online editors and while the grammar help and wording suggestions were right on, I did not get help with content. I decided the next time I pay an editor to review my work I will tell them what I am looking for to make sure they will deliver (because the ones I worked with asked me to pay upfront before I saw any results). Writer's groups and courses do teach content but before submitting I want an honest review from a pro.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Hope you don't mind my mentioning my multi award-winning book on editing now in its second edition. I don't advise authors do without a great editor, but when they must a good review of basics plus the extras required of book publishing can't hurt. And if the author ends up hiring an editor, she'll be better equipped to know which edits to accept and reject.

Karen Cioffi said...

Anne, great information on writing and online editors. I've tried Grammarly - it's pretty good. But, software is software and may not really get what you're saying. I'll give the other you mentioned a try - can't have enough help editing! Thanks for sharing.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, ask for a sample before sending money to editors. And, make sure they offer some kind of installment payment system: a down payment to start/ a second payment midway through, and then the final.

This way, you know what you can expect without paying in full.

Karen Cioffi said...

I have your Frugal Editing book and it's GREAT! I highly recommend it!

Linda Wilson said...

I'll try that next time, Karen. Thanks for the suggestion.

Linda Wilson said...

Carolyn, I have two of your editing books including your most recent one. They are worth their weight in gold!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Karen, I agree about Grammarly. It's the only online editor I checked out and I did not think it was that great. If you check out some of the others, let me know

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Thanks so much for starting this interesting Q&A thread, Linda, and Karen for the impeccable advice. There are many styles of content editing, ranging from the control freak to the laid-back horizontal. But always remember, it's your book. You need an editor who respects that.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

hehe. Think we're all fans of Frugal Editing. :-)

Anne Duguid Knol said...

People editing still comes out tops in the reviews. Hurrah!

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Nothing beats an eagle eye, Mary Jo, as you've obviously found out. :-) Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear from anyone checking through these online editors. The Windows spelling and grammar check may be as good as anything...

Unknown said...

I appreciate this information that you posted. After I digest Carolyn's Johnson's Frugal Editor, maybe I will look into a couple of these. My concern is that my program is Ubuntu/Linux.

Joe Prentis said...

I use Grammarly but it is not free as you suggest in your article. I pay $130.00 per year. There might be a stripped down free version, but I am not aware of it.

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...