Editing and Proof Reading


Active Member
Feb 29, 2024
How do you edit your manuscript?
I use the proofing editing app on Word, Grammarly, and Quillbot [free versions only]
Quillbot I use as I write and find it useful for checking paragraphs for mainly punctuation issues.
I use the editing app for larger sections but over time I have learned that not all of the features are useful and uncheck them before I start. Apart from the vocabulary and grammar issues I find the 'Passive Voice,' and 'Passive Voice with an unknown actor,' helpful in structuring.
Grammarly I generally use last and usually turn it off while writing as it interferes with the automatic mistake highlighting. It uses American spellings by default and because most of the short story and flash fiction sites I submit to are based in the US I have got in the habit of using American spellings. I change back to British spellings when appropriate but I have used American for my novel, which I am currently querying, and I am unsure whether to change back or not.
Are there any other [free] proofing tools you know of? Unfortunately, I can't afford to pay. I would be very interested to know how other writers approach, what I find to be the least appealing aspect of writing: the issue of proofing and editing.
When it comes to self-editing I use Grammarly, English is not my native and honestly, I suck with spelling, so I use Grammarly throughout the writing process. But for proofreading and a higher level of editing, I am engaging my friends as Alpha readers to point me to issues and problems.
I am afraid that at some point in your writing a look from the outside will be needed.
Like Jo.

I have a fair amount of experience editing the work of others, mostly with non-fiction. I'm pretty comfortable with grammar and its various cousins. I can manage copyediting for continuity. I do less well evaluating my own pacing, believability, and other large-structure aspects.

In the former area, I still rely on spellcheck and various other methods (e.g., read aloud, mark up on paper, word frequency, etc.) to clean up the manuscript. In the latter area I rely on beta readers to point out areas of weakness, confusion, omission.
I'm too much of a control freak to rely on software to correct my text. Also, I don't trust it entirely -- when editing and proof-reading, you get the chance to reinforce your prose; sometimes a new phrase, or way of seeing it might occur, and you can tweak it to improve it even then.

The best advice I've had when editing is to read it aloud -- if you enter the challenges, it's a good way to get a feel for it as they're only 75 or 300 words.
I don't use editing software. My wife proofreads my work as she's very good with detail. I perform page one edits at each quarter stage of a novel, then do lots of editing 'sweeps' at the end, one each for story, structure, characters, dialogue etc and several general reads.

I'm not interested in self-publishing, so the manuscript does not have to be publication ready when I submit to agents/publishers. but it does have to be as close as I can get it.
It sounds like you're asking more about copy and line editing than "editing" -- which can include things like structure, scene analysis, character analysis, engagement, etc.

I use ProWritingAid (paid version, though i know you asked about free) and find it to be worth it, though obviously imperfect. Four reasons I like it:
  1. It plugs in to Word and does both real time analysis and long form reporting.
    1. Ex: Selecting a chapter and asking for a content analysis where it gives a concise rundown of voice, repetition, tense, language level, sentence length and breakdown of length, repetition, dialogue tags, sensory alignment and repetition.
  2. It adjusts to specific genre's and writers -- all analysis is done under a specific genre (ex. Fantasy) rather than as a generic "writing". This means that aspects of magical realism or contractions aren't flagged in fiction writing, but maybe are flagged when writing a business email. The same is true with analysis: When I run a report, it'll benchmark the analysis against a selected author. If i were writing a scifi thriller, I could write scifi, edit as scifi and report as John Grisham.
  3. Low false negative rate: It catches 99% of grammatical mistakes and issues and has a helpful tool to flag items, words and phrases that are terms of art -- e.g. some made-up word in scifi that i don't want it to keep flagging
  4. Consistency -- If i use angled dialogue quotations in one part and unangled quotes in another part, it catches this. In a long document (100k words) this is both incredibly helpful and potentially time consuming bc it wants to provide a full analysis each time and the program can sputter a bit.
When it comes to overall editing, I found that Story Grid really resonated with me and gave me a better and generally comprehensive view of storytelling, as well as a methodology to tackle editing my own work before showing it or sharing it.
As crazy as it may sound--I think that for some the best thing to do before major editing is to attempt to finish the work from front to back.
Beginning to End. That way: you know you can finish the whole thing before you go all out wasting peoples time on your hobby.

For me what this looked like was a massive 1400 pages of 12pt double spaced monster. So the next step is to edit though yourself and trim it down as much as you can. I made the mistake of letting a volunteer wander off with the monster--thinking they could edit it. After thirty days I had to hunt them down to get it back and when I looked at what they had done with the first 50 pages I was certain that it was in no way ready for editing.

I ended up splitting the story into to two stories and then went to work doing several passes at editing the whole of the first half. From there I had my spouse read through to edit, which worked out great because I could work on the second book while she was dong the first. She prefers romance novels, but that didn't seem to deter her from reading through the whole thing which I had pared down to about 600 pages by then. Something over 200k words.

This turned out to work great because she could stop and come ask me about something that stopped her and we could figure out what seemed to be wrong with the writing on the assumption that anything that brought her to a standstill was presenting some sort of problem in the writing.

After a bunch of back and forth editing we finally came to a time when we both had read through the thing around 5 times after my initial three or four edits. The last time through we had found all that we were going to find and decided to send it off for some real editing.

At that time I did Exlibris publishing--which some people call vanity[and it did cost me over a thousand dollars for the package(and that was half the normal price)] They did two passes and found several things we missed. They did not find everything and even though I found some of those before the final was published, I did not find them all.

You need as many trained eyes to go over the work as you can find or afford.

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