Lessons Learned #24

My first use of ProWritingAid

First of all my excuses for not posting last week. What can I say, life has been hectic. Kids and DH home with holidays and activities for the film group… I haven’t been able to do any writing (for my books), but I had started the week before with ProWritingAid (PWA), so I want to let you know my first impression on it.

It was easy to install and I was surprised that it is actually an ‘add on’ to Word. But very handy to have it there in the top right of the tool bar. The first thing I did was to block a section of my text,  clicked the ‘general’ button of PWA and then the ‘full analysis’ one. Why wouldn’t I want to use it all? It took my computer a while to think about this a bit, but it wasn’t doing nothing. In my intro, which is only one-and-a-half page long, it found one-hundred-and-twenty-three issues. One-hundred-and-twenty-three! My heart sank. Was my writing really so bad? So I planted by butt a bit firmer in my chair and went through the list on the right hand side alongside my text to find out what these issues were.

PWA Issues ListAs per the list you see here (this is the one after I corrected all the issues it found in the first place, with only 82 issues left), they dissect your text big time. I found it more bearable to go through it when you start from the bottom. No idea why, but it seemed less daunting. But to be more clear I will start from the top here.

When you click the Overview Report you get a list of all the things that you did okay (green ticks, yay!) and red crosses, 🙁 ). I consistently get red crosses for sticky sentences and a too low glue index. I tried to work on this, but as my text often has dialogue in it I can’t get around the low glue index. The sticky sentences is also something I try to limit, but sometimes my re-wording just makes it worse.

Overused Words Check gives me ‘were, was and had.’ What do you expect? It’s written in the past tense…

The Writing Style Check I find very handy as it tells you where the passive verbs are. When it finds these I always try to make them active where possible. It also tells you if you have overdone it with the adverbs, a good one to keep in check. It also gives you ‘readability enhancements.’ I’m still not sure if these are good or bad. Anybody who could enlighten me on these?

Sentence Length Check is obvious. I don’t have a problem with these overall. The Clichés & Redundencies Report consistently tells me that using the word ‘sucker’ is cliché. Sorry, it’s about vampires, what can I say…

I have some issues with the Grammar Check. I had high hopes for this one, as English is not my first language. But all it does is tell me I’ve used words that it doesn’t recognises (made up place names, etc.) and that it blocks a complete paragraph purple and tells me there is an issue with it. However, it doesn’t tell me which issue! Very frustrating.

I tend to ignore the Sticky Sentences Check as making them shorter/different consistently means my writing becomes boring. The Dialogue Tags Check is another one I tend to ignore. There is dialogue or there isn’t. I usually use the word ‘said’ to tag dialogue, so they’re happy with it.

The Repeat Words & Phrases is one I highly appraise. I often find when reading indie author books this is one check they should have used. Even when half a book along, I find that using the same phrase is annoying. I hope I can get them all out of mine, but I guess that if they’re spread wide and far the only way to get them out is to read the book from start to finish as I’m not sure if PWA can check a whole book at once.

Corporate Wording Check occasionally says I’ve used the wrong word. Diction Check repeatedly tells me not to use a preposition at the end of the sentence and to not use the word ‘actually.’ Well, actually, my sentence structure holds up, so I’m keeping them in.

Vague & Abstract Words Check comes up with words like ‘all, like, would and (again) actually.’ Sometimes I can replace the words, but usually I can’t.

The Acronym Check lets you know if you are consistent with abbreviations (TV vs. tv). The Transitions Report is one I struggle with on a regular basis. They want you to have more than 25% transitions (a percentage of what I don’t know). I never get there. I even printed out a list with transitions words for me to use, but I just can’t fit them in. I don’t know if that is because of my limited vocabulary or not, but my text doesn’t seem to lend itself for a lot of transitions. And I bet if I could use them that my sentences would become ‘too long and sticky’ 🙂 .

I’m not sure if the Complex Words Check tells you how intelligent you are, but it reports how many words there are with four or five syllables. The NLP Predicates Check lets you know what percentage are visual or auditory-digital words. Apparently I am more of a visual person.

The Homonym Check is great if you have problems with there, their, and they’re. The Pacing Check tells you about the pacing of your text. Great if you are checking large pieces of text, I guess. I have never used the House Style Check as you need to set this one up first with your own style.

The Consistency Check gives you all the spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation consistency numbers. I like the Alliteration Analysis (note; not the Alliteration Check!) as it gives you an idea of the rhetoric index of your text. And who would have thought that the word ‘whatever’ is an alliteration?

Hail the Pronoun Check! With this beauty I found that in one paragraph I started every single sentence with ‘I.’ Big no-no! Never use the Combo Check though, it’s depressing…

So, overall I like PWA. You have to accept that your writing will never be perfect and that you only use PWA to check the issues that you struggle with and to get silly mistakes out. I notice that I’m getting faster and faster using it and it isn’t as daunting now compared to when I first opened the can or worms.

Have a Happy Writing Weekend!

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