Even the best writers need a little help sometimes.

Apr 19, 2017 · 6 min read

Writing is not easy. We so often hear from creative, innovative people that they find it incredibly frustrating to try and clearly communicate their ideas on paper. If you are naturally more right-brained (imaginative), and you find the left-brain (analytical) process of writing and editing difficult, you are not alone.

I hate to imagine how many beautiful stories and ground-breaking insights are stuck in the heads of insecure writers. But help is at hand. We’ve developed an editing tool to help you conquer your worries and strengthen your writing.

Upload your text into the ProWritingAid editing tool and it will run 25 different technical writing reports, identifying where your writing sounds amateurish, wordy, vague, overly-complicated and much more.

It also offers add-ins to use with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs and Open Office to make editing even easier.

Just to give you an idea of what you can expect, here a few of the most common issues that writers use ProWritingAid to resolve:

Too much glue makes it sticky.

A sticky sentence is one that is full of glue words. Glue words are those insipid common words that add nothing to sentences.

If your sentence contains more than 45% glue words, you should probably re-write it to increase clarity. Let’s look at an example:

Sticky: There is a place out in the middle of nowhere that natives go to get away from the tourists who come to their villages to see how they live and where they work. (Glue Index: 72.7%)

Rewrite: Fleeing the tourist season, villagers escape to Dyfi Valley. (Glue Index: 22.2%)

The rewrite saves 24 words and contains a much smaller percentage of glue words. Not only is it more succinct, it provides more specific information than the meandering sticky sentence.

Of course, you need to use your own judgment as the author. Sometimes a sentence will be sticky and it’s the only way that it works. That’s fine. But statistics show that published writing has a low percentage of glue words, so always go back and reassess your sticky sentences.

Eliminate weak adverbs and verbs.

When you’re drafting your content, it’s more important to get your ideas down than to agonize over word choice. To protect your momentum, you may write:

Jenny went quietly to the conference room table.

During editing, look at ways to make weak verbs and adverbs into strong, vivid pictures:

Jenny tiptoed into the packed conference room and slid into a chair.

Tiptoeing and sliding gives movement and action, with the “packed” conference room giving context to Jenny’s actions.

We certainly don’t suggest that you remove ALL adverbs; sometimes they will be exactly right for what you are trying to get across. But adverbs tend to prop up weak verbs and so you should always ask yourself “Is there a stronger verb I can use here instead?”

You can highlight all the adverbs in your writing by running the Style Report in ProWritingAid.

Turn passive into active.

This is one of those rules passed down by generations of writers: sentences written in the active voice are clearer and more engaging for the reader. Using the active voice instead of the passive voice is one of the best things you can do to improve your writing.

In a passive sentence, the subject is relegated to the end of the sentence and the ordering is object — verb — subject. For example:

Passive: The video was watched by Jane.

In an active sentence, the subject is at the start of the sentence and the ordering is subject — verb — object:

Active: Jane watched the video.

The first sentence is written in passive voice, which means the person or thing doing the action (Jane) follows the action (watching the video). Using the active voice turns the sentence around and puts the subject first. This makes the meaning clearer and the sentence shorter.

Let’s look at another example.

Passive: The issue was voted on by the committee, and the result was tallied by the secretary.

Active: The committee voted on the issue, and the secretary tallied the result.

While the first sentence is not grammatically incorrect, it sounds stuffy, doesn’t it? While politicians use passive voice to hide who’s doing the action, your writing should steer clear. You want your audience to know who is performing the action in each sentence.

Let ProWritingAid highlight any instances of passive voice in your writing so that you can change it up.

Make your sentences smoother.

There are a couple key ways to smooth out your sentences.

Cut down on pronouns

The first is to identify repetitive use of pronouns with the Pronoun Check. Starting each sentence with He did this, She did that, They went there is boring and tiresome to read.

Consider all the pronouns in the paragraph below:

John turned the corner and saw Doris marching down the road toward his house. She looked like she was angry. He wondered what it was that he had done this time. He tried to remember if he had cut his lawn and turned off his sprinkler. He sometimes cut through his back yard just to avoid running into her.

Pronoun percentage: 17.8%. Initial pronoun percentage: 80%

Compare that with this:

John turned the corner and saw Doris marching down the road toward his house. What had he done to make her angry this time? She loved being the first to point out his gardening lapses. Had he cut the lawn? Had the sprinkler been left on? Sometimes he cut through the back yard just to avoid running into her.

Pronoun percentage: 13.6%. Initial pronoun percentage: 17.7%

Pronouns are at their most jarring when they are used at the start of the sentence, so make sure to check your initial pronoun percentage use in your editing phase.

Vary your sentences

Sentences that repeat the same structure can also irritate your readers. For example: Reading books is fun, Writing for a living is interesting, Behaving in public is good form. Too many -ing + is + adverb sentence structures will bog your readers down.

A key way to avoid stylistic repetition in your sentences is to vary their length. Using short, long, and medium lengths creates more compelling sentences that keep your readers’ attention.

The editing tool makes it easy for you by graphing your sentence lengths so you can see how they ebb and flow:

ProWritingAid Sentence Length Visualization

Ready to conquer your fears?

I’ve given you only a small glimpse of the 25 writing areas that ProWritingAid strengthens. If you’ve ever agonized over putting your writing out there for others to consume, you’ll love how easily you can make it better. Each writer has his or her individual strengths and weaknesses, and this editing tool helps you identify and correct your writing so it shines.

ProWritingAid is free to use online. Simply sign up, and get started on improving your writing and banishing your insecurities.

Take a 2-minute tour of ProWritingAid

A ProWritingAid Premium subscription means no word count limits and access to our MS Word, Google Docs, Scrivener and Chrome Add-ins.

Give it a try now — it’s free so what have you got to lose?

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The top posts from the www.ProWritingAid.com blog. We love sharing tips and techniques to help you strengthen your writing. #editing #writing

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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