I’d heard a lot recently about some websites that proclaim to help authors with editing. These sites apparently use algorithms and other software to help authors “edit” their work.
As an editor, it concerned me because I know there are a lot of nuances when it comes to editing the written word. Although there are a lot of standard writing rules, all too often these rules can be more of a “suggestion” and need to be carefully examined in context before making a decision.
For example: One website said that only 44 words in the English language follow the “I before E” rule and there are 925 exceptions to the rule!
And it also concerned me because these sites are proclaiming to be the “best” editors for your work. But I know that there is only so much a program can do. (After all, even Word doesn’t always catch all the misspellings or missing punctuation in a document.) So I decided to check out a few of these sites to see how well they actually edited a piece. What I found frightened me.
In all fairness, most of these sites are about “proofreading” a written piece and usually about nonfiction articles – not full-length novels. Proofreading does typically come at the end of the editing process and is meant to pick up minor errors like missing punctuation. And articles are typically shorter pieces that do not need the detail of a manuscript editor. However, if an author is unaware of these facts – many people interchange the words “editing” and “proofreading” and not all the sites make it clear that it does not work well for novels – then they may run their piece through one of these sites and find only minor errors when there are larger mistakes looming.
One site, touted as the “Best Free Grammar Checker,” did not even point out plagiarism to me when I blatantly put in another author’s work. Nor did it find anything except two misspelled words when there were many comma and punctuation errors (input by me).
In fact, most of the sites I checked missed major errors. However, if you are a habitual bad speller, these sites would be a good place to start. Finding spelling errors seems to be the bulk of what these sites can do well.
However, what about slang words? Dialects in your character’s dialogue? And we haven’t even begun to consider where a paragraph should begin, how the timeline works, or if you’ve completly forgotten to change the name of your character in all the right places. Bill and Jill are both fine names to these editing sites, but if you changed your character from one name to the other – you better have done it throughout the entire piece (including changing “he” to “she”) or your readers will be mightily confused! These sites will NOT find these errors.
What I’m saying is this: Don’t let these sites replace real, live editors. They simply can’t. There are so many aspects to the English language that it is impossible for an automated machine to catch it all. I mean, some of us human editors don’t catch every error!
When you have spent months and months, or even years, writing your manuscript, do not throw all your hard work away by only using these online editing programs. Seek the counsel of a professional editor instead.
If you want to learn a few ways to self edit your novel, check out my eBook: Edit Your Novel for Less!: Tips and Tricks to Save Money During the Editing Process: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B3XMGRS