ProWritingAid – the best grammar checker
In the last few years, a number of spelling and grammar checker apps have entered the market. Are they effective at helping you catch spelling and grammar errors or are they just hype? In this article, I’ll be reviewing the popular app, ProWritingAid, and I’ll show you if it’s worth the money. Apps like Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly help you go beyond Word’s spell checker by checking for style, pacing, and other errors that Microsoft Word won’t catch.
In theory, they can help you catch a few more errors before sending your book to an editor, and again as a last line of defense before you’re ready to publish. Now let me just disclaim for a minute that an app is NOT a substitution for a professional editor. Also, the results you’ll see in this article were from my own experience; your mileage may vary.
ProWritingAid comes to us from Orpheus Technology, with features for spelling, grammar, writing style, pacing, and many other pesky errors that can dog your manuscript. It integrates with Word, Chrome, Google Docs, and Scrivener in addition to having its own desktop version and web version. For a separate charge,
Pro Writing Aid also has a plagiarism checker that you can use to see if your work has been copied, useful if you blog. As far as the app’s functionality goes, there’s a lot to be desired here. The web and desktop version user interface is clunky, and they can get very slow if you feed a bigger manuscript through them. There are other little quirks, too.
The pop-up windows can be finicky, and everything just feels unfinished. This isn’t the worst UI i’ve seen in recent apps, but it’s pretty bad. But that’s okay. I care more about the app’s accuracy. I ran two tests: one for my YouTube scripts and another for one of my novels. Since I don’t hire an editor for my YouTube scripts, I could benefit from catching a few more spelling errors.
I took a script and ran it through ProWritingAid. I created three categories: Agree, Disagree, and False Positive. I wanted to track false positives because proofreading apps are notorious for them and I wanted to see what percentage of all edits would fall into this category.
Then I went through each script, edit by edit, classifying each. Here were the results: On average, I agreed with 24% of ProWritingAid’s recommended edits. I disagreed with 45% of recommended edits. 31% of all recommended edits were false positives, meaning the recommendation made zero sense or applied a rule to the text that was incorrect. At the end of the day, ProWritingAid helped me produce a script that was 24% cleaner than if I did not use it.
If I combine that with the number of edits I disagreed with, that gives the app a 69% accuracy rate. So for nonfiction, the results should be solid if you can filter through the false positives. But how does ProWritingAid perform with fiction? I ran a second test. I took the first 10 chapters of one of my recent novels. I found the version of the book that I sent to my copy editor.
I ran THAT through ProWritingAid to see how many edits it could have caught before sending it to my editor. Here’s what I found: I agreed with 21% of ProWritingAid’s recommendations. I disagreed with 58% of recommendations. 25% were false positives.
ProWritingAid helped me produce a fiction manuscript that would have been approximately 21% cleaner before sending to my editor. Combine that with the edits I disagreed with, and we have a 79% accuracy rate, which is pretty good.
Those are better results than I expected, honestly, especially when you keep your expectations low and remember that these apps are only checking for basic spelling and grammar errors. I do have some complaints about ProWritingAid’s features. The app offers different checkers—style, grammar, spelling, pacing, homonyms, dialogue, to name a few, and some are more helpful than others.
For example, I found the style, grammar, spelling, dialogue, glue words, and cliches features helpful. Almost all of the errors I agreed with were in these categories. Prowritingaid can also check for any dialogue quotes that you forgot to open or close, which is great. However, some features, like readability, sentence length, and pacing—are not useful.
Case in point: the readability section grades your work on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, giving your work a readability score. When you’re sitting down and thinking about your target audience, are you thinking about what type of work on the Flesch-Kincaid scale they typically like to read? Of course not. At least not for fiction.
But some people might see this score and think it’s important, and use that as the basis to make creative decisions for their work, which will do more harm than good. Prowritingaid offers a number of similar features that fall into this category, and I worry that the developers added features and statistical reporting at the expense of effectiveness. In my opinion, I would turn off most of the features and select only the ones that produce suggestions that you agree with.
What I would like to see with ProWritingAid is a reduction in false positives. Like it’s competitor, Grammarly, it produces a lot of noise. I’d also like to see the app harness the benefits of machine learning and actually get smarter as you use it, and mold itself to your writing style, like an editor would.
To me, that feels like the next level of this technology. ProWritingAid does allow you to disable certain rules, but that’s about it. Complaints aside, would I recommend ProWritingAid? My answer is yes, with caveats.
Despite the clunky interface, it can help you if you avoid the false positives and turn off some of the features. With some changes to the user interface and a better rules engine, I do think that ProWritingAid can live up to its promise as a true writing aid for writers.
How much does ProWritingAid cost
ProWritingAid retails for several price points at the time when I wrote this article. You can purchase a 1-year, 2-year, or 3-year license for anywhere from $50-$100 US, or you can buy a lifetime license for $175, which in my opinion is the way to go and the option I paid for. I like that they offer a lifetime license compared to Grammarly, which is a perpetual monthly or yearly fee.
I’ve included an affiliate link to ProWritingAid, and if you buy through it, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. If you found this article helpful, it’s an easy way to say thanks.