Impossible to please every writing app

SlickWrite and ProwritingAid measure sentence-breaks differently, the Slickwrite measures from period to period, but the ProwritingAid treats a semicolon like a period. Both apps measure the variety in sentence length, but the apps measure differently. Paperrater sucks, for a creative fiction author; James Joyce does the best of authors I sampled, but his work doesn’t pass all the tests.

ProwritingAid notes how sentence transitions apply to non-fiction, so failure for a fiction writer in that statistic is meaningless; while, Paperrater never mentions the difference between fiction and non-fiction–and just fails you. Sentence transitions (i.e. meanwhile and therefore) are different from temporal transitions or transitions of place, but I notice most don’t explain the difference. Paperrater faults simple sentence starts, but I’m not sure you can do much about that without adding prepositions.

Paperrater faults simple sentence starts, but I’m not sure you can do much about that without adding prepositions. The app did show how I tend to tack transitional phrases on the end and less often begin the sentence with a transitional phrase (I.e. before, after, near, and etc…), so I saw one benefit.

 

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My Methodical Method of Self Editing

I focus one word at a time. At present, I’m focusing on transition words. Apps such as Paperrater are learning tools for me, I’m not expecting to pass every test these apps perform, but I want to understand what causes the failure. Paperrater show me how often I place my transition phrases at the end of the sentence; the app failed me for my sentence structure. The Paperrater app prefers a diverse sentence structure and favors a transitional phrase at the beginning of the sentence; so now, I search for particular transition words (i.e. tomorrow, after, and soon) then I rewrite the sentence. The app may fail me if I switch around too many, so I let some go.

My methods bore me, but they may improve my novel incrementally. This type of editing sends me to a random place; which, keeps me more alert because I can’t skim. I’m not done evaluating my pronouns, but that’s a long process, so I stopped after I hit the halfway mark to add a bit of variety to my editing process.

Ejecting pronouns

JK Rowling burns her character’s names into your head. ProwritingAid says pronouns should fall between 4 and 15% — and Rowling must fall at the low-end. I’m under 15% but I’m evaluating each pronoun to see if I want to make a switch. Searching for pronouns allow for random editing of other things and I consider this a good thing. My pronouns might drop  5% but I”ve caught three other mistakes and I’m a quarter way through a singular pronoun check. PrewritingAid also says pronouns should begin less than 30% of you sentences and that’ one of the stats I consider generous.

Paperrater seems tougher to please and I’m guessing that’s because it favors essays; even, though you can select “creative” in both apps  — I don’t see a change. I rarely use Paperrater, but I try to figure out what makes it happy. It took about three hours to write three paragraphs in such a way that Paperrater rated me — good, at everything. Do I feel any happier with the rewrite? No, I can’t say I see an improvement. It is different, though. Paperrater’s tells you what word it doesn’t line, but doesn’t why. I mix up my sentence structure be the app want more variety in my simple sentences. I can pass either test, but the app often fails me on one or the other,

James Joyce was the only writer who passed Paperrater’s phrasing test with a random sample. Hemmingway, Oscar Wilde, and Agatha Christie failed.

Editsaurus for removing commonly unwanted words

Editsaurus by Tyler Walters does a great job of finding adverbs and unneeded filler words; such as, ‘that’. Stephen King disparages the use of adverbs and this app would work well for him. Other apps can do the same, but I prefer the highlighting method used by this app. I don’t believe in removing every adverb, so this app lets me sample the sentences. The same can be said about the word, ‘that’; which, can be replaced by a comma in many cases. You may find a use for the other features of the app, but I benefited from this singular feature.

The Expresso App and Weak Verbs

My review 2/5 stars. See how this app highlighted commonly used words and common phrasing, in this excerpt:

The Expresso app finds weak verbs, but it flags words that I don’t consider a problem. Prowritngaid hates some of these words, too, but it highlights the overuse and I’m not overusing verbs in this clip the Expresso app highlighted. Using another app to check my work would help me concentrate as I attempt another round of editing, but I’m a bit overwhelmed by this app. Highlighting commonly used words does not help. As an app for creative writing — it fails, but it may help with a research paper.

Even though I don’t like this app, I may still use it. It still highlights sentences that may need revision, but it also highlights way too many sentences that don’t. The app still prompts me to review potential problems. Prowritingaid and Grammarly are far better apps for a creative writer.

Google Docs needs a master document tray

After the death of my last hard drive, I turned to Google Docs as my primary writing app, but drawbacks occur whether you save in chapters or save as a complete novel. A master document tray would solve my primary gripe. Sigil can easily separate one HTML document into many, and it basically uses a master document tray.

Sigil is open source, Google should be willing to work with Sigil to add features. In Sigil, HTML documents are lined up in the side panel and you can easily divide HTML docs. Sigil uses Header functions to control what goes into your Table of Contents; which, I find better than the Google Docs feature of outlining.

A Google Docs and Sigil combo, along with the better grammar checking would place pressure on Microsoft. The simplicity of Googe Docs is great, but it can’t match the power of Microsoft Word. I’ve got old versions of Word, but I get by with open source stuff, now. Many sites recommend LibreOffice, but Apache OpenOffice has worked better for me and for some stuff I need these open source apps because Goggle Docs lags in a few areas.

The Apps Giveth and the Apps Taketh Away

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In the beginning, I wrote my sentences to long; now, I write them too short.Some apps want me to shorten my sentences further, by removing words like—well, ‘like’ and like, ‘well’ and ‘too,’ too. And don’t get me started on punctuation.

Two more words I’ve used—’now’ and ‘some’ also fall on the list of glue words. Using the most common words in English will cause you to write ‘sticky sentences.” Take out the common words and you will write short sentences or use uncommon words which fall in the complaint department, too.

Editing apps also want diverse sentence lengths, but the push toward shorter sentences will decrease the diversity. In writing, everything is wrong. Cormac McCarthy never uses semicolons, so the apps will complain about his conjunctions.

Editing apps force me to look at things, but they also create a catch 22 game. Another problem with the apps is their addition of line spacing, if you cut and paste. They pass down invisible markdown codes that were used to make the document to fit on their page. You need to be careful if cut from their page to yours because they can damage your line spacing.

To be or not to be answers not the question. The answer to all is thout shalt always be eternally wrong.

Flow Check

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I check put writing apps to see what they have to offer. The site Slick Write gives a flow check and suggestions to improve. It analyzes and advises when sentence sizes don’t vary enough. The Hemingway will induce you to shorten your sentences and the variance in size will will probably lessen, The two apps complement each other in many ways, but the sentence size issue may conflict. Short packs a punch. Creating short concise sentences to install amongst long sentences satisfy both apps.

I will try a chapter rewrite and work on the short concise method. Rewrite take time, but I’ give it a try. Both the Hemingway app and Slick Write show you interesting stuff about your writing.

Writing with clean text

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Word processors give us many advantages over the typewriter days, but they also can add other problems. I began saving my documents in Rich Text Format (*.rtf) because of formatting problem that I ran into, but I still run into line spacing issues. Using a plain text editor allows for cleaner files and control over encoding. If I want control of my typesetting; I need clean text. I lose immediate appearance benefits of word processing but plain text has advantages.

Thinking in terms of coded or encoded text helped me understand why my line spacing issue kept showing up. Distraction free editors offer few thrills but many will save to a clean text format and don’t tempt you into using coded script. I’ve decided to change my writing format to the simpler is better formula. Using the master document feature on a word processor will still act as the the best way to combine individual chapters into one document. The PageFour text editor seems to combine chapters without a word processor, but I’m not sure how many other tools provide this feature.

I used yWriter as a formatting tool, but it saves in Rich Text Format. If you write short scenes, yWriter will probably avoid the line spacing problem but I don’t write short scenes. I believe the problem occurs when auto-formatting makes page breaks, for appearance sake. The PageFour can save in plain text, but the abundance of free text editors makes me wonder if the small advantages to PageFour pays off. Scrivener appears to give the option to save as plain text.

A tabbed text editor serves most of my needs, but other options tempt me. If the Master Document features of my word processors work without problem, I’m satisfied. Changing methods may introduce new bugs. Catching all the line spacing corruptions is a hassle I want to eliminate. Saving as plain text should fix this problem.