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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Free Writing Aids

Summer is the perfect time to experiment with new ideas and products—think of it as a vacation for your brain. For years, I have used Copyscape to check for plagiarism, especially when I rewrite articles for a wide variety of clients, and have found it a very inexpensive and helpful tool.

Mistakes:  All writers know that finding our own mistakes is a challenge. After we’ve read something one-gazillion times, it looks write to us. See what I mean? And we all know spellcheck was a gift from Heaven, but it doesn’t pick up misused words like two and too and to. They’re all spelled correctly, so what’s the problem? I’ll leave you to answer that. Grammarcheck is helpful for finding the unusual and very boggled sentences, not so much using the wrong word.

Corrections: As an editor, I frequently hear that writers can’t afford an editor. Sadly, I spend a lot of time correcting spelling and grammar, sentence structure and a long list of other things. My clients spend money for me to make those corrections when they have low priced and FREE tools that easy to use available that would substantially reduce their editorial fees. Using these tools gets the basics out of the way and lets your human editor talk about character development, pacing, plot, your get the idea.

Copyscape ( has free and fee services. I have found their Premium product efficient, effective, and economical. There are good tools to check the originality of content (no plagiarism) and ensure you haven’t stepped on someone’s toes when writing your blog post, rewriting research materials, etc. Numerous companies that I work freelance for use Copyscape to check my work as a requirement of their contracts. Their Copysentry product will track down copies of pirated work on the web. No downloads are required.

Paper Rater ( A free online editor, Paper Rater checks for plagiarism and analyzes the originality of the work in addition to basic editing functions: grammar and spelling, vocabulary appropriateness which includes word choice. Looks like their dashboards are easy to use. An interesting plus is their Vocabulary Builder product—kind of a Thesaurus with an edge. No downloads required.

After the Deadline (, I gave this free online editor try, and it’s easy to use and caught every grammar and spelling error I threw at it. It also made suggestions for verbiage changes. One thing I like is their use of different colors to denote the problem in the writing. When I clicked on the words underlined, a box with suggested changes popped up – nice.

Pro Writing Aid ( This free online editor has a nice feature for signing into the site. Use your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google accounts – a few less steps to get to where you want to be. Like other online editors, simply paste in the text and get an analysis. It has a few extra bells and whistles with the grammar and spell checks, including finding clich├ęs, sentences and paragraphs that are too long, overused words (you know: actually, even, just, in/out), passive voice (gotta try this), and WAIT FOR IT—pacing! Once you get the report, you can click on the “errors” and get suggestions for solutions. Check out their articles on improving your writing and they have something in the clouds that does word collages, which I want to check on. But first, I have to figure out if it’s the cloud that looks like an elephant or the unicorn. No downloads required.

For The Brave of Heart
Rescue Time  ( If you play Spider Solitaire, are addicted to online Mahjong, or spend your writing time playing Free Cell, all done under the guise of taking a break from your writing, this little jewel might be for you. I, of course, have none of those problems and do not need it. Silently running on your computer—what I have labeled the spy gizmo—it quietly monitors which websites you visit and logs the time you spend there as well as noting the “other” activities you do online. If you have teenagers or work as a PI, could be helpful.

I'd love it if you would let us know if you’ve used any of these products and how well they did or didn’t work for you, so we can share info with other writers.


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