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Pro Writing Aid (thumbs down) (1 Viewer)

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I just spent last evening and most of today evaluating "Pro Writing Aid". Its list of features, and its promises, looked attractive. I even found a coupon for 40% off, so I could have bought the "lifetime license" for $180 instead of $300.

I signed up for the seven day trial, and ran my WJC (work just completed) through it. Unfortunately, what I got out was a lot of absolute nonsense.

Some examples:
  • I named a business in the story "Consolidated Bank". It was suggested I should "simplify" Consolidated to "unified". The software couldn't tell the difference between a proper name and a normal word in context ... one of many issues it has with proper names.
  • I have a character named "Sally Norzon". It was suggested (27 times) that Norzon was misspelled and should be changed to "Norton". Evidently it couldn't figure out that if I spelled that name the same way TWENTY-SEVEN times, I might be serious about it.
  • The word "questioning" was flagged as a "dialogue tag", even though it appeared in the first sentence of a PREVIOUS paragraph, and did not refer to the speaker of the dialogue in the next paragraph.
  • Dozens of two word phrases were tagged as cliches which were not cliches.
  • Other phrases which could be cliches in another context were flagged as cliches, even though they were not in my context. For example, "in the dark" just might really mean the character is in a dark room, not that he doesn't understand something.
  • It has the same Catch-22 comma trap that made me turn off the feature in MS Word 20 years ago. If you have "and" in a sentence with no comma before it, the software suggests you need a comma. If you DO have a comma before it, the software suggests you should delete the comma. LOL (Do all that, run the check again, and it will reverse all those suggestions).
  • If you do make a correction, or tell it to ignore a suggestion, it does not propagate that action throughout the document. You'll see the same suggestion over and over again, anyway.
  • It will actually flag things which are right and suggest you make them wrong. I loaded a famous author's novel (more on that in a minute). He had the sentence "Drop the loose equipment!" PWA suggested that the word "loose" might need to be changed to "lose".

The list really goes on and on. The few things mentioned above happen over and over and over again ... at times HUNDREDS of suggestions which are simply wrong or meaningless. Plus, there are many more deficiencies I didn't bother to note examples of.

I'd say 90-95% of the suggestions are nonsense. I don't have days to waste flipping through the nonsense to find the few suggestions which might actually help.

The grades for my novel were generally good. It "Failed" me on only one report grade. The investigator in me took over, so I loaded a second instance of PWA and loaded the novel mine is a sequel to. The original was written by an author generally recognized at the top of his field. I let PWA analyze that novel, and he got worse scores than I did. LOL The novel is considered one of his best works. I scored higher than him across the board, and I am NOT the writer he was. And my "Failed" grade? It failed him in the same spot, with an even worse grade. LOL

I've looked at some other grammar checkers, and I'm generally not satisfied with any of them. I have looked at grammar checkers before, and I have the same complaints today I had 20 years ago. These developers are just going through the motions. They are not improving this class of software to become more aware of the real world of prose. Maybe they would help point someone who IS a terrible writer in the direction of some flaws.

If you're not an incompetent grammarian, don't waste your money. Instead, know the few things you tend to need improvement on in a second draft, and look for them yourself.
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I use Grammarly (free version for Word), and considering what I paid for it, it's a good product. It catches more than word does, but I consider what it finds to be suggestions.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I would never pay for any of these things, they're just not worth it. Grammarly, specifically, is written for business language and is near worthless for creative writing. PWA isn't really any better. You're better off just learning how to write in proper English. Granted, Word is no better. It has a serious problem with "its" and "it's". It doesn't matter which one you use, it marks it as wrong, tells you to change it to the other and when you do, it marks that one wrong too and tells you to change it back!
 

Periander

Senior Member
I hate spell checkers so much that I make sure I turn them off before starting a manuscript. Those red wiggly lines drive me crazy. If there's a mis-spelled word, it's because I somehow missed it in the proof-read. Those pesky spell checkers!

Thanks for reviewing Pro Writing Aid, vranger. I hate being micro-managed by a computer program. Looks like I won't be paying for that service any time soon.
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
I shun writing aids and all them fancy gizmos.
I started writing on a government-surplus Royal typewriter.
Now I use MSWord.


KISS principle.
 

sunaynaprasad

WF Veterans
Indianroads, I want to eliminate all errors and typos before publishing. Even the editors I've worked with have missed to many errors. I've published my books with errors and not realized it until much later, sometimes, years after. Of course, I will still use editors, but in addition, I think I will also use an editing software.
 

Davi Mai

Senior Member
I use PWA for all my writing. I even write stories directly into it, not bothering with Microsoft Word anymore. I agree, some of its suggested corrections can seem a little weird. But it can be tweaked to improve, and anything can be ignored. Its way better than Grammarly.
Perhaps its more suited to noob writers like me. Because I find its detecting of things like "Sticky sentences" really useful, as well as the echoes and repeats function. I'm amazed at just how many times I fall into the trap of repeating a favourite adjective for example. It even detects repeats of 2,3,4 word phrases.
So yeah, for me.I couldn't do without it. I bought the lifetime license. But your points are valid. It can be quirky :)
(if anyone wants me to run their work through it, I'd be happy to)
 

Suzilla

Member
I wouldn't pay for any writing tools, but I found that pro-writing aid provides a lot of tools in the free version, and because of that I prefer it over grammarly. I agree that the program doesn't take into consideration names or, in my case, word choice in dialogue, but other than that there doesn't seem to be a big issue.
 

matthew1959

Senior Member
My experience with PWA is that I use it as a tool and nothing more. Maybe it's because of my temperament, or my experience with maps and GPS as a truck driver, but I view all of this as just an aid to help me get where I want to go. It's a bad idea to blindly follow a mathematical algorithm. My approach is that I look at what it is flagging and then decide what I want to change. Sometimes I will redo several sentences in the flagged passage, to me the value then is that it is highlighting something that needs attention. I think we forget that a computer is nothing more than a bunch of on/off switches. Programs are nothing more than instructions that tell a computer what switches to throw and when to do it. The programs are wonderful tools, but are only as good as the craftsman using them. You can give me a complete set of Snap-on tools, but I still couldn't change a water pump.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I prefer to stick with just the word processor myself, with spell checking switched on. Even the spell check is more for confirmation. Perhaps I'm fortunate that my spelling and grammar are reasonably sound. This means add-ons can be more a distraction than a benefit.
 

voltigeur

WF Veterans
I found in both cases you have to tell Pro Writing aid and Grammarly what you are writing. Make sure you tell it in your doing creative writing, audiance and tone.

I think these default to business which will cause the issues that you decribe here.

I find it cathces the stupid stuff and Pro Writing aid is the best at catching repeated sentence starts and over used words.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
There is a new software called Outwrite and I mentioned Microsoft Editor. I haven't tried it. But Outwrite is a combination of Grammarly and Prowriting aid. It might check for some things the others do not detect. If someone is bad at catching active and passive voice then Prowriting aid might be a decent way to check for it. That said I can't recommend Prowriitng aid since all I can comment is on my experience with it and using the features to check on style issues. I will eventually check for coupons for Outwrite.
 
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