Software Review: AutoCrit

A few days ago, someone in one of my group lists mentioned an editing program called AutoCrit. I use critique groups for the most part. They’re very helpful with making sure the story flows and reducing distractions. However, critters are also very subjective. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it‘s not. In the end, it‘s up to the author to sift through all the critiques and determine which advice works best for their work. Then, the author ends up trying to incorporate the select advice into their work.

So, back to AutoCrit. How does it work for the author? For one, it‘s objective. It provides an objective assessment of the work and highlights problem areas. AutoCrit offers three Free Reports: Overused Words, Repeated Phrases, and Sentence Length Variation. Try them out now. The Overused Words report was what got me hooked. As a new writer, I’m not always sure what’s awesome writing and what’s just okay. I’m learning just like everyone else. AutoCrit is an excellent tool for new writers learning the trade and experienced writers looking for a quick tool to assess their work.

For example, many new writers overuse adverbs -ly words. AutoCrit determines an acceptable number of adverbs allowed in a piece, and when the writer reaches the limit, the software highlights it as a problem area. It DOES NOT recommend eliminating EVERY adverb, as a writer might find particular critters suggest. But it does recommend a reduction in the number of adverbs. It‘s up to the author to decide which to eliminate, if they choose. The same is for other overused words’ was/were,’ ‘ it/there,’ ‘ just/then,’ and many more.

Members receive added benefits: Repeated Words, Dialogue Tags, First Words, Names and Pronouns, Repeated Phrases Summary, Combination View of Overused & Repeated Words, *Cliché Finder, *Redundancy Finder, *Homonym Highlighter, *Readability Suite, *Change definitions, *Difficult Sentence, *Complex Word, *Pacing Monitor.

*Available only with platinum membership.

I had a difficult time finding editing software, and very few allowed users to try before you buy. One software, WhiteSmoke, I spent a bit of time with. Like AutoCrit it requires an internet connection. WhiteSmoke worked very much like the spell grammar check available in MS Word, but included additional feature. Not a bad program, but my experience with it seemed as if it were designed more for technical writing than creative writing. The suggestions were very formal, and not always accurate (like MS Word). If I were a technical writer, I might consider that over AutoCrit, but I’m not.

I also tried HEALaDoc; at least I loaded it on my computer. There seems to be some compatibility issues with some versions of Windows. Repetition Detection was another I tried. It‘s very simple program which does what the name says. I liked it, though it didn’t offer all the benefits of AutoCrit. Analyzer does what the title implies. However, it offers absolutely no suggestions, just statistical reports on your work. It‘s up to the writer to interpret the results and apply it to his/her work.

In the end, I found AutoCrit to be the most well-rounded software for my creative writing needs. But don’t take my word on it. Check it out for yourself. AutoCrit

So, what’s with all the extra highlighted words in my text today? I took the liberty of running this document through AutoCrit, and these are the results. Below are the suggestions AutoCrit had for me. Now this is not an all inclusive list, I only included the items with check boxes, and deleted the rest for brevity.

  • generic descriptions                            6 Remove about 5 occurrences
  • initial conjunction                               6 Remove about 3 occurrences
  • it/there                                            24 Remove about 19 occurrences
  • just/then                                             6 Remove about 3 occurrences

Edited 4/2/2012: AutoCrit has made a few changes since I wrote this review, but the program works virtually the same. Other than new and improved, the free trial allows access to all the reports instead of just a few. The main differences between the membership levels these days is the number of words the program will analyze at one time and the delivery options. Professional membership adds one more feature… the ability to add your own keywords to check for overuse. I’m quite fond of the word “hardly,” so that’s a pretty cool feature for me. 🙂

Anyway, try out AutoCrit. It’s served me well.