Using Online Tools to Improve Your Writing

photo credit: Seth_Wilson Study via photopin (license)

I came across this article:

http://nybookeditors.com/2016/02/instantly-improve-your-writing-with-these-11-editing-tools/

Any tool which boosts my scrabbly prose is worth having.

Not the least in that some of these tools are free.

I’m going to test out each of the free ones (because I am a cheapskate). You can review how you feel about the results. i.e. if the tool made enough difference to make it worthwhile to use it in your own writing.

I thought I would use a piece I wrote on a writing course some years ago. (This as I recall attracted some acerbic feedback).

This is what it looks like before use of online editors:

He stopped the car at the style gate. The handbrake was still a bit dodgy; he gave it a hefty pull and said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t run away down hill.The “Great Park” spread out before them – old stained post and rail fencing, long grass, the occasional tree dotted randomly. Zones of poor drainage where the marsh marigold was already showing saffron flower heads. He felt his heart quicken just slightly – he hadn’t done this sort of thing for years.

Mandy was here for the “rare mushroom” or that’s how he thought of it. Mandy had tried patiently to remind him that it was a fungus.

“Russula Pseudo-affinis” his ticket to pleasure land. This boring little brown-capped fungus had only been seen in one other place in the UK. Derek had found it surprisingly easy to convince her that he had seen some sprouting in the corner of the Great Park.

It’s amazing what a night spent with G.J Keizer’s “Encyclopaedia of Fungi” can result in.

A keen mycologist like Mandy Briggs couldn’t resist, he’d offered to drive, pretended he was as interested as she in the damn mushrooms.

Mandy – she was tall, bookish and appeared totally plain, no one ever saw Mandy in male company.

Derek knew something they didn’t. It was Mandy’s love of lose pullovers; they hid her body so well no one knew the joy beneath. That and that lengthy awful brown skirt, the one that was always heavily stained from studying the ink caps and wax caps on hands and knees.

Hands and knees, yes that’s how he’d seen her, examining a “White Spindle” fungus beside the car park; that over large pullover and the absence of underwear – a revelation.

He determined to introduce Mandy to the delights of male company as quickly as he could bring it about and he had no scruples about the use of subterfuge.

He steadied Mandy as she stepped over the style, gaining a glimpse of shapely calf as she did so, this was better and better.

Down the grassy slope, slipping and sliding in the dew-heavy grass his leather shoes unsuited to the terrain; the grass here a darker shade from the constant dampness. At the base of the slope a tiny copse, mainly ash and hawthorn but with the occasional oak tree.

He had planned for the “use of” a drier area beneath one stately member – it would be ideal for his carnal destiny – a blanket was too obvious for this “field trip”.

She was braced against a tree – back to him. This would be too easy.

She turned as he approached to indicate a spiny coral fungus. The contour of that bum beneath the plain cotton so wonderful; he reached forward to run his fingers lightly down the obvious parting of those two cheeks.

The impact was sudden, violent. He couldn’t believe the pain. He’d thought it a lie – it surely couldn’t be this painful? He folded like an emptying balloon cradling his soreness.

I thought that the best approach was to be logical. So I will adjust the above article using each of the tools as given in the article.

The first is “After the Deadline”:

It was hard to work out how to use this tool. Given this blog is WordPress based I thought a WordPress version would be the way to go. However I encountered this when going to that part of “After the Deadline”:

wordpress-version

This indicates that this is not the version to use.

I found that an OpenOffice version exists. I realised that I could install this so I went to this part of the site:

open-office-version

This does not seem to be the version to use either.

There is a command line version. In no sense could I find instructions on using it – I concluded it was for use in Linux (I am using Windows).

command line version.jpg

So I looked at the Firefox version:

firefox-version

Written by the kind of people who declare RTFM. (When the M involved is a thousand pages of inscrutable text).

It is a Firefox add in. It looks like you should be able to install it using the standard Firefox extensions search.

Sure enough that works:

firefox-extension

Install it and you get a prompt to restart Firefox (always a pain when you have as many windows open as I have):

firefox-extension-v1

Restart enables the extension:

firefox-extension-v2

The next challenge is how to use this extension now it is in Firefox. The best guess is that the text that you wish to edit should be inside a web page.

The easiest way I can consider of doing this is to set up a blog page with the above text in it.

This gave a context menu that looks like this:

firefox-extension-v3

This is where I get stuck, the add-in appears to do nothing.

I cannot find a way to make it do anything on the page.

I then found a site that purports to use “After the Deadline” as an engine:

http://www.polishmywriting.com/

This is much easier:

polishmywriting

Paste in the relevant text and click the “Check Writing” button, this produces:

polishmywriting-outputv1.jpg

It highlights handbrake as misspelled. I checked this out and discovered that our American chums refer to this as parking brake. The spelling in United Kingdom English is accurate.

It also underlines mycologist. This also turns out to be an accurate spelling for one who works with fungi. Spelled the same both sides of the Atlantic.

Lose pullovers is an accurate spot – it should be loose of course.

Next it highlights “was braced” in the sentence “She was braced against a tree”. This is because it is a passive voice.

I tried “Braced against a tree with her back to him” it does not remove the highlight for some reason. Deleting and retyping the sentence though seemed to have the desired effect. So it looks like a bug in the software.

It points out “indicate” in the sentence “She turned as he approached to indicate a spiny coral fungus”. Stating that it is a complex expression. I tried “point out” here.

And that’s it. The resulting output is as below:

He stopped the car at the style gate. The handbrake was still a bit dodgy; he gave it a hefty pull and said a silent prayer that it wouldn’t run away down hill.

The “Great Park” spread out before them – old stained post and rail fencing, long grass, the occasional tree dotted randomly. Zones of poor drainage where the marsh marigold was already showing saffron flower heads. He felt his heart quicken just slightly – he hadn’t done this sort of thing for years.

Mandy was here for the “rare mushroom” or that’s how he thought of it. Mandy had tried patiently to remind him that it was a fungus.

“Russula Pseudo-affinis” his ticket to pleasure land. This boring little brown-capped fungus had only been seen in one other place in the UK. Derek had found it surprisingly easy to convince her that he had seen some sprouting in the corner of the Great Park.

It’s amazing what a night spent with G.J Keizer’s “Encyclopaedia of Fungi” can result in.

A keen mycologist like Mandy Briggs couldn’t resist, he’d offered to drive, pretended he was as interested as she in the damn mushrooms.

Mandy – she was tall, bookish and appeared totally plain, no one ever saw Mandy in male company.

Derek knew something they didn’t. It was Mandy’s love of loose pullovers; they hid her body so well no one knew the joy beneath. That and that lengthy awful brown skirt, the one that was always heavily stained from studying the ink caps and wax caps on hands and knees.

Hands and knees, yes that’s how he’d seen her, examining a “White Spindle” fungus beside the car park; that over large pullover and the absence of underwear – a revelation.

He determined to introduce Mandy to the delights of male company as quickly as he could bring it about and he had no scruples about the use of subterfuge.

He steadied Mandy as she stepped over the style, gaining a glimpse of shapely calf as she did so, this was better and better.

Down the grassy slope, slipping and sliding in the dew-heavy grass his leather shoes unsuited to the terrain; the grass here a darker shade from the constant dampness. At the base of the slope a tiny copse, mainly ash and hawthorn but with the occasional oak tree.

He had planned for the “use of” a drier area beneath one stately member – it would be ideal for his carnal destiny – a blanket was too obvious for this “field trip”.

Braced against a tree with her back to him. This would be too easy.

She turned as he approached to point out a spiny coral fungus. The contour of that bum beneath the plain cotton so wonderful; he reached forward to run his fingers lightly down the obvious parting of those two cheeks.

The impact was sudden, violent. He couldn’t believe the pain. He’d thought it a lie – it surely couldn’t be this painful? He folded like an emptying balloon cradling his soreness..

I must confess I am a bit disappointed with this one. OK it is free but after the somewhat negative feedback I had over this passage. (In a class about ten years ago now). I was expecting that it would pick up more.

No doubt those people who are reading this will agree!

This is enough text on an editing tool for one visit so I will pick up this editing tool journey in part 2:

Author: Phil Maud

Keen on privacy and IT Security. A volunteer counsellor. I use blogging to improve my writing.

4 thoughts on “Using Online Tools to Improve Your Writing”

    1. Agreed, I’m leaving the post in its original scrappy state in the hope that one of these online editors will pick up all its faults. I’m hopeful stile instead of style for example is going to pop out of one of them. If not I think we have established one of the tool’s limitations

      Like

      1. I.e. that ‘style’ and ‘style’ are both correctly spelt but it doesn’t know which one is required here.

        Like

      2. Agreed, just the sort of thing you would want an editing tool to spot. Failing that the human element is a pre-requisite. I’m hopeful at least one of these tools will pick it up.

        Like

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