We all know how important editing is. And I’ve taken a look at a variety of editing software in my time. So I’m pretty excited to check out AutoCrit. It’s mostly focused on fiction editing, but the details you’ll get from evaluating your work are terrific for any genre.
In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever found a better tool for developmental editing.
What Is AutoCrit?
A developmental editor reads a manuscript thoroughly, taking an in-depth look at the structure, direction, and execution of the story. AutoCrit acts as an automated developmental editor, providing data about grammar, word choice, pacing, and much more. Unlike a true developmental editor, AutoCrit simply provides data. You’ll need to decide what to do with that information.
But as a supplement to a true editor, AutoCrit is pretty amazing.
There’s no shortage of writing, editing, and plotting tools you can choose from. Each of these tools looks for a unique way to set themselves apart, be it Grammarly offering a lightweight editor, to Plot Factory’s browser-based plotting and drafting tool.
That’s exactly what AutoCrit does too. Their platform offers developmental editing in a similar way to ProWritingAid’s pro plan does, with a couple of really important differences that set AutoCrit apart; the reporting options and the built-in editor.
Yeah, that’s right. AutoCrit brings two welcome features for authors.
To get started, you’ll create an account. Then you’ll upload your document or copy/paste it into their platform. They recommend no more than 10,000 words at a time. I assume this is to keep the editor running fast, but it also makes sense to break down your editing work into manageable chunks.
Once you’ve uploaded your words, you’ll have a variety of reports to select from:
Each report provides data about your story, but the best place to start will be the Summary Report.
I ran a short story of about 8,000 words into AutoCrit. If you want to download my summary report as an example, here it is:
Using AutoCrit: Data And Reporting
I love data. I spend far more time than is necessary (or probably healthy) staring at Google Analytics graphs.
For authors like me, data is incredibly helpful. And that’s where AutoCrit shines the brightest.
If you’re looking at my Summary Report, each area (when viewed in the AutoCrit dashboard) links to a specific report with more details. Here’s an example of the Complex Words report:
AutoCrit identifies words it deems ‘complex’ so I can evaluate whether or not to use them. In this example, some words like funeral or company are required to fit the context. But others, like relaxes in the last paragraph, might bear with some additional consideration. Maybe I could say calms or unwinds.
The point is that you have this information to help breakdown and revise your work.
Each report stands alone, highlighting specific errors or concerns. To me, this is the most interesting and useful part of AutoCrit’s reporting. I love being able to generate reports with such specific results.
Basically, I’ve never used a tool that offers such pointed, actionable data for your editing in such a clean, easy to digest format. And the Summary Report nicely weights each area of reporting so you can know exactly where to focus your editing efforts.
Using AutoCrit: Editor
Okay, so after extracting myself from the data-rabbit-hole I initially fell down, I was ready to actually improve my story. Here’s where those individual reports really make a difference.
I started with the Showing vs. Telling report. AutoCrit shows me the short story, with every word it counts as a showing vs. telling indicator highlighted. The sidebar gives a breakdown with suggestions:
I used the word “it’s” 44 times, while AutoCrit suggests just 5 times (based on my word count). I also used the word “it” 134 times when I shouldn’t have exceeded 99.
The word it alone isn’t the problem. I’ve neglected to be descriptive enough. I’m not providing enough context for my readers to see my story the way I see it. That is a huge problem.
For example, I have this sentence: “Mickey snubbed out the stolen cigarette we’d been sharing and stuffed it into his pocket.”
Maybe a small point, but it doesn’t do anything but fill here. An alternative would be to use a word associated with the cigarette to add definition. I could have written: “Mickey snubbed out the stolen cigarette we’d been sharing and stuffed the nub into his pocket.”
With that very small change, I’ve added a tiny bit more texture to the scene. And I can go through and do this 70 more times. That kind of minor change over and over results in a richer story.
Exporting The Corrected Manuscript
The live editor is cool and I like being able to update the sidebar to see how I’m improving my edit. But all this would be for nothing if I can’t export the updated manuscript.
Fortunately, AutoCrit offers plenty of options to extract your edited manuscript:
My one ask from AutoCrit would be to get a Google Doc export, since that’s the tool I primarily use for word processing. But DOCX, RTF, and TXT are perfectly acceptable options. Going to DOCX gives you a file you can easily share with other editors or readers. And TXT is great if you’re ready to start placing your text with InDesign or Affinity Publisher.
AutoCrit Subscriptions And Pricing
AutoCrit is a really nice tool for cleaning up your manuscript. But all that data doesn’t come for free. Some of it does, but not all of it.
At $300 a year, AutoCrit is a little expensive. For a novelist, you might only need to run one or two manuscripts through a year. But with a month-to-month plan, you could pay $30 for a month, do your editing, and hold off until your next round of edits to pay again.
My one complaint with AutoCrit’s plans is that the free plan is really more like a teaser or advertisement for their paid plans.
With a paid plan, you have access to thirty-three unique reports. The free plan offers seven. Maybe if the free version allowed a user to select which seven reports, I would be happy with it. But as it stands, the free version doesn’t offer a lot of useful data.
Alternatively, as much as I hate micro-transactions, I think AutoCrit could get away with it. If I could have a free plan with the basic seven reports and pay per report for the others, I would use this feature. In fact, it would probably result in me spending more per year than if I just signed up for a month or two to do my developmental editing.
The Final Verdict On AutoCrit
I loved the reports AutoCrit provides. Editing is smooth, I love that Grammarly’s Chrome extension works within the AutoCrit editor too. And I was happy with my exports (though I wouldn’t mind a Google Docs option).
Most telling, the short story I used was one I considered finished.
After a couple of hours working with AutoCrit, I was exceedingly happy with my new draft.
The only big complaint is the pricing structure. I feel like the free account just doesn’t offer enough to use it at all. So you have to plan on paying for at least a month ($30) to really get the most out of AutoCrit.
|Thorough reports||Free Access too limited|
|Easy to use editor||Spelling and Grammar check is poor|
|Genre specific suggestions|
I’d say, if you’re getting ready to send your work to a developmental editor, the $30 for a month of AutoCrit to clean up some of the easier issues is probably a great idea. You’ll make the editor’s job easier (possibly saving money) and you’ll get a fresh look at your manuscript.
If you’re comparing editing tools, I strongly recommend considering AutoCrit for developmental editing.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.
Thank you James – it is very reassuring to know that I am not alone!
I suppose that it is unsurprising given the USA domination of the Internet (and the Word economy) that there are more grammar and style advice websites based in the US than elsewhere. But I cannot quite understand why an authoritative source such as https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/ should have a smaller profile on this side of the Atlantic than the hugely light-weight (now there’s a thought – but I’ll leave it in!) and rather trivial “Grammarly” site. We need to get more agressive in protecting the subtlety of our language and do more to stop the destruction of meaning which has been happening particularly since half-way through the 20th century.
I suppose one reason is that in the UK many people who could do much to stop the damage still like to use those things on book shelves for reference (such as Fowler’s “Modern English Usage”), rather than use an online tool and take the trouble to shout about its inadequacies.
Hi Kenneth –
Your comment is great. Would you have any experience you can share about non-USA based systems? I write a great deal about travel and I definitely agree on US vs. non-US systems.
Personally, I have serious doubts about USA based systems for the analysis of writing content and style.
English is such a rich language, with a massive vocabulary, rich offerings of tenses, with close (but differentiated) synonyms which are ignored, corrupted and over-simplified in the American variant. In that variant, nouns become verbs, adjectives become adverbs and vice-versa, prepositions are incorrectly added and removed and linguistic tensions are added between clauses linked in inappropriate ways. And all that is without considering spelling and pronunciation!
The examples which you have quoted above leave so many instances of poor style, with linguistic and semantic corruption unmentioned, that it leaves little evidence that it would satisfy the educated intelligent author.