Saturday, March 29, 2014

**REVIEW** ProWritingAid (Writing Analysis Tool)

This is #1 of 2 posts I'm doing today because I found some software I wanted to mention. The first one is for writers of all kinds: technical, business, creative, students - whoever. It's called ProWritingAid. I tried it out all this morning, and here's my take on the pros and cons:


  • Analyzes writing from several different editing viewpoints - not just grammar and spelling. I counted 20 built-in reports, plus some customizable "house" reports.
  • Integrates into MS Word as an add-in.
  • Generates a report that can be viewed  alongside your Word document.
  • Has a 14-day trial download.
  • Has reasonable pricing for 1 to 3 year ranges. 
  • Can be used online(with limitations), without a download, for free.
  • It would clean that previous sentence of mine right up. This one too. Ha!
  • Giving feedback on the site is made easy.
  • Would be very useful for students, businesspeople, and technical writers.
  • I had trouble using the "Help" function.
  • I needed "Help" to understand some of the report information.
  • The add-in version requires an internet connection.
  • I had trouble trying to run a new report on a different document.
  • The lifetime pricing might seem reasonable, but what happens if the company goes obselete? (This happened with the original StoryBoard software creators.)
  • The more advanced functions are tricky to master.
  • Fiction/creative writers might get annoyed at some of the nit-picky rules.
  • One of the reports is based on some new-age-y stuff to do with NLP... ~shrug~
I left out this one nice (but slightly odd) Pro: being able to generate a "word cloud" from your document. This is mine from my (unfinished) manuscript

PRO! Will be doing lots of these.
Pretty cool, huh? You know that I'll be creating more of those whenever I have writer's block.

Overall, I think the Pros beat the Cons.

While I got very annoyed having to tell the software to ignore some words ("y'all" is a word, y'all!), I did find it helpful to know when I was over-using words or going heavy on the adverbs. I think this is probably the best (mostly free) tool I've seen for editing. 

One big caution to creative writers: don't get bogged down in all the various reports until you are finished with a rough draft. 

Forgive the cloddy writing in this post, I didn't run it through the software. Deal with it.


Just How Nosy *Are* You?

Yesterday, I went grocery shopping with my niece, "CC". I rode with her so that I could spend a little time with DJ. Of course, he completely ignored me because he was playing with his little Talk 'n Spell. Apparently a little book that lights up while talking to him in a creepy voice is way more interesting than I am. Whatever. (Later on, I bribed him with gummie candies and got a kiss.)

On the way home, turning off the main road and into my neighborhood, we saw a few cop cars in front of an apartment building. Now, my neighborhood is in a nice area but, we have a lot of strange residents. Most of my neighbors are more interesting-strange than dangerous-strange.

There's the one lady who walks her dogs all the way down the street away from her apartment building just to let them take a crap in front of our building. She never bags the mess. Of course, I have the crazy lady upstairs from me who's on the unofficial Neighborhood Poop Patrol. She watches out the window for offenders and will chase them down to scold them about their doggy dookie. (Generally, I think of her as crazy, but I'm glad for her N.P.P. diligence. I don't have a dog at the apartment and I hate dealing with other people's, well, crap.)

Then there's the couple in the building across the street from us. They fight like David and Goliath. I think the wife is Goliath. But that's only when they are mad at each other. When they are getting along, they really get along. I'm talking extreme public displays of affection. I wouldn't want small kids to witness the show they put on for all of us. And they really can put on a show. Right out in the open. I've had cigarette cravings after watching them "get along".

One old guy next door is, apparently, a careful drunk. Some Friday evenings, he drives off to a bar somewhere and stays most of the night. Really early the next morning, he comes walking (or trying to) back home, singing loudly. This happens about twice a month. He really likes Patsy Cline's "Crazy". It's kind of cute that no one yells out their window for him to shut up. One time, I heard someone hanging out a window singing along with the old guy.

Still, most of the people around here are harmless (though I do think there's some low-level drug-dealing going on by the teens just up the block). When we see cops in the neighborhood, we figure they've come to deal with something minor.

So, yesterday, we barely glanced at the cop cars. We were in the middle of discussing some juicy family gossip. (This particular niece of mine is the Rona Barrett of our family. Or in youth-speak: Perez Hilton. I call her our Conway Twitter.)

As CC is yakking away, and I hear her say "They have guns", my first thought was, "Why would R* and L* have guns?" (Remember, we were gossiping.) Then I thought of the cops we were passing and thought, "Well, yeah." Then I saw two of the cops standing next to an apartment building with their guns drawn.

A normal and sane person would speed up a little to get past any possible danger. Right?

CC is mostly sane, but she is nosy as hell. This heifer slowed down to a crawl and started rubbernecking. When I reminded her that we had DJ in the back seat (and me right up front), she did speed up.

Now, I am nosy. I'm so nosy I once fell into a room trying to eavesdrop on a conversation. But my niece is so nosy that when we got around the corner to my apartment, she wanted to leave DJ with me so she could walk back down the street and see what was going on with the cop situation. She is so nosy that she wants to get a police scanner app for her iPhone.

Well, I shamed her out of leaving DJ, then I reminded her that innocent people have been killed by stray bullets in dangerous situations. I told her to take the back way out of the neighborhood and tune into the news when she was safely home. I went inside and locked all my doors and windows.

Ten minutes later, CC called me. Four more cops had appeared on the scene (guns drawn), and they had started clearing the building. CC hadn't been able to get any more details because a policeman had waved her along when she drove past. (So much for taking the back way...)

As soon as I hung up with CC, I called my sister and told her that our niece is a crazy woman. "I'm not that nosy," I said. My sister reminded me of that time I was eavesdropping and fell into the room when someone opened the door. I reminded her of the time she'd got busted listening in on a phone conversation. (That time, Mom had put down the phone in one room and crept up on my sister listening on the extension in another room. I think my sister developed a heart murmur.)

Okay, so "nosy" runs in the family. I'm just not as nosy as my niece. I'm too chicken to be that nosy. Now, if we're talking eavesdropping, I'm your girl. Or, if I'm a safe distance away (or behind a barrier), I'll even watch something dangerous unfold - hell, I'll bring the refreshments. I'm just not the girl to hang out where stray bullets (or fists) my fly my way. I am thinking of looking for one of those scanner apps, though. Do they make one for Android?