10 Free Editing Tools Every Writer Needs to Sharpen their Skills

If you’re a self-published author, chances are you can’t afford to hire a team to edit your book (let alone your website, blog, emails, social media posts, etc.)

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The role to make sure your novel is perfect falls on your pen — or, more realistically, your keyboard.

It’s important to make sure your writing is succinct and mistake-free. You’re an author — everything you write either proves your authority in your craft or, if riddled with errors, hurts your credibility.

Free online editing tools that can help guide and improve your writing are a huge help for self-published writers trying to cast their book out into the world while on a budget. Below are a list of free online editing tools that every self-published author needs to know.

1. Hemingway app

The Hemingway app is an advanced editing tool that goes beyond identifying misspellings and grammar errors. As you type in the online tool, it’ll highlight areas that need improvement, color-coded to indicate what the problem is:

  • Lengthy sentences to shorten for clarity
  • Dense or long-winded sentences that are difficult to follow
  • Phrases that have simpler alternatives
  • Adverbs and weakening phrases
  • Passive voice

The Hemingway app can help you identify writing behaviors and weaknesses that may be holding you back from writing clearly.

Plus, if you’re writing for the web, Hemingway will help guide you to make sure you’re hitting the right keyword density.

The Hemingway app is free, but a downloadable version for desktops (which you can use without Wi-Fi or using data) has just been released for $19.99.

2. Grammarly

Grammarly is a free editing tool that utilizes advanced grammar-checking algorithms to check your writing across many digital platforms, not just your story-writing program.

This app catches spelling and grammar errors on Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn — virtually all the digital platforms you want to use to market yourself and your book your book.

With over 250 advanced grammar rules, Grammarly identifies points of subject-verb disagreement, incorrect article use and modifier misplacement.

The vocabulary enhancement function even offers synonyms to help optimize clarity and breathe life into stale sentences.

3. 750 Words

The only way to become a writer is to practice writing — and the more you write, the better you’ll get.

750 Words is a free writing tool that pushes you to stay involved in your writing practice with a daily goal of writing 750 words a day.

750 isn’t just an online blank page — it offers unique statistics that analyze the feelings, themes and mindset of your words each day. As a private forum, no one else has to see your work if you don’t want them to.

Since you probably always have a phone or laptop nearby, you can use 750 words to jot down any idea that pops in your head at any time, without having to worry about finding a pen and notebook.

4. Power Thesaurus

Just like the name implies, Power Thesaurus is a new twist on the old thesaurus sitting on your shelf (not that there’s anything wrong with that trusty friend!)

This app’s synonyms are curated via user crowdsourcing, meaning synonyms are suggested and rated by visitors and regulated by a team of editors.

The unique interactive curation process behind Power Thesaurus can freshen up your diction in a way that a static physical thesaurus or even thesaurus.com can’t. Language in the digital world is highly changeable and user-driven, so it makes sense for self-published writers to use a thesaurus that’s in step with current trends.

5. Cliche Finder

Most of the time, cliches are the bane of quality writing. But sometimes a purposeful cliche can be used in a humorous or self-aware way. If you’re in the market for a creative cliche, Cliche Finder is the perfect free online tool for you.

Enter any word you want, and you’ll receive a lengthy list of cliches that contain that word. They’ve got more than 3,300 indexed cliches; don’t be surprised if you stumble across a few you’ve never heard of before. You won’t be stuck using cliche cliches ever again!

6. ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid is another powerful free online editing tool that can wipe out grammatical errors and enhance the clarity of your writing.

Using a mix of elements from the Hemingway app and Grammarly, ProWritingAid sniffs out repetitiveness, vague wording, excessive adverbs, passive voice and wordy sentences. ProWritingAid alo offers grammatical insights and tips so you can learn the logic behind the program’s edits, and use that information to further elevate your writing.

The free service only edits 500 words at a time, and it’s only available online. If you want unlimited words, you’ll have to pay for the premium service, starting at $40/year. But it includes integrations for Word, Google Docs, Chrome, and Scrivener, along with plagiarism-checking options — it’s worth the investment.

7. After the Deadline

After the Deadline is a free editing plugin that you can add to your various online applications and programs, like web browsers or content management systems. After the Deadline can be used to check contextual grammar, spelling and style on the following platforms:

  • Self-hosted WordPress blogs
  • bbPress forums
  • As an add-on for Firefox
  • As an extension for Google Chrome
  • As a bookmarklet for other browsers
  • As an extension for OpenOffice.org Writer
  • As a plugin option for the IntenseDebate comment system

Though it’s not compatible with Microsoft Word, After the Deadline can be used for personal and commercial digital content editing.

8. OneLook Reverse Dictionary

Ever had a word on the tip of your tongue that you just can’t seem to articulate? OneLook Reverse Dictionary will articulate for you.

Search a concept, related word or phrase, or definition to find the exact word that you can’t find on your own.

You’ll also find some synonyms and related concepts, in addition to being able to answer basic identifying questions such as “What is the tallest mountain in the world?”

9. EditMinion

Copy and paste a paragraph into EditMinion, a quirky free online editor, and receive a report about grammatical and structural considerations in your writing.

From identifying frequently occurring or weak words to charting average sentence length and pointing out sentences that end with a proposition (that’s not really so bad, is it?), editMinion helps you analyze your writing style and find common errors and areas for improvement.

10. Idiom Dictionary

The English language adores idioms, which is why there are probably more than a handful that you may have never heard before or may not readily understand.

From not pulling any punches to letting sleeping dogs lie, the Idiom Dictionary allows you to deepen your understanding and usage of common (and less common) British, American and Australian English idioms.

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

Flight cover

After a disappointing proof of my labor-intensive and much loved manuscript from another printer, I decided to try Steuben Press. Based on recommendations from many of my publishing team who are all members of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), I submitted my book to Adam and his staff.

Their proof was perfect! The illustrations were crisp, the print clear, and the construction high quality. But the cover! Absolutely beautiful and softly glossed, Steuben's production added depth to the colors and popped the fine design by my cover artist. My book shimmers on the shelf!

Now I sell only Steuben's copies by hand and feel confident that my readers are receiving the best product reflecting my years of effort and passion for my subject.

– Sunny Weber, Denver, CO