Content Analysis Tools

As mentioned previously, PG has spent some time examining content analysis tools available online. In some cases, they’re free and others require a subscription if you want to use them for longer pieces of content.

Here’s a sample text PG has chosen for analysis:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty dirty wet hole filled with the end of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means “comfort.”

The first tool is what the creator describes as a “Sentiment Analysis“. Here is the result of the analysis:

This document is: positive (+0.50)  Magnitude: 1.19

Subjectivity: subjective

negative neutral positive

. . . .

Detected ThemesMagnitudeSentiment Score
hobbit hole0.61+0.537
Core sentencesMagnitudeSentiment Score
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.0.380.156
Not a nasty dirty wet hole filled with the end of worms and an oozy smell nor yet a dry bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole and that means “comfort.0.81+0.441

Parts of the speech

it was a hobbit holeSubject: it
Action: was
Object: a hobbit hole (+0.537)

Auto categories [IAB QAG taxonomy]

CategoryScore
Pets/ Pet Supplies0.365
Home & Garden0.189
Sports0.116

No, PG does not understand exactly how the computerized analysis was conducted. He expects it might do better with a longer text.

Link to the rest at Text2Data.com

Next, you can make a Word Cloud to help you visualize the various words of the hobbit passage. The following is from Lexos:

And, also from Lexos, additional data about the language:

Documents Number of character n-grams occurring onceTotal number of character n-gramsVocabulary DensityDistinct number of character n-grams
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit112450.12731

And since content creation is never far from our minds (isn’t everybody a content creator these days?), there’s an online tool to allow you to get more mileage from your content.

Paraphrase-Online is that tool. You can take something you’ve already written on a topic, run it through the paraphrase generator and, voila, fresh content you can sell to someone else!

To refresh your recollection, here is the original language we’ve been working with:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty dirty wet hole filled with the end of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means “comfort.”

And here is your fresh hobbit content!

In a gap within the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a terrible grimy damp gap filled with the conclusion of worms and an slimy scent, nor however a dry, uncovered sandy gap with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole which implies “comfort.”

PG decided to try another text to paraphrase:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

And the paraphrase:

When within the Course of human occasions, it gets to be vital for one individuals to break down the political bands which have associated them with another, and to expect among the powers of the soil, the separate and break even with station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a not too bad regard to the opinions of mankind requires that they ought to pronounce the causes which induce them to the partition.

Since he was on a paraphrasing roll, he tried another:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

And another way of saying the same thing:

It could be a truth all around recognized, that a single man in ownership of a great fortune, must be in need of a spouse.

One last and longer opening paragraph:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

and the paraphrase:

It was the leading of times, it was the most noticeably awful of times, it was the age of shrewdness, it was the age of stupidity, it was the age of conviction, it was the age of distrust, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Haziness, it was the spring of trust, it was the winter of lose hope, we had everything some time recently us, we had nothing some time recently us, we were all going coordinate to Paradise, we were all going coordinate the other way — in short, the period was so distant just like the show period, that a few of its noisiest authorities demanded on its being gotten, for great or for fiendish, within the superlative degree of comparison as it were.

If you go to Paraphrase-Online.com, you may be able to reuse your own content.

Fear Thesaurus Entry: Agoraphobia

From Writers Helping Writers:

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life.

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

. . . .

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes people to be afraid of the places or situations that could bring on a panic attack. Their fear of being unable to get help or escape during one of these attacks can make it difficult for them to navigate open spaces, elevators, crowds, concerts, church services, movie theaters, or any place where a panic attack might come on. In extreme cases, a character suffering from agoraphobia may reach the point where they’re uncomfortable leaving their home at all.

What It Looks Like
Frequent panic attacks or elevated anxiety in certain places
Consistently avoiding certain locations or situations
Making choices that enable the character to stay at home (working from home, having groceries delivered, etc.)
The character often declining social invitations to certain places (amusements parks, church services, weddings, etc.)
Only venturing outside with a companion
Clinging to the friends or family members who are supportive
Becoming isolated

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting to not be limited by a fear but it being too strong to ignore
Knowing the fear is irrational but being being compelled to give in to it
Feeling guilty for making excuses about not being able to attend certain events
The character feeling like they can’t trust their own mind or emotions
Feeling defective or broken
Becoming depressed
Slipping into despair—believing that things will never change or get better
Wanting to seek help but feeling too overwhelmed or incapable
Feeling misunderstood and alone, as if the character is alone in their suffering
Worrying about what others think

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

One Plotting Tool for All

From Writers in the Storm

Whether you’ve just finished a project or you’ve just started writing, facing the blank screen (page) is daunting. It can make even the best ideas shrivel in your head and freeze your fingers. Some believe that story structure is essential for success and advise all writers must plan their story in advance. Others believe spontaneity is crucial to creativity and advise that everyone should pants their story. What is a writer, especially a new writer, to do? Consider that both are correct. Story structure is important and spontaneity can be a boon to creativity. Neither are the only right answer. There are tools that can help all writers regardless of their preferred story development method. One plotting tool for all is the story sentence.

Where Do You Start?

You stare at the screen and think that the great idea you had is really a cliché, or it’s too slight to be the epic novel you envisioned, or that the idea is only a two-step plot. Hold on. It’s not that bad. All you need is one sentence. But before we begin that, we need a common understanding of what plot means.

What is Plot?

To paraphrase and meld together definitions by Dwight V. Swain, Donald Maass, and Jessica Page Morrell: 

Plot is a series of scenes where something changes. Each change builds intensity and tension and increases your reader’s sense of foreboding until there is a devastating fear that your focal character may not attain her goal. When the intensity reaches its maximum, there is a release of tension in a satisfying manner. 

It’s a mouthful, but all of those things are part of the word plot represents. What changes, how things change, how intense or tension-filled your story is comes from the situation, genre, and tropes you select to build your plot. Overwhelmed yet? There are a lot of pieces to plot and it can be overwhelming. So let’s pare it down to a bite-sized chunk—the story sentence.

What is The Story Sentence?

It is not a tagline. A tagline is a tease. That’s not what we want right now.

The sentence is closer to a log line. But it’s not that either. It isn’t for marketing. It isn’t for your readers to understand. 

It’s a plotting tool, a sentence meant to help you focus your story. Maybe you’re like I was. You’ve heard writers are supposed to boil their story down to one sentence but you can’t figure out how to do it.

I did not get it until I took Holly Lisle’s “How to Revise A Novel” course. Simply put, she advised that the sentence included a protagonist, an antagonist, a conflict, and a hook. She recommended the sentence should be no more than thirty words in length. With her more detailed class instructions, I finally understood. Since then, I’ve studied how others use the story sentence and eventually made it my own. 

The Parts of the Sentence

I break down the sentence into parts–

An [adjective] [focal character] needs [to do something] for [an important personal reason] but [an adjective] [obstacle] needs [something] which [verb of conflict or stakes].

This is both easier and harder than it looks. Those of you who are grammar nerds may find my next statement objectionable. Don’t worry about grammar when you construct the story sentence. This isn’t about making a well-constructed sentence. It’s about getting the essence of your story down.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Can You Be Too Organized?

From Writer Unboxed:

To say that I am a pantser is not to say that I dislike organization, or that I don’t have an idea of where my story is going. I am a pantser in part because I have never found a tool that lets me effectively organize all the story elements—characters, locations, events, story arcs, and narrative scene sequence. In essence, I start writing by the seat of my pants when all my half-blown attempts at organizing the story fall short. Then I give up and just start getting the scenes down before they leave me.

I have tried many tools and strategies, including:

  • Excel spreadsheets – with separate worksheets for characters, scenes, timelines, and locations.
  • Post-it notes attached to large boards.
  • Scrivener’s corkboard and outline features.
  • Multiple ‘mindmap’ software programs (including Mindnode and Scapple).
  • A number of published guides and workbooks on how to organize a novel.
  • Various ‘timeline’ software programs.
  • A home grown Microsoft Access relational database.

Most of these tools tracked one or two narrative elements effectively, but then I had to track other elements using secondary organizational strategies. For example, a timeline app provided a clear temporal sequence, but tracking characters through the various events was difficult. When I decided to tell a story in non-chronological sequence, I was back to post-it notes in addition to the timeline app. Similarly, mindmap apps provided a good way to map scenes and relationships between them, but keeping the events in correct temporal sequence proved onerous.

. . . .

What am I trying to track that has defied all of these strategies? Basic story elements:

  • the chronological sequence of events (including backstory events)
  • relationships between events
  • relationships between characters
  • which characters are involved in specific events
  • locations of events and where the various characters are geographically during any specific event
  • narrative sequence (particularly if the story is not being told in chronological sequence).

These are narrative elements that all writers have to manage, but I never seemed to find a workable strategy until I heard about Aeon Timeline. This app, built for project management as well as writing projects, combines a timeline; a spreadsheet; a mindmap; a database of persons, places, and events; the relationships between them (who did what where); a subway diagram to visualize those relationships; and the ability to track themes and even story arcs. Each of the elements (persons, events, locations) can be color-coded. This is the first app that meets the majority of my organizational requirements within the same package. The feature that really won me over was ‘narrative view,’ which provides the ability to drag timeline events into a non-linear narrative scene sequence that can be viewed either as an outline or a series of ‘cards’.

As an added bonus, once everything is all neat and tidily organized, Aeon Timeline can sync with Scrivener or Ulysses to create a scene ‘list’ ready for you to fill in the story. For writers who don’t mind working on-line and can handle a complex application, Aeon Timeline provides a powerful tool.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

I Wrote Over 52,000 Words Last Month Thanks to an AI Writing Assistant

From Medium:

If you had asked me a couple of months ago, I would have told you I was already a pretty prolific writer. I felt I’d gotten pretty good at pumping out content for my multiple blogs and freelance clients considering I also worked a nine-to-five job. During a good month, I could write roughly 10–12 articles amounting to around 18,000–24,000 words.

Respectable enough, right?

But when it comes to writing for money, you always wish you could write faster. Because the adage, “time is money,” is never more true than it is for the freelancer or blogger; the faster you can create quality content, the more often you get paid.

Then, a little more than a month ago, one of the blogging Facebook groups I’m in had everyone talking about a tool called Jarvis AI.

Once I got past my confusion that they were not talking about Tony Stark’s digital personal assistant but a writing tool created by Conversion AI, I started researching what Jarvis could do. It wasn’t long before I decided to subscribe and test him out for myself.

And I was blown away.

In September, I wrote 31 articles for clients and 22 posts between all my blogs, totaling over 52,000 words for the month — more than double my usual output!

. . . .

What Jarvis Is, and How He Works

Jarvis is an AI writing assistant (an important distinction I will go into later on). He is designed to help businesses, content creators, and marketers write quickly and effectively using AI technology.

Jarvis has read about 10% of the internet, giving him an immeasurably vast database of information to pull from. But it’s important to understand he’s not “scraping the internet” when he generates words for you.

Instead, he looks at the context of what has been written so far to predict the next word in a sentence. His algorithm creates a shortlist of words most likely to come next and chooses one.

He is very good at identifying patterns in your writing and will continue in the tone of voice and style you have started. For example, if you create a bullet point list, he will continue making bullet points.

Since he’s generating words and not “scraping” them from anywhere, you won’t run into issues with plagiarism. I run every article through my Grammarly Pro’s plagiarism filter, and I never run into any problems.

Working with Jarvis

Jarvis is a fantastic tool, but he’s just that — a tool; he’s only as useful as his handler makes him. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand what he is and how he’s best utilized.

First and foremost, he is a writing assistant, which means that while he can help you write an article, your participation requires more than simply clicking the “Compose” button a few times while sipping your coffee.

Jarvis is also not an editor, researcher, or fact-checker.

. . . .

The best way to use Jarvis — at least for long-form content — is to write the article together. He needs you to step in and guide him by providing context, so he knows what you’re trying to do.

I usually start with a few bullet points covering the main talking points I want to cover and a working title.

From there, what ends up happening is a “back and forth” collaboration where he brings me his ideas, and I build off of them.

I usually have a rough draft in as little as 10–15 minutes. And while I still end up writing most of the article, Jarvis has eliminated all traces of writer’s block and gives me something solid to work with right from the get-go.

It’s like if a blank doc is a round lump of clay, then Jarvis is a sculptor that molds the clay into the approximate form you’re looking to create. From there, you — the master artist — refines its design and make it a masterpiece.

. . . .

Content Improver

If you have a paragraph that seems a little bland, you can paste it in here and let Jarvis come up with a more engaging iteration.

Explain It to a Child

If you write many technical articles and are trying to make them easier to read for the layman, this function is phenomenal at simplifying sentences with a lot of jargon.

Sentence Expander

Similar to the Content Improver, this feature makes short ideas longer and more interesting.

Link to the rest at Medium

The Sites I Recommend the Most to Writers

From Writers Helping Writers:

So, three things about me:

  1. I like to help (really, I’m a bit psycho about it – be warned)
  2. I like to build unique storytelling tools
  3. I like to share great resource finds with other writers

Online, I try to match people with the information they need. Sometimes people reach out through email or a Facebook page to see if I can help them solve a problem they’re having. Many writers tend to have similar struggles, and so I often end up recommending the same tools or sites again and again. I thought it might be fun to round up the resources I recommend the most.

#1: The Critique Circle

A lot of writers reach out because they’ve 1) written a book and need guidance on the next steps, 2) they’ve become frustrated because they can’t seem to sell their book and need to know if there’s something wrong with it, or 3), they need an editor for a manuscript. While it sounds like these writers may need different things, likely they don’t. All three could benefit from the same thing – unbiased feedback.

Critique Circle is an online community where you can submit your work for critique and offer feedback to others in turn. You’ll get a variety of critiques (six, ten, maybe more) from writers at different levels. Having six sets of eyes (or more) on your work means collectively you’ll get some good guidance on what to fix, and multiple critiques can help with spotting patterns. If several folks are all pointing out the same or similar issues, you know there’s a problem to fix.

You might be wondering why I would send someone who is submitting to agents and publishers to a critique group and not an editor, right? Well, it’s simple: many writers submit before they’re ready. (I sure did, back in the day.) And taking your book to an editor right off the bat is going to cost money, whereas the Critique Circle is free (they do have a paid plan, too). Starting with a free option is a good first step.

So, unless a person tells me they’ve extensively workshopped a book and have already used critique groups, I recommend starting at Critique Circle, even if a person just needs an unbiased opinion on whether a book is ready for submitting. Once the writer has learned what they can at the critique level, they can decide if they need to move to an editor, or focus on their query letter & targeting to achieve a better response rate.

#2: ProWritingAid

Another handy-dandy tool I suggest to writers all the time as they polish and tighten is ProWritingAid. It’s a brilliant tool with a free and paid version (and the cost is reasonable and offers great value). As I mentioned above, hiring a freelance editor can be costly, so the stronger you make your writing before seeking one out, the better. And if you are querying, or sending a synopsis and sample pages, you don’t want typos, grammar or weak writing to distract an agent or editor from your brilliant story premise.

. . . .

#4: Buffer

Ah, marketing, the necessary evil. We can write a book, and publish it, but if we don’t market it, chances are, no one will find it. So, we need to proactively think about our audience and how to reach them. I know you’re worried about coming across as car salesman-y, but here’s a secret – marketing isn’t about selling books. It’s about having a focus, being authentic, and building relationships. (You can read more about my FAR Marketing Method here.),

If we want to find our reading audience across the entire world, we should get online and embrace social media to some degree. Don’t worry, we don’t need to do it all, but we should do some, focusing on platforms where our ideal audience hangs out.

A big problem with social media is that it can steal a lot of time, so using tools in the right way can help us be more efficient. A tool I couldn’t live without is Buffer. It allows me to schedule content on all my social platforms, so I’m always sharing helpful articles and occasional items to help people discover how I can help them. Scheduling this content means I get time back to use my social media time to hang out and chit-chat on feeds and DMs, as being social is what it’s really about.

#5: Trello

Between writing, publishing, marketing, and running a business, well, writers juggle A LOT. Lists can be our friend, but having a way to visualize our action items and track important spreadsheets, links and sites in one place is really helpful. Becca and I use Trello, which allows us to create boards, lists, and cards for everything we do from our publication process for each book, to marketing objectives and goals, to brainstorming ideas for blog posts, books, and new tools for One Stop for Writers. Cards can be dragged from one column to the next, reordered, labelled, etc. It’s a brilliant way to map out a to-do list or process, or even brainstorm ideas for a new book. Did I mention Trello has a generous free version? 

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

PG used Buffer a long time ago and can’t remember why he stopped, so he’s going to try it again. The idea is that you can spend a single creative session putting together posts for Instagram, etc., etc., then schedule them over a period of time so new bits of marketing stuff is showing up on various people’s feeds throughout the day.

Absent scheduling, if you put everything up at 10:00 AM your time, then you’ll miss the people who check their feeds at breakfast and those who check them on the bus trip home and those who check them when the kids are finally in bed. The feeds on the big social media sites can move at warp speed. Yes, people can follow you, if they remember to do so, but showing up on feeds because you’ve scheduled them on a spread-out basis several times a day means you’re hitting more people than you are if all your tweets, posts, etc., show up at 9:00 pm every day. Oh, and don’t forget time-zones.

There are several tools/services in the OP that PG hasn’t tried, so he’s happy to have those visitors who have tried them to share their likes/dislikes, etc.

One additional point – PG has been on social media for long enough to have seen particular tools that start out very nicely end up being annoying because the venture capitalist that’s funding the company says they need to sell ads everywhere or something like that. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for articles that tell you who’s up and who’s down.

Hint: AOL Chat Rooms are no longer a thing.

56 Words That Are Actually Portmanteaus

From The Grammarly Blog:

You might not be familiar with the term portmanteau, but you likely use portmanteaus in your vocabulary and writing more than you realize.

Portmanteau meaning

A  portmanteau (pronounced port-MAN-toe) is a word made by blending at least two words. The new word combines both the sounds and meanings of the originals.

To form a portmanteau, usually the first segment of one word is attached to the final segment of another word. Some portmanteau words are blended in other ways, like combining the initial segments of both words.

Why is it called a portmanteau?

Author Lewis Carroll describes the idea of portmanteaus in his book Through the Looking-Glass:

“Well, ‘SLITHY’ means ‘lithe and slimy.’ ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’ You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

The word portmanteau itself is an appropriate embodiment of this word form, since portmanteau, which is French for porte (“to carry”) + manteau (“cloak”), describes a suitcase that opens in two halves. Portmanteaus “carry” both meanings of their word pairs.

Link to the rest at The Grammarly Blog

ProWritingAid VS Grammarly: Which Grammar Checker is Better in (2022) ?

From CrunchHype:

ProWritingAid VS Grammarly:  When it comes to English grammar, there are two Big Players that everyone knows of: the Grammarly and ProWritingAid. but you are wondering which one to choose so here we write a detail article which will help you to choose the best one for you so Let’s start

What is Grammarly?

Grammarly is a tool that checks for grammatical errors, spelling, and punctuation.it gives you comprehensive feedback on your writing. You can use this tool to proofread and edit articles, blog posts, emails, etc.

Grammarly also detects all types of mistakes, including sentence structure issues and misused words. It also gives you suggestions on style changes, punctuation, spelling, and grammar all are in real-time. The free version covers the basics like identifying grammar and spelling mistakes

The Premium version offers a lot more functionality, it detects plagiarism in your content, suggests word choice, or adds fluency to it.

Features of Grammarly

  • Spelling and Word Suggestion: Grammarly detects basic to advance grammatical errors and also help you why this is an error and suggest to you how you can improve it
  • Create a Personal Dictionary: The Grammarly app allows you to add words to your personal dictionary so that the same mistake isn’t highlighted every time you run Grammarly.
  • Different English Style: Check to spell for American, British, Canadian, and Australian English.
  • Plagiarism: This feature helps you detect if a text has been plagiarized by comparing it with over eight billion web pages.
  • Wordiness: This tool will help you check your writing for long and hard-to-read sentences. It also shows you how to shorten sentences so that they are more concise.
  • Passive Voice: The program also notifies users when passive voice is used too frequently in a document.
  • Punctuations: This feature flags all incorrect and missing punctuation.
  • Repetition: The tool provides recommendations for replacing the repeated word.
  • Proposition: Grammarly identifies misplaced and confused prepositions.
  • Plugins: It offers Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, and Google Chrome plugins.

What is ProWritingAid?

ProWritingAid is a style and grammar checker for content creators and writers. It helps to optimize word choice, punctuation errors, and common grammar mistakes, providing detailed reports to help you improve your writing. 

ProWritingAid can be used as an add-on to WordPress, Gmail, and Google Docs. The software also offers helpful articles, videos, quizzes, and explanations to help improve your writing.

Features of ProWriting Aid

Here are some key features of ProWriting Aid:

  • Grammar checker and spell checker: This tool helps you to find all grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Find repeated words:  The tool also allows you to search for repeated words and phrases in your content.
  • Context-sensitive style suggestions:  You can find the exact style of writing you intend and suggest if it flows well in your writing.
  • Check the readability of your content: Pro Writing Aid helps you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your article by pointing out difficult sentences and paragraphs.
  • Sentence Length: It also indicates the length of your sentences.
  • Check Grammatical error: It also checks your work for any grammatical errors or typos, as well.
  • Overused words: As a writer, you might find yourself using the same word repeatedly. ProWritingAid’s overused words checker helps you avoid this lazy writing mistake.
  • Consistency: Check your work for inconsistent usage of open and closed quotation marks.
  • Echoes: Check your writing for uniformly repetitive words and phrases.

Difference between Grammarly and Pro-Writing Aid

Grammarly and ProWritingAid are well-known grammar-checking software. However, if you’re like most people who can’t decide which to use, here are some different points that may be helpful in your decision.

Grammarly vs ProWritingAid

  • Grammarly is a writing enhancement tool that offers suggestions for grammar, vocabulary, and syntax whereas ProWritingAid offers world-class grammar and style checking, as well as advanced reports to help you strengthen your writing.
  • Grammarly provides Android and IOS apps whereas ProWritingAid doesn’t have a mobile or IOS app.
  • Grammarly offers important suggestions about mistakes you’ve made whereas ProWritingAid  shows more suggestions than Grammarly but all recommendations are not accurate
  • Grammarly has a more friendly UI/UX whereas the ProWritingAid interface is not friendly as Grammarly.
  • Grammarly is an accurate grammar checker for non-fiction writing whereas ProWritingAid is an accurate grammar checker for fiction writers.
  • Grammarly finds grammar and punctuation mistakes, whereas ProWritingAid identifies run-on sentences and fragments.
  • Grammarly provides 24/7 support via submitting a ticket and sending emails. ProWritingAid’s support team is available via email, though the response time is approximately 48 hours.
  • Grammarly offers many features in its free plan, whereas ProWritingAid offers some basic features in the free plan.
  • Grammarly does not offer much feedback on big picture writing; ProWritingAid offers complete feedback on big picture writing.
  • Grammarly is a better option for accuracy, whereas ProWritingAid is better for handling fragmented sentences and dialogue. It can be quite useful for fiction writers.

ProWritingAid VS Grammarly: Pricing Difference

  • ProWritingAid comes with three pricing structures. The full-year cost of ProWritingAid is $79, while its lifetime plans cost $339. You also can opt for a monthly plan of $20.
  • Grammarly offers a Premium subscription for $30/month for a monthly plan  $20/month for quarterly and $12/month for an annual subscription.
  • The Business plan costs $12.50 per month for each member of your company.

ProWritingAid vs Grammarly – Pros and Cons

Grammarly Pros

  • It allows you to fix common mistakes like grammar and spelling.
  • Offers most features in the free plan
  • Allows you to edit a document without affecting the formatting.
  • Active and passive voice checker
  • Personal dictionary 
  • Plagiarism checker (paid version)
  • Proofread your writing and correct all punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors.
  • Allows you to make changes to a document without altering its formatting.
  • Helps users improve vocabulary
  • User-friendly interface
  • Browser extensions and MS word add-ons
  • Available on all major devices and platforms
  • Grammarly will also offer suggestions to improve your style.
  • Enhance the readability of your sentence
  • Free mobile apps 
  • Offers  free version

Grammarly Cons

  • Supports only English 
  • Customer support only via email
  • Limits to 150,000 words
  • Subscription plans can be a bit pricey 
  • Plagiarism checker is only available in a premium plan
  • Doesn’t offer a free trial
  • No refund policy
  • The free version is ideal for basic spelling and grammatical mistakes, but it does not correct advanced writing issues.
  • Some features are not available for Mac.

ProwritingAid Pros

  • It offers more than 20 different reports to help you improve your writing.
  • Less expensive than other grammar checkers.
  • This tool helps you strengthen your writing style as it offers big-picture feedback.
  • ProWritingAid has a life plan with no further payments required.
  • Compatible with Google Docs!
  • Prowritingaid works on both Windows and Mac.
  • They offer more integrations than most tools.

ProWritingAid Cons

  • Editing can be a little more time-consuming when you add larger passages of text.
  • ProWritingAid currently offers no mobile app for Android or iOS devices.
  • Plagiarism checker is only available in premium plans.
  • All recommendations are not accurate

Link to the rest at CrunchHype

Anyword – AI Copywriter

PG previously wrote a post about Rytr, an artificially intelligent copy creation program.

This post will be about Anyword, which styles itself as a program/service that offers “Data-driven copywriting for anyone.”

With Anyword, PG decided to try a different experimental approach than he did with Rytr.

He took the first three paragraphs from a site called Billy Penn that provides local news about Philadelphia. From the general style of the Billy Penn site, PG concluded that its writers had meaningful experience in writing short news stories (more detail about Billy Penn taken from the web site appears below).

PG took the same three Billy Penn paragraphs as a seed and ran them through Anyword. Anyword’s design made it easy to convert each of the three paragraphs into an Anyword generated ai paragraph covering the same topic.

If you don’t like the first paragraph Anyword produces, you can tell it to run the original text through its system a second time for a different version of the original. For his experiment, PG gave Anyword two tries at each of the three Billy Penn paragraphs and includes the one he liked the best below.

Anyword also offers to create a title and PG used that capability to create a title for the three Anyword paragraphs.

First, a bit more detail about Billy Penn:

About Billy Penn

Billy Penn at WHYY is a local news team that informs and entertains people living in Philadelphia, the greatest city in the world.

Our reader-powered nonprofit newsroom covers everything Philly, from breaking news to urban life to food and fun. Through original reporting, curation and (virtual) events, we help our community learn from and connect with one another. We are a proud partner in Resolve Philly’s Broke in Philly reporting collaborative.

Instead of your standard news site, we’re more like a friend who happens to be really knowledgeable about the city. Founded in 2014 as a startup, in 2019 we joined WHYY, the region’s NPR and PBS public media affiliate.

Time for the comparison.

Original First Three Paragraphs from BillyPen

The finale is near for longtime Center City staple Joseph Fox Bookshop, which is set to close at the end of January. Its shutdown aligns with a trend affecting many downtown retailers, but there’s a bright counterpoint: the recent rise of independent bookstores in Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Founder Joseph Fox started selling out of the basement at 1724 Sansom St. in 1951, and the store remained at the address for nearly three-quarters of a century.

Specializing in books on architecture, along with literary fiction and nonfiction, art, poetry, and music, the shop is now run by Michael Fox, who took over after his father’s death in 1998. Also known for its children’s collection and considerable attention to small press and international works, Joseph Fox’s curtain call spread rapidly on social media, leading to laments from patrons and supporters.

Anyword AI Generated Headline and First Three Paragraphs

Headline – Joseph Fox Bookshop’s Last Stand

The Joseph Fox Bookshop, Center City’s oldest bookstore and the namesake of its eponymous owner, will be closing its doors at the end of January after nearly 80 years in business. The store’s closure comes as the latest in a string of department stores, clothing retailers, and other long-running downtown Philadelphia businesses to shutter in recent years.

Joseph Fox traces its roots to 1935, when it was founded by Robert L. Brenner as a downtown Philadelphia bookstore. (The business was named after author Joseph Conrad.) In 1976, Ken Wells took over and expanded JoeFox’s footprint in what was then known as Rittenhouse Square; he and wife Susan purchased ownership in 1993. The current store at 18th and Sansom streets has been open since 2001, but Wells plans to close it for good after Jan. 30 to focus on running his publishing company.

The number of independent bookstores in Philadelphia is once again on the rise, if only slightly. Earlier in 2017, Inkwell Books reopened its doors on South Street and The Ripped Bodice joined East Passyunk Avenue’s thriving retail scene. Before them, greats like Atomic Books were well-known fixtures on Philly’s literary scene for more than a decade; recently-closed Joe’s Book Shop served as a community center for Old City residents for more than 30 years. Independent bookstores have been instrumental in shaping Philadelphia neighborhoods—locally owned retailers that aren’t just businesses but local meeting places where relationships are formed and ideas are shared.

One of the things PG noted about the paragraphs Anyword generated is that the program pulled extra information about the topic, presumably from the web. and incorporated that information in its output. Anyword is a web-based app PG accessed through his browser so it lives online.

Anyword also allows the user to create a short, medium-length or long paragraph. In each of the three instances shown above, PG chose a long paragraph to see how Anyword would add to the original seed paragraph.

PG admits to being impressed with the Anyword results.

PG also admits to thinking a bit about the fact that he started the process with material that was subject to Billy Penn copyrights.

He believes that the substantial differences between the original Billy Penn copy and the Anyword results clearly make the Anyword output at least a derivative work, if not an equivalent to a human copyrighter writing about the same subject, but expressing her/his thoughts in a different manner for which the second copyrighter, using Anyword or a more mundane word processor, would have her/his own copyright. (PG is happy to hear alternative opinions in the comments to this post.)

As far as the plagiarism detection software used by some universities and colleges at least in the United States, PG has substantial doubts that either the software or a human reader would be able to detect the content of each of the seed paragraphs after the ai program was finished with them.

PG will be interested in comments from the visitors to TPV.

PG was able to do all this work under the “Start for Free” option on the Anyword website, so visitors to TPV should be able to perform their own experiments should they desire to do so.

I Wrote a Book with GPT-3 AI in 24 Hours — And Got It Published

From Medium:

In early 2021 I signed up for the GPT-3 beta program to see how good it is. A few days later I had co-authored Aum Golly — a book of AI poems on humanity. A few months later it was published. This is what it means for writers and publishers.

On January 30, 2021, I realized I was the weak link.

I had been working with GPT-3, the autoregressive language model from OpenAI for 2 hours. I was tired. My creative juices were running low. We had maybe 5 poems ready — out of the 60 or so poems we needed for the book.

I stared at the blinking cursor. GPT-3 was patiently waiting for my input.

To finish the project in the 24 hours I had given myself, I realized I had to change the way I wrote. I had to lean more into GPT-3. Let it do the heavy lifting.

Let go of my ego.

And that’s when things started to get a lot easier.

. . . .

AI for writers: the hype and the reality

Every hype cycle someone says: “This time it’s different.”

Aum Golly, co-authored by GPT-3 and myself, was published in Finland in April 2021. GPT-3 came up with the themes, the title, and the 55 poems themselves.

Having seen what GPT-3, the latest in generative language models, can do, I too am inclined to say: “This time it’s different.”

GPT-3 has been hailed as the newest generation of language models capable of generating text that you can’t tell from something written by a human. For the first 5 minutes of using GPT-3 I was hyped: it really was eerily good, most of the outputs really could have been written by a human.

But what struck me most was how versatile GPT-3 was: it could summarize text, come up with title variants, write introductory paragraphs based on a title… and it could write poetry.

Link to the rest at Medium

The Emotion Thesaurus

From Wordnerdopolis:

A writer’s ultimate goal is to connect.

… with the reader
… with a topic
… with a place, era or event.
Many writers accomplish this goal of connecting, through the lives of their characters. The words on the page are ink made flesh and suddenly, through the characters’ actions, quirks, mannerisms, dreams, appearances and dialogue readers can connect. As the writers of this book state in the introduction: “We read to connect with characters who provide entertainment and whole trials may add meaning to our own life journeys.” But creating this connection is no easy feat.

The single best took I have found to help me in this endeavor is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, created by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, the two brainiacs behind the website Writers Helping Writers. This book (as well as the others in the series) have been my number one recommended writing book for the past five years. I bring them to every writing retreat and my students can tell you they show up in class at least once a semester.

Here’s how they work. The thesaurus lists an emotion and then lays out several ways a writer could clearly convey this emotion to their reader. In the original edition of the book, this meant listing physical manifestations of the emotion, internal sensations, mental responses, acute or long-term responses to the emotion, escalations of the emotion, signs the emotion is being suppressed in your character and finally a writer’s tip on how to best put this information to work in your writing. It’s pretty dang amazing.

. . . .

The thought that these authors would go back and improve a prior publication [by writing a second edition]… even though it was selling well enough on its own… even though they undoubtedly had other projects on their list… even though it was already fantastic, fills me with ADMIRATION for them. Knowing what I know now, I’ve often thought about doing this for one of my early books. I think, “I could make that so much better NOW”. But I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I admire these ladies for digging deep, for pushing themselves, for following through and for presenting an even more thorough resource.

. . . .

I adore the practical approach this book takes to the complex art of clearly conveying emotion. The introduction claims the book is a “how to cocktail” of writing emotion. I can tell you, proven by the magnets on my fridge, that anyone who can use a cocktail metaphor in their writing, has won my ADORATION for life.

. . . .

The 2nd Edition of the Emotional Thesaurus includes power verbs. For example, the emotion EAGERNESS lists these words.

Excerpt from, The Emotional Thesaurus, 2nd Edition
Excerpt from, The Emotional Thesaurus, 2nd Edition

. . . .

My absolute favorite parts of the Emotion Thesaurus are the Writer’s Tips. At last, the secrets are revealed! At the end of each emotion entry, the authors spell out how exactly you can put these characteristics and traits into action. No smoke and mirrors behind the writing craft techniques here. The transparency will leave you feeling EUPHORIC, at least, that was the result for me.

Link to the rest at Wordnerdopolis

Mrs. PG recently discovered this after receiving a recommendation from one of the PG offspring who just finished the first draft of her first book. PG has looked through parts of it. It seems like quite a nice reference work for authors.

Ginger VS Grammarly: Which Grammar Checker is Better in (2022) ?

From TechCrunch:

Ginger VS Grammarly: When it comes to grammar checkers, Ginger and Grammarly are two of the most popular choices on the market. This article aims to highlight the specifics of each one so that you can make a more informed decision about the one you’ll use.

What is Grammarly?

If you are a writer, you must have heard of  Grammarly before. Grammarly has over 10M users across the globe, it’s probably the most popular AI writing enhancement tool, without a doubt. That’s why there’s a high chance that you already know about Grammarly.

But today we are going to do a comparison between Ginger and Grammarly, So let’s define Grammarly here. Like Ginger, Grammarly is an AI writing assistant that checks for grammatical errors, spellings, and punctuation. The free version covers the basics like identifying grammar and spelling mistakes

While the Premium version offers a lot more functionality, it detects plagiarism in your content, suggests word choice, or adds fluency to it.

. . . .

What is Ginger

 Ginger is a writing enhancement tool that not only catches typos and grammatical mistakes but also suggests content improvements. As you type, it picks up on errors then shows you what’s wrong, and suggests a fix. It also provides you with synonyms and definitions of words and allows you to translate your text into dozens of languages.

Ginger Software: Features & Benefits

  • Ginger’s software helps you identify and correct common grammatical mistakes, such as consecutive nouns, or contextual spelling correction.
  • The sentence rephrasing feature can help you convey your meaning perfectly.
  • Ginger acts like a personal coach that helps you practice certain exercises based on your mistakes.
  • The dictionary feature helps users understand the meanings of words.

In addition, the program provides a text reader, so you can gauge your writing’s conversational tone

Ginger vs Grammarly

Grammarly and Ginger are two popular grammar checker software brands that help you to become a better writer. But if you’re undecided about which software to use, consider these differences:

  • Grammarly only supports the English language while Ginger supports 40+ languages.
  • Grammarly offers a wordiness feature while Ginger lacks a Wordiness feature.
  • Grammarly shows an accuracy score while Ginger lacks an accuracy score feature.
  • Grammarly has a plagiarism checker while ginger doesn’t have such a feature.
  • Grammarly can recognize an incorrect use of numbers while Ginger can’t recognize an incorrect use of numbers.
  • Grammarly and Ginger both have mobile apps.
  • Ginger and Grammarly offer monthly, quarterly, and annual plans.
  • Grammarly allows you to check uploaded documents. while Ginger doesn’t check uploaded documents.
  • Grammarly Offers a tone suggestion feature while Ginger doesn’t offer a tone suggestion feature.
  • Ginger helps to translate documents into 40+ languages while Grammarly doesn’t have a translation feature.
  • Ginger Offers text to speech features while Grammarly doesn’t have such features.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

While many visitors to TPV are familiar with Grammarly, PG would appreciate comments from Ginger users about what’s particularly helpful to their writing.

Essential computer skills for writers

From Nathan Bransford:

In the past, nothing has quite brought out the snide emails and comments like suggesting that writers should do more than just write. (Remember when I said it’s helpful to be able to type fast? I sure do!). There’s a certain slice of writer who bristles at any suggestion that their beautiful art won’t carry the day on its own.

Look. If you want to just write, just write! You have no argument from me. It’s a wonderful and meaningful way to spend your time.

If you want to seek publication, on the other hand, it’s not enough to just write, and despite whatever gauzy nostalgia you’ve been bathing in, it’s never been enough to just write. Sorry. I don’t make the rules now, and I didn’t make them in the olden days either. As long as publishing has been a business (as in roughly 100% of the time), there have been business realities for authors too.

What I’m going to cover here isn’t that hard. You don’t need to be a TikTok star selling NFTs in the metaverse. Sure, you might need to learn a few skills or shake up some old habits, but what I’m talking about here isn’t going to upend your life.

. . . .

If you’re pursuing traditional publication, publishers want to know that you’re going to be a professional author who will do everything you can to help promote your book. If you are self-publishing, you have to find a way to give your book a boost to reach your first readers.

And these days: that means being at least somewhat online and being able to communicate in a way that’s conducive to being productive and part of a bigger team.

The pandemic has only accelerated pre-existing trends that were pushing us online. Publishing employees are now physically scattered and have finally ditched old school habits like sending out paper contracts and manuscripts.

. . . .

Understand email etiquette

Let’s start with your email address. It should be professional and shouldn’t be an address you share with your spouse. Whatever email program you use to send and receive emails shouldn’t make your missives look like gobbledygook to people who use more common email services like Gmail and Outlook.

Gmail is free and easy to use. So is Outlook. It’s (usually) not hard to move over your old emails so you keep receiving them at your new, more professional email address. You’re really not stuck forever with whatever email service you signed up for in 1998.

But apart from your email address, I also think it’s really important to understand email thread etiquette. You should not be in the habit of changing subject lines and sending emails to publishing professionals without the previous correspondence, particularly when it’s an ongoing conversation about a specific topic. You should try to get a sense of email tone, particularly when it comes to things like all caps, and make sure you’re not inadvertently coming across like you’re screaming at someone.

Be conversant in Microsoft Word

For better or worse, Microsoft Word is still the default game in town for sending and receiving word processing files. If you’re sending your manuscript to a publishing professional, chances are they’re going to want your file in a Microsoft Word (.docx) file. Not a PDF.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use Microsoft Word on a day-to-day basis. Other word processing programs like Apple Pages or Google Docs and fancy writing apps like Scrivener will export to .docx files. (I use Apple Pages as my day to day word processing program and export to Word).

Familiarize yourself with industry standard formatting, and utilize functions like page breaks. If you’re working with an editor, chances are they’re going to send your manuscript marked up with line edits and margin notes, so you’ll need to learn how to engage with these too.

Out of all the hoops you’re going to have to jump through in a publishing journey, formatting is one of the easiest. It pays to be professional here.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

As many visitors to The Passive Voice know, these and the other items mentioned in the OP have been standard for online business communications since The Stone Age, aka DOS.

It certainly is a cultural and class thing, but if you’re going to deal with traditional publishing and its various elements, you need to talk the talk, etc.

The same thing goes if you’re going to self-publish your book. Spell check, Grammar check, ideally one or more beta readers who will pick up your dumb mistakes, etc.

95% of the work you do to get a book ready for submission to a publisher is exactly what you do for self-publishing. If you doubt your own skills for proofing, grammar checking, formatting, etc., you can pay someone to perform these tasks, but, it’s still a good idea to know something about how to do it yourself.

If you’re intelligent enough to write a decent book, you’re intelligent enough to do what is necessary to self-publish that book.

Here, Here! vs. Hear, Hear!

From The Grammarly Blog:

If you want to voice your agreement with someone during a debate (especially if you’re a member of the UK Parliament), you will shout “hear, hear.” But as long as you’re shouting, no one will notice you’re wrong if you shout “here, here” because the words are pronounced the same.

The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of parliamentarism. The current incarnation of the country’s Parliament, the Parliament of the United Kingdom, has a history that can be traced through its predecessors, the Parliament of Great Britain and the Parliament of England, all the way to the early thirteenth century. As is often the case with places and institutions that have a long tradition, we can find relics of the past that persist in modern times. For instance, MPs are still offered snuff before they enter the Chamber. There is still some use of Norman French in the legislative process. And MPs still shout “hear, hear” when they agree with something one of them has said.

Link to the rest at The Grammarly Blog

The Easy-ish Way to Create Believable, Unforgettable Fictional Worlds

From Writer Unboxed:

Worldbuilding gets a bad rap sometimes. If you ask certain people, worldbuilding is either for nerds looking for almanacs, not fiction, or it’s a useless distinction that should be an intrinsic part of writing.

But there are plenty of writers who recognize the essential nature of worldbuilding separate from the act of storytelling—for science fiction and fantasy, sure, but also for all genres. And there are a ton of amazing, detailed guides to creating worlds. But years ago, when I was first looking to build out the world I had created for my first foray into fantasy writing, I looked up resources for worldbuilding and quickly got bogged down in the sheer number of details these guides wanted me to know.

These guides offer hundreds of questions about the world you’re creating, insinuating that answering each one will lead to developing a believable, original world. I found weeks-long online courses dedicated solely to building a world from scratch.

I like to call these types of resources sandboxes. They give you lots of blank space to play around. “Where are the mountain ranges in your world?” they ask. “What military tactics does each nation in your world use?”

These are good questions, depending on the type of story you’re writing. Sandboxes are fun places for free play and for letting the mind run wild.

But once I had determined the election procedures of a specific political party in my book, which was decidedly not about election procedures or political parties, I was left no closer to a better story. I wondered: “…Now what? What does this have to do with my story?”

This is how I came to begin thinking about story-first worldbuilding.

Story-first worldbuilding falls somewhere on the worldbuilding opinion spectrum between “almanac” and “intrinsic” by exploring the details of the world around the story you want to tell. You don’t need to know where every mountain range is in your world unless your characters intend to cross them. What follows are a set of exercises that are geared mainly toward writers of fantasy who are creating secondary worlds, but hopefully applicable to all writers. The goal of these exercises to help you build a believable world that will add depth and color to the story you want to tell—without making you spend hours writing out the dominant flora on a continent your story will never visit.

How to Build a World Around the Story You Want to Tell

To complete the following exercises, I will assume that you have at least a smidgen of a story idea in mind. It’s okay if it’s not a fully fleshed-out plot yet. I will also assume that, since you have a story idea, you also have a vague impression of the world in which it’s set. It’s okay if most of the world is a blurry mess at this point.

This section contains a couple of exercises to get your mind thinking about how your world interacts with your story. The exercises are intended to be done in order, but this isn’t school. Do what’s most helpful to you.

Exercise #1: Write down everything you already know about your story’s world.

Set a timer for five, 10, or 30 minutes—however much time you think you need—and write out everything you already know about the world in which your story takes place, stream-of-consciousness style. Focus on the parts of your story you’ve either written or can picture clearly in your head. For example, if you know a critical scene in the climax involves an escape from a desert prison, write, “There’s a prison in the desert.” Do not consult Wikipedia’s list of desert flora and fauna. Even if you list things that are contradictory or illogical, write them all down anyway. Give yourself permission to let your mind run free. Important: This is not the time to make up new things about your world. If new ideas come to mind as you’re writing, don’t stop to examine them—just write them down and keep going.

When your time is up, read back over what you wrote. What are the things that are intrinsic or critical to your story and/or characters?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

How to Write Faster

From the Grammarly Blog:

In a perfect world, deadlines wouldn’t be a thing. You’d have unlimited time to complete everything you need to write, like essays, reports, reading responses, and even the kinds of writing you do for fun, like blog posts and short stories.

Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world. But we do live in a world where you can learn how to write faster. Writing quickly is a skill that’s helped thousands of writers, especially writers with time-sensitive assignments like interviewers and journalists, meet their deadlines without breaking a sweat.

. . . .

Learning how to write faster is easy. To help you streamline your writing time, we’ve gathered a few helpful writing tips that will have you hitting deadlines in no time. 

Streamline the writing process

You’re most likely familiar with the writing process. It’s the six steps just about every piece of writing goes through to develop from an idea to a published piece. Working through these steps means doing a thorough job of brainstorming, outlining, writing, editing, and perfecting your work . . . but it can be a slow process. When you’re crunched for time, you simply don’t have the luxury of working through the unabridged writing process.

In a pinch, you can streamline it. One way to streamline the writing process is to combine steps one and two and outline your work as you brainstorm it. This might mean a less coherent outline, but that’s fine—you’ll smooth it out when you write. 

After getting an outline on the page, get right to writing. We’ll later on cover strategies that can help this step go faster. During the writing stage, the goal is to start getting words down. Don’t worry about irrelevant, superfluous, or awkward words winding up in your text—you’ll fix these up when you edit your work.  

Speaking of editing, you’ll also need to cut out an important step in the writing process: editing your work with fresh eyes. Ideally, you’d wait about a day after writing to edit your work so you can catch mistakes more easily. But with a limited amount of time, you’ll need to dive right into editing after you’re finished writing. Depending on how pressed for time you are, you might also have to combine the last two steps in the writing process, editing and proofreading. 

Type faster

It might sound like a sarcastic tip at first, but we mean it sincerely: Train yourself to type faster. You can do this by playing typing games and doing typing exercises that build muscle memory in your fingers. If you look at the keyboard when you’re typing, it’s time to learn how to type without doing that. Similarly, if you’re using the “hunt and peck” method or otherwise using any fewer than all ten of your fingers, it’s time to become a stronger, faster typist. 

Websites like typingtest.com can tell you how accurately you’re typing and how many words you can type per minute as well as providing typing lessons and exercises. The average person types about 40 words per minute, with 65 to 70 being the general target for “fast typing.” Typing 90 to 100 words per minute is considered to be very fast typing, with some of the fastest typists achieving more than 120 words per minute. When you can type faster, you can literally write faster. 

Write what you already have in mind

You might have no idea how to start your essay, but know exactly how you want to support your argument. Skip right to your body paragraphs. 

There’s no rule that says you have to write your piece in order of first to final paragraph. Write in the order that makes it easiest for you to start writing and maintain momentum, which often means jumping right to the parts that you’ve already worked out in your head. 

Writing the parts that you already know you want to say achieves two things:

  • It gets text onto the page: For you, seeing text on the page can be hugely motivating—it’s a lot easier to keep writing when you already have a foundation to build on, rather than starting with a blank screen.
  • It can help you determine what to say in sections you haven’t written: If you’re struggling with an intro paragraph, writing your supporting paragraphs can give you the phrasing and organization you need to introduce them in your opening section. Similarly, if you’re having a difficult time with certain body paragraphs, but you’ve written at least one, determine how that paragraph you’ve written fits into a broader piece. What does it follow? What follows it? Think of the piece you’re writing as a jigsaw puzzle and the sections you’ve written as puzzle corners you’ve completed. Which shapes fit into that partially completed puzzle? 

Link to the rest at the Grammarly Blog

Computer Programs for Authors

Late yesterday, PG took a dip into the world of software created for the purpose of helping authors do their work.

He claims no expertise or knowledge of any of these programs, although he tried out Scrivener on an experimental basis several years ago.

To the best of PG’s knowledge, most authors use plain vanilla word processing programs for their writing. In the US, for all intents and purposes, that means Microsoft Word.

(Let the more mature among us pause for a moment of silence in remembrance of WordPerfect – The real WordPerfect, not the sad and hollow shell of its former self still sold by Corel.)

After his quick scamper through cyberspace, PG found the following story creation programs, listed in no particular order.

Scrivener

Dabble

Plottr

SmartEdit

Quoll Writer

Campfire Blaze

PG would be interested in comments by anyone who has used one or more of these programs and suggestions of others that PG has missed. PG did not include the several software programs that are focused on the particular needs of scriptwriters.

One of the inherent problems with creating software for authors to write stories and books is that (1) the market for such software is not particularly large and (2) virtually everyone in the target market is already quite familiar with word processing software, namely (today) MS Word or Word for Mac.

PG hasn’t forgotten Pages from Apple but is under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that most authors with Macs use Word.

Feel free to share thoughts, experiences, ideas, additional programs, etc.

An Ode to Sticky Notes

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

Occasionally someone in one of the various on-line writing groups in which I hang out will ask how people organize their research. It usually generates a discussion of digital versus paper filing systems.  And I occasionally weigh in with my own multi-layered, always evolving system of computer files, notebooks, 3 x 5 cards, and the glory of the project box (courtesy of Twyla Tharp).  Within that system, one thing stays constant:  sticky-notes.

I literally don’t remember what it is like to do historical research without sticky-notes.  3M marketed the first Post-It notes the year I wrote my master’s paper and I embraced them with enthusiasm. Over the years, they’ve become one of the pillars on which my research process rests.

When sticky-notes first came out, they were expensive for someone on a graduate student budget, so I used them sparingly.  I cut them in two.  I reused them until the sticky strips grew fuzzy and refused to stick any more. I reverted to using scraps of paper as bookmarks.  (Because real bookmarks were also a luxury on a graduate student budget.)

Now I use sticky-notes with abandon.  I even stopped trying to re-use them about a year ago.  (I finally realized the aggravation of losing information I had marked when they fell out a book outweighed the virtuous glow of reducing paper usage one small square at a time.)

At the moment I have a large (and growing) pile of books on the floor near my desk, stuffed with more-or-less color-coded sticky-notes and tabs.  The tabs mark sections I want to capture for the books.  The regular sticky-notes allow me to annotate a page in a library book with an idea or response to the author.  (Because while I happily underline and scribble in the margins of books I own, I do not write in library books.  I am not a barbarian.)  

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

PG admits to being a heavy-duty sticky notes user from very shortly after the beginning of the Post-It Note in 1980.

Can technology help authors write a book?

From the BBC:

Celebrated American author Mark Twain was very dismissive of people who think it is possible for someone to learn how to write a novel.

“A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel,” he said. “He has no clear idea of his story. In fact, he has no story.”

British writer Stephen Fry puts it another way. He says that successful authors are those who know just how difficult it is to write a book.

Every year around the world a whopping 2.2 million books are published, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), which monitors the number. The figure includes both fiction and non-fiction titles.

For most of these authors the writing process is relatively unchanged since Twain’s heyday in the late 19th Century. Plot outlines and ideas are written down to be deciphered, developed and refined over time.

These days, however, technology is increasingly making the life of an author a little easier.

For Michael Green, a US data scientist turned novelist, the need to use technology to simplify and streamline the writing process came when he was in the middle of writing his first book.

With 500 pages of a complex story written, he recalls that the process had become difficult to manage: “In the midst of editing, I got to the point where I started feeling like I had a lot of plots and characters.”

“I had all these documents on the deeper aspects of the world I was creating. I was worried about being able to keep track of it all. That’s when I switched into my more data science-minded approach to solving a complex problem with a lot of different pieces.”

The end result was that Mr Green created Lynit, a digital platform that helps authors visualise, plan and weave together the various elements – such as characters, plot arcs, themes and key events – that form a story.

The app is now in its beta stage, and is being tested by a number of writers. Currently free to use, users can draw and update intricate digital templates or story maps.

. . . .

Mr Green says that many novelists begin their work with little more than a general idea of a plot or a particular character. With Lynit he says that the process of adding to this initial idea is simplified.

“As the author gets a new idea that they want to bring into the story, they are able to input it into a natural framework. They’re building a visualization.

“Piece by piece, they’re adding to the story. As new ideas come in, they change, maybe by creating new nodes [or interactions], new relationships.”

Link to the rest at the BBC

A New Brain Implant Translates Thoughts of Writing Into Text

From Wired:

ELON MUSK’S NEURALINK has been making waves on the technology side of neural implants, but it hasn’t yet shown how we might actually use implants. For now, demonstrating the promise of implants remains in the hands of the academic community.

This week, that community provided a rather impressive example of the promise of neural implants. Using an implant, a paralyzed individual managed to type out roughly 90 characters per minute simply by imagining that he was writing those characters out by hand.

Previous attempts at providing typing capabilities to paralyzed people via implants have involved giving subjects a virtual keyboard and letting them maneuver a cursor with their mind. The process is effective but slow, and it requires the user’s full attention, as the subject has to track the progress of the cursor and determine when to perform the equivalent of a key press. It also requires the user to spend the time to learn how to control the system.

But there are other possible routes to getting characters out of the brain and onto the page. Somewhere in our writing thought process, we form the intention of using a specific character, and using an implant to track this intention could potentially work. Unfortunately, the process is not especially well understood.

Downstream of that intention, a decision is transmitted to the motor cortex, where it’s translated into actions. Again, there’s an intent stage, where the motor cortex determines it will form the letter (by typing or writing, for example), which is then translated into the specific muscle motions required to perform the action. These processes are much better understood, and they’re what the research team targeted for their new work.

Specifically, the researchers placed two implants in the premotor cortex of a paralyzed person. This area is thought to be involved in forming the intentions to perform movements. Catching these intentions is much more likely to produce a clear signal than catching the movements themselves, which are likely to be complex (any movement involves multiple muscles) and depend on context (where your hand is relative to the page you’re writing on, etc.).

With the implants in the right place, the researchers asked the participant to imagine writing letters on a page and recorded the neural activity as he did so.

Altogether, there were roughly 200 electrodes in the participant’s premotor cortex. Not all of them were informative for letter-writing. But for those that were, the authors performed a principal component analysis, which identified the features of the neural recordings that differed the most when various letters were imagined. Converting these recordings into a two-dimensional plot, it was obvious that the activity seen when writing a single character always clustered together. And physically similar characters—p and b, for example, or h, n, and r—formed clusters near each other.

(The researchers also asked the participant to do punctuation marks such as a comma and question mark and used a > to indicate a space and a tilde for a period.)

Overall, the researchers found they could decipher the appropriate character with an accuracy of a bit over 94 percent, but the system required a relatively slow analysis after the neural data was recorded. To get things working in real time, the researchers trained a recurrent neural network to estimate the probability of a signal corresponding to each letter.

Despite working with a relatively small amount of data (only 242 sentences’ worth of characters), the system worked remarkably well. The lag between the thought and a character appearing on screen was about half a second, and the participant was able to produce about 90 characters per minute, easily topping the previous record for implant-driven typing, which was about 25 characters per minute. The raw error rate was about 5 percent, and applying a system like a typing autocorrect could drop the error rate down to 1 percent.

Link to the rest at Wired

PG didn’t notice any mention of a Grammarly implant in the OP, however.

Top Two Anathemas

From Daily Writing Tips:

On National Grammar Day, the AP Stylebook editors tweeted a question for their readers:

What grammar rule do you find yourself getting wrong no matter how many times you look it up? Tell us your grammar kryptonite.

The feed I saw had 72 Quote Tweets. If “Quote Tweets” means “responses,” then I read them all. I did not take the time to count the repetitions, but I did note some clear winners. I’d say that the top two were these:

affect vs effect
lay/lie and all their tenses

It’s not as if the people who responded to the AP quiz haven’t been trying. They have looked up these bêtes noires numerous times in the AP Stylebook. The bitter truth remains that for some of us, some points of grammar and usage just won’t stick in our brains. Lack of grammar instruction in the early grades accounts for some persistent errors, but not all. Sometimes our brains are just blind to the reasoning behind the rule.

In this post, I’ll address the top two “kryptonite” examples given in the Twitter thread.

affect and effect
Although spelled differently, these two sound identical in speech, so it’s not surprising that speakers stumble when putting them into written form. It doesn’t help that effect functions as both noun and verb. As for affect, its most common use is an action verb, but psychologists sometimes use affect as a noun. Here are examples of correct usage of affect and effect:

We hope that the pandemic will not permanently affect social interaction. (verb)

What is the effect of gamma rays on Man-in-the-Moon marigolds? (noun)

The new law will effect a much needed change in wetland protections. (verb)

Often, the patient’s affect changes with his environment. (noun, in the sense of “feeling, emotion, mood”)

TIP: When used as a noun, effect will usually have an article in front of it: the effectan effectthe uncertainty effectto have an effect, etc. A clue to the use of effect and affect as verbs is the presence of a helping verb in front of them: will effectmay affect.

lay and lie
Sorting out the usage of this family of verbs requires a mastery of the concept of transitive and intransitive verbs. I don’t think that young people are being taught this concept anymore. Plus, so many speakers and writers now use the words interchangeably—even in professional contexts— I believe that attempting to maintain the distinction is a lost cause. While writing this post, I glanced at a news item in the Daily Mail, in which I read that a person shot a man and “then approached him while he was still laying on the ground.” I’ve seen lay used for lie in The New York Times and in The Washington Post. It’s a dead horse, folks.

Nevertheless, I’ll provide examples of preferred usage.

The verb lay, meaning, “to place” or “to put”
The verb forms are lay, laid, have laid, laying

Lay the book on the table. (Lay is transitive here. Its object is “the book.”)

My father is laying tile in the basement. (Laying is the present participle of lay. The object is “tile.”)

I think I laid my keys on the kitchen counter. (Laid is the past of lay. The object is “my keys.”

TIP: When the verb lay (to put or to place) is used correctly, it will be followed by a word that answers “what?” Lay what? “the book.” Is laying what? “the tile.” Laid what? “my keys.”

The verb lie, meaning, “to recline”
This verb is intransitive. It does not take an object. There is no word that answers “what?” after it.
The forms are lie/lies, lay, have lain, lying

He lies in bed until noon. (Third person present singular)

lie in bed until seven. (First person present singular)

The man was lying in the parking lot. (Lying is the present participle of to lie (to recline))

The dog lay in the shade. (Lay is the past tense of to lie (to recline).

We have lain on the beach since dawn. (Lain is the past participle of to lie (to recline)

TIP: I can’t think of a universally helpful tip for this one. The problem is that both verbs, the one for “to place” and the one for “to recline” share a form spelled lay. The speaker who is unable to remember the difference between present tense lay—place or put—and past tense lay—reclined—will continue to use them incorrectly. The best tip I can think of requires a person to understand the concept of verbs that have objects. Lay in the sense of “to put” needs an object and lie in the sense of “to recline” does not.

Link to the rest at Daily Writing Tips