I dread editing.
Editing isn’t my superpower; it is my writing weakness. It’s painful and tedious, but it can transform a bad or ok research paper into an excellent one. And while no online editing tool can replace a human’s eyes for mistakes, several free websites and tools make editing more straightforward (so, we spend less time proofreading until our life force drains out).
When I first started tutoring, I began looking for editing and revising resources for writers. I’ve expanded my list over the years, but last year I got an angry email.
It read, “I WANT A FREE PLAGIARISM CHECKER!”
Aside from the fact that writing an email in all capital letters was not polite, I was curious. The person who wrote it asked me about a blog post from 2 years ago. On my list of free editing tools was a plagiarism checker.
I clicked the link in my blog post and went back to the plagiarism checker, and now it wasn’t free. Now, that at least explained why the email was in capital letters. My list was outdated (which is a significant blogging no-no).
Oh no, I needed to fix that, so I did. Here’s my updated blog post with proofreading, revising, and reference checking online tools.
Top 9 Online Editing Tools for Academic Writing
This is my list of the top 9 free online editing resources that will immediately improve your academic writing. They are online editing tools I love. But, I’m not affiliated with any of the companies or people who created them. And for this post, I only used free accounts or free versions of these resources.
Online Editing Tools for Writing Style
#1 Grammarly Editor
Grammarly https://www.grammarly.com corrects contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style. You can use it in MS Word, Google Docs, and your desktop. It also tells you the text’s emotion (tone) and formality.
One of the things I love about Grammarly is that you can change your language preference, which is helpful when I’m working with someone who is writing in British, Canadian, or Australian English. Spelling and punctuation change depending on which form of English you use.
The premium account includes more awesome features like a plagiarism checker, suggestions for different phrases, and how to make your writing more concise.
You can see grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes in red (all part of the free account) in the picture below. The words highlighted in blue are writing style suggestions (this is a premium account feature).
Since I often write for work, whether tutoring, blogging, or writing fiction, GRAMMARLY PREMIUM IS A MUST-HAVE editing tool. If you can afford it, it will replace many other tools you need, plus the more you use it, the less often you’ll make writing errors.
#2 Hemingway Editor
Hemingway Editor https://hemingwayapp.com/ scores the readability of your writing. It shows the grade level a person needs to be at to read your essay. Also, it highlights the things in your writing that you can change to make your writing clearer.
All writing (even academic writing) should be clear and easy to understand. Just because you’re writing a college paper doesn’t mean only professors, teachers and scholars should be able to read it. See how Hemingway App works in my post: “Hemingway Editor: The Secret Online Editing Tool for Powerful Writing.”
The example below is a part of the first draft of a blog post I wrote. My readability score is on the right. My text is highlighted in different colors.
The elements that Hemingway Editor highlights are the things that determine your readability score. On the right side, you can see that each of these things is highlighted in different colors.
- Green—passive voice
- Purple—phrases with a simpler meeting
- Yellow (Peach)—sentences that are hard to read
- Red (Pink)—sentences that are very hard to read
Hemingway App marks these in your writing. Then you can edit your text there. If you like the free online tool you can also buy the desktop app. I have only used the free online tool, and I find it suits me fine. Hemingway Editor is a good place to start with revising your writing. But nothing can replace a person when it comes to revision. Don’t rely on Hemingway alone.
#3 Language Tool
While there are several free grammar checker alternatives to Grammarly, I am only adding one here: Language Tool https://languagetool.org/ because it checks texts in 20 languages. Like Grammarly, Language Tool points out grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. It lets you see any problems with redundant words, and it checks for consistency.
Language Tool is a good choice for any international writer whose native language differs from the language they are writing in because it lets you set the language of your text and your native language (this is labeled mother language). When you do, that Language Tool looks for words that are similar in both languages but mean different things.
You can see in the image below that unlike Grammarly; Language Tool detected my acronyms as misspellings. Language Tool’s reading capability isn’t as advanced as Grammarly’s.
But its language settings make this free editing tool unique.
#4 Cliché Finder
Cliché Finder https://www.clichefinder.net/ looks at your text and finds clichés. Clichés are common expressions that people overuse because they are a quick way to convey a concept or idea to another person. For example, Laughter is the best medicine.
The problem with clichés is when they appear in writing, they make your writing seem amateurish. A better way to write is to describe what you mean. Cliché Finder analyzes pieces of writing up to 10,000 characters(not words) and finds clichés, as well as pointing out alternative word choices. Here is the report for the first 3 paragraphs of my blog post, “15 Fabulous Gratitude Writing Prompts.”
Wordcounter https://wordcounter.net/examines the words in your paper and reports how frequently you use words. You’ll find out if you repeat certain words too many times in your writing. It helps you determine if you want to change them or remove them.
To use Wordcounter, copy your text and paste it in the text box, and then click go. Wordcounter analyzes your words and generates a report.
But, if you’re writing an academic paper with subject-area vocabulary, don’t try to change too many of those words. It’s vocabulary you need to use in your paper. Wordcounter is a good guide for you, but make your own judgments about when to change words.
Typely https://typely.com/ is a free editing tool designed to help you find mistakes with language use like redundant words, oxymorons, hedging words, apologizing, sounding pretensions, reducing jargon, and spelling errors. It also helps you see when something is illogical. However, they state on their website that Typely is not a grammar checker, “Typely does not do grammar checking because it’s hard and almost impossible to get right. The aim for Typely is to be precise and reliable.” Typely focuses on helping you improve the prose in your text. The image here shows you the results for the same blog post, “15 Fabulous Gratitude Writing Prompts.”
Another cool feature of Typely is its general settings. You can select other things you want Typely to check: mixed metaphors, readability, cursing, hyperbole, etc.
De-Jargonizer http://scienceandpublic.com/ helps academics make their writing easier to read. To use it, you either upload a text file or MS Word document and press start. Or you can copy the text and enter it in the box below.
After De–Jargonizer analyzes your text, you’ll see your results in a box on the right side. It measures the percentage of common, mid-frequency, and low-frequency words. If you look at the text, you’ll see the font is color-coded so you can figure out which words you should change.
- Black=Common Words
Also, in the box, you’ll see a score that represents the percentage of people who will understand your text. My blog post scored 95% of 100% meaning most people will comprehend it.
Online Tools For Reviewing Your References
#8 Citation Machine
Citation Machine https://www.citationmachine.net/ is a website where you can type in your source information and get the correct reference style for the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) formats.
There are two ways to get a source citation; the first is to select one of the buttons: Website, Book, or Journal and paste in the following information:
- For the website--type in the keywords or URL
- For the Book--type in the book title or ISBN
- For the Journal-type in the title or Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
The second way is to fill out an online form that requires additional information, such as author, publisher, publication date, and more. The manual citation will give you a more precise reference, so I recommend using it for your research paper. Citation machine lets you copy both in-text citations and a reference list. You can even save your list of sources, and create a reference list.
Here is the APA 7 reference information for one of my blog posts
The downside to Citation Machine is that you must watch an ad and click on it every 3 or 4 uses. If you want to avoid the ads and check your paper for plagiarism, you can upgrade to a paid account.
#9 Que Text
Plagiarism is one of the worst academic crimes a person can commit, and it can cost you a failing grade, a failed course, and even expulsion from a university. QueText https://www.quetext.com/ analyzes a piece of writing to spot plagiarism. QueText underlines pieces of plagiarized text and shows links to the original content.
I copied and pasted the draft of a blog post I published in the screenshot below. The underlined words show you what was plagiarized, and on the right side, you can see the source it came from (my website).
While it’s a great resource, I hesitate to put QueText on my list because the free account has a limit on searches, and it’s extremely limited: 5 searches and 2500 words total. However, I decided to include it because the Pro-Basic account is $69 per year, and it checks up to 200 pages per month. If you don’t have access to a plagiarism checker via your school or university, QueText’s Pro Basic account is a bargain for what it does.
Choose Your Favorite Online Editing Tools
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by these different choices for editing tools, so my advice is to choose 2-3 editing and revision tools. Look for the ones that help you the most, whether revising, grammar checking, or citations.
When I started, the 3 free online editing tools I used were the free account of Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, and Citation Machine. Grammarly is my favorite, so I upgraded to Grammarly Premium to get more writing style suggestions and plagiarism checks. I eliminated the need for other writing style tools and a plagiarism checker when I did that. It’s all a matter of choice, what aspects of editing do you need help with the most? Check out these free online editing tools, and find your perfect combination.
Do you want to see my favorite free online writing tools?
Check out my previous blog post, 11 Free Online Writing Tools and Resources You Will Love! If you like this post about free online editing tools, please share it and save it on Pinterest!