5 Best Free Content Editing and Proofreading Tools for 2021

Jonatan Parski CEO

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editing and proofreading

If you write content for your business, you know it’s crucial to avoid errors. Customers judge companies and bloggers based on the correctness of their published texts. One slight mistake in an online advertisement can significantly reduce conversions. That’s why editing and proofreading is a vital part of the content creation process.

Spelling and grammar have always been critical gauges during the hiring process, too. If your resume contains mistakes, you likely won’t get that dream job for which you’re applying. Similarly, producing error-free content improves your reputation within the company for which you work.

If you’re a content manager, you likely have a proofreader on staff who can catch most spelling and grammar errors before publishing. Perhaps they even have excellent editing skills and can suggest improvements that make you a better writer. However, not all teams have a dedicated editor or proofreader available.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • Whether editing and proofreading are the same service.
  • Which service you require.
  • Top free editing and proofreading tools you can start using today.
  • The pros and cons of the free content editing tools.

If you don’t have the privilege of having an editor on staff, you’ll need to depend on proofreading tools to give your business the edge online. Even if you have this internal support, regular use of free content editing tools will make that person’s job much more manageable.

Are Editing and Proofreading the Same Thing?

These two terms represent similar concepts and many people even use them interchangeably. However, they aren’t the same service.

Proofreading refers to finding and correcting errors in punctuation and grammar. Editing is a more complex process. It involves additional changes to grammar, content, and the article structure to create a detailed, accurate document.

An article can be grammatically correct but still be hard to read and understand. Editing addresses issues like word choice, sentence length, audience, and tone to ensure your writing conveys the message you desire.

Both proofreading and editing are essential to producing high-quality publications. The five tools described below can help you check your writing for free.

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid offers a complete editing and proofreading solution free of charge. Its suggestions go beyond spelling and grammar to include far more complex recommendations.

Screenshot of ProWritingAid free content editing tool website
Source: ProWritingAid Website

Features

To use this tool, you first need to create a free account. Then, you can start exploring its capabilities. When you test ProWritingAid, you’ll find a broad selection of reports available. It starts with a summary of the writing quality, leading into an analysis of the following areas individually:

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Style
  • Sentence length
  • Readability
  • Passive voice
  • Overused words
  • Repetition
  • Transitions
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Clichés and redundancies
  • Vague and abstract words
  • Alliteration
  • Homonyms
  • Pronouns
  • Adverbs
  • Pacing
  • Sensory words
  • Dialogue

As you use this tool, you’ll find explanations for why it suggests a different word. The tool doesn’t just suggest changes, but helps you understand why each suggestion occurs. ProWritingAid also offers videos and quizzes. Essentially, the platform helps writers and editors learn ways to improve their existing skills.

This program provides extensions for multiple browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. It integrates with:

  • Word
  • Outlook
  • Google Docs
  • Open Office
  • Scrivener
  • Final Draft
  • Facebook
  • Gmail
  • Medium
  • Wattpad

As far as free content editing tools go, ProWritingAid should definitely be one of your first choices. Unfortunately, one of the biggest limitations is on the number of words you can review. 

The free version allows you to perform detailed checks on only 500 words of text at a time. If you subscribe to the premium plan, there are no word limits, and you receive access to the desktop app. The paid plan also allows you to set up a style guide specific to your business. It’s ideal if you have a particular brand style and tone and the software will learn how to provide recommendations based on your specific needs.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Opportunities to improve your writing skills.
  • Free version with extensive features.
  • Plugin available to check your writing as you go.

Cons:

  • The free online version checks only 500 words at a time if you paste them into the box on the site.
  • With so much information available, it can seem overwhelming at first.
  • The service often misidentifies sentences as fragments.

Grammarly

If you search online for the best free content editing tools, you’ll find Grammarly is at the top of many lists. It truly is one of the most complete proofreading programs you’ll find online. However, many of its features are not available to users of the free version.

Features

Grammarly requires users to create a login. Alternatively, you can also use your Facebook, Google, or Apple account to access the service. Before beginning, you can also set the audience, formality, domain, tone, and intent for your writing. In this way, Grammarly evaluates the text according to the information you input.

A great feature is the ability to set your language style preferences. For example, you can opt to edit your document in line with American, British, Canadian, or Australian spelling practices. It’s particularly useful if you’re targeting a specific audience.

Additionally, the software allows you to refine your content’s readability depending on the capabilities of your audience. You can choose from three options for the audience: general, knowledgeable, or expert. It defaults to the second option.

Screenshot of Grammarly content editing tool in action
Source: Grammarly editing tool

Other options include setting the domain and tone of your content. For example, the domain for your writing can be:

  • Academic
  • Business
  • Casual
  • Creative
  • Email
  • General

If your audience responds to a certain tone, or if you need your content to match your brand’s voice, you can further refine Grammarly’s suggestions by choosing:

  • Analytical
  • Confident
  • Friendly
  • Joyful
  • Neutral
  • Optimistic
  • Respectful
  • Urgent

You can also select the formality of your text. If you’re targeting a young, vibrant, and edgy audience in their mid-twenties, you don’t want your content style evaluated for a professional executive. Finally, choose whether you intend to convince, describe, inform, or tell a story.

While the multitude of options may seem overwhelming, it’s an excellent way to ensure that your content is consistent and that it resonates with your brand and audience.

The free version is quite robust and can verify correctness and clarity through the following checks:

  • Spelling and punctuation.
  • Grammar, including word order.
  • Conciseness.

It also gives you access statistics on the text, such as:

  • Number of words and characters.
  • Number of sentences.
  • Average word and sentence length.
  • Readability score.
  • Time necessary to read silently or aloud.
  • Uniqueness of vocabulary choice as compared to other Grammarly users.

We tested a sample text from a blog, pasting it into the free online interface. Grammarly found one error, a letter missing from a word. After correcting it, the tool showed there were ten additional suggestions for premium members, including:

  • Word choice.
  • Punctuation in compound/complex sentences.
  • Misplaced words or phrases.
  • Formatting issues.
  • Wordy sentences.
  • Capitalization.

The paid version offers many additional features, such as word variety and avoidance of overused terms. It addresses delivery, including confidence, politeness, and formality. It’s an extremely robust tool that’s used by many professional agencies and businesses to enhance the quality of their content.

Grammarly has a free Chrome extension that allows you to use it anywhere on the web. It also has integrations for Microsoft Office, Windows, iPad, and smartphones.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • No word limits, even in the free version.
  • Clear explanations regarding the suggestions made.
  • Accurate recommendations in most cases.

Cons: 

  • The free version has limited features.
  • Not all suggestions are helpful.

Hemingway

Hemingway doesn’t claim to be a complete content editing and proofreading solution like the first two programs. However, it has some unique qualities that are useful in conjunction with other tools.

Features

The Hemingway Editor, named for the famous Ernest Hemingway himself, can help you create crisp, straightforward content. It’s minimalist interface is easy to use and it allows you to understand your writing style and improve it.

No login is necessary to use this service. In fact, it’s one of the few tools on this list that’s 100% free! You simply access the tool online and type or paste your content into the editor, where you see the sample text. For a small fee, you can also download the desktop app and use it without needing an internet connection.

Screenshot of Hemingway App editing and proofreading tool testing one of Ernest Hemingway’s works
Aptly named, the Hemingway app scores one of Hemingway’s books. Source: Hemingway App

Hemingway aims to make your content more readable. It immediately analyzes your text, providing the following information:

  • Hemingway readability score.
  • Number of words.
  • Adverb use vs. recommended use.
  • Passive voice vs. recommended use.
  • Words or phrases with simpler alternatives.
  • Sentences that are hard or very hard to read.

If the number of adverbs exceeds the recommended amount based on the length of the text, Hemingway suggests removing them. The same is true for the overuse of passive voice. It’s not the most powerful tool on this list, but it’s affordable, effective, and an excellent way to gain black and white insights into the quality of your content.

This tool proposes simpler alternatives to replace complex words or phrases. It highlights the terms in purple, and you can see possible substitutes by placing the cursor over the colored portion.

Hemingway highlights sentences in yellow if they are long or complex. It suggests splitting or shortening them to make them easier to read. Red highlights indicate dense or complicated sentences that could leave readers confused. You may need to rework this content to be sure your message is clear.

Hemingway Editor doesn’t automatically correct your errors. Instead, it allows you to analyze the suggestions and improve your writing.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Helps writers understand and improve style issues.
  • Free to use online with a one-time fee for the offline version.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t preserve formatting when pasting back into your document after editing.
  • Often suggests changes that would simplify the text unnecessarily.

LanguageTool

LanguageTool is unique in that it works in multiple languages. If you produce content in two or more dialects, you might find it a valuable tool for editing and proofreading.

Features

LanguageTool provides a free online interface that accepts up to 10,000 characters at a time. It offers basic spelling, grammar, and style correction in over 40 languages and dialects.

The online checker detects the language automatically. However, you can also choose one from the drop-down list. Once you input your text, the service underlines errors with different colors:

  • Red – spelling.
  • Yellow – grammar.
  • Blue – style.

You can see suggestions by clicking on an underlined word or phrase and choose whether to accept or reject the change. LanguageTool also provides synonyms, which you can access by double-clicking on a term.

Screenshot of the LanguageTool editing and proofreading tool
Easy to use interface – just copy and paste! Source: LanguageTool

You don’t need an account to use the online checker. That said, there are a few limitations that are easily avoided by creating a free account. For example, after registering, you can add words to a personal dictionary. You can get additional features by subscribing to one of their premium packages.

There are two levels of paid subscriptions—an individual or team package. The premium service includes more comprehensive grammar, punctuation, and style checks. With the paid service, the tool accepts up to 100,000 characters of text. It also offers integrations for Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

LanguageTool works with the most-used browsers and word processing programs. It also offers an extension that checks your text while you work online.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Supports multiple languages and dialects.
  • Includes some style suggestions in addition to basic proofreading.

Cons:

  • Character limit in both free and paid versions.
  • Free version identifies only basic errors.

Repetition Detector 2

Word choice is an essential element of captivating your audience. While repetition can be an excellent tool when used sparingly, too much of a good thing can make your text uninteresting and unprofessional. The reader may also become bored and lose interest.

Repetition Detector 2 is a free tool to help you find overused expressions so that you can improve variety.

Features

The online interface for this tool provides access without a login. You paste your text into the box and select settings like word size and distance to be considered a close or distant repetition.

The Repetition Detector 2 processes the content and highlights close repeats in orange. Distant recurrences appear with a green background. At the end of the page, you’ll see the 50 most-used words and their frequency in the text you submitted.

Screenshot of the Repetition Detector 2 tool
Source: Repetition Detector 2

This checker works for multiple languages, including:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • Finnish
  • Icelandic
  • Italian
  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Repetition Detector 2 offers a more complete version of the software for offline use in Windows. There’s a 30-day trial period, after which you must purchase a license to continue using the program.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Identifies repetitions that may be difficult for human editors to notice.
  • Preserves formatting if you choose to copy changes back into the original document
  • No word limit.

Cons:

  • The free in-browser version doesn’t identify words with the same root, just exact matches.
  • The online interface requires resending the text every time you make changes.

In Closing

Free content editing tools make a vast difference in the quality of your writing. As a result, your blog or business can attain greater visibility and profitability. Look for solutions that offer style suggestions in addition to simple spelling and punctuation correction.

Not all editing and proofreading tools will meet your specific needs. Each one is unique, and you may need to combine them to achieve what you desire. Trying multiple programs and comparing the results will lead to the best solution for your situation.

While tools can be robust and capable, it’s also a good idea to work with professional editors and proofreaders. People can spot mistakes and readability issues in a way that no AI, no matter how intelligent, can yet. At Captain Words, we provide excellent editing and proofreading services, combining the expertise of our editors with the power of these tools. Book a demo with us today.

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Chantelle

Chantelle started her career in IT before eventually finding her way into Marketing. This eventually became her passion, along with Digital Marketing, SEO, and Brand and Web Development. Today, she helps businesses find their voice and grow online.

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