Shopworn expressions and trite phrases can spoil a piece of writing before it's finished, but even the best-turned phrase falls flat when it's overused. Bad Wolf's SmartEdit is a free tool that scans your writing to identify the words and phrases you've used and abused, not only giving you the chance to correct them but also pointing out your bad habits so that you can "nip them in the bud." It's not meant to replace your word processor but to help you in the editing and revision stages. It checks for common and overused words and phrases and also for sections of dialogue or phrases you designate. If you come up with a particularly colorful metaphor or turn of phrase, SmartEdit can prevent you from overusing it.
SmartEdit's subtitle promises to "speed up the editing process and catch mistakes early." A simple, compact interface with an efficient layout divided vertically into three sections makes a good start on keeping that promise. The program uses tabbed sidebars to either side of the main text window; on the left, Cliches and Dialog Tags; to the right, Repeated Phrases and Repeated Words. Each entry displays its own counter; for instance, under Cliches, a Count column tracks the number of times each cliche is used. Under the main view, SmartEdit displays Monitored Words and Sentences. The toolbar's Scan Options button let us configure our scans, while the Edit Lists button produced a dialog with tabs with lists of Monitored Words, Cliches, Dialog Tags, Ignored Phrases, and Ignored Words. We could easily add, edit, or delete entries. An Online Help link offered excellent resources, including advice for writers and demo videos.
SmartEdit is easy to use. We loaded a Text file (the program also opens RTFs) and ran the scan, which turned up no cliches but multiple repeated phrases. We could save our scan report as a text file, a useful feature that lets you return to previous checks without rescanning material. While SmartEdit is aimed chiefly at aspiring fiction writers, it can help any writer avoid bad writing and learn from his or her mistakes.
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