SmartEdit is an editing tool for creative writers that sits inside Atomic Scribbler. It helps you as you edit your novel or short story by drawing your attention to words, phrases or sentences in your document that you might want to re-visit. It does not instruct you. It does not tell you to change something. It does not offer alternatives or suggestions.
There is no desktop icon for SmartEdit, no separate app to launch. It’s an Add-In that can only be accessed inside Atomic Scribbler — a Windows app that can be downloaded here.
After installing SmartEdit, you’ll notice a new SmartEdit toolbar. Selecting this toolbar opens an array of new buttons and menus that you can choose from. If you have yet to install SmartEdit, go back to the earlier topic “ What is SmartEdit for Atomic Scribbler” and follow the installation instructions outlined there.
Cast your eye over these buttons but do not dig too deeply just yet. I’ll go through them all over the course of this post. For now, ensure you have an open project that contains some content— preferably fiction — select the “Check Document” button on the toolbar if it’s not already selected and click the Repetitions button.
After a few seconds the results for the first of the two check you’ve just run — Repeated Words — will appear. In the example below — and throughout this website — we’re showing results for Zane Grey’s novel Riders of the Purple Sage. You may not have any interest in westerns, but we needed a full length novel that was in the public domain and was not written in the Victorian style.
At the top is a list of words with a count next to them. This is a complete list of every word in every scene of your Document tree, alongside the number of occurrences. Click on any one row in this list and the section below will be populated by every sentence that contains that particular word. In the example above, I selected the 85 instances of strange.
Straight away, with no waiting, I can see every use of that word in my document, with the word strangehighlighted in bold. The purpose of this expanded sentence section is to show you the context of your use of the word, allowing you to decide if you need to make a change or not without even entering your Document or scenes.
And here’s the best part: double clicking on one of these sentence results will immediately jump into the word processor, opening the scene if it’s not already open, and take you to that sentence for you to edit.
Every results list in SmartEdit works in this way: A list of things SmartEdit found (word and phrase repetition, adverbs, clichés, redundancies, dialogue tags, crutch words, etc.), alongside every sentence they appeared in, with the ability to jump straight into the relevant scene and get to work if required.
As you work through the SmartEdit results, ignoring some things, making changes in response to others, you may find that changes you make in one area are having a negative effect in another. You replace one over-used phrase with another, improving things in one sentence while making them worse somewhere else. For this reason, it’s a good idea to refresh the results list every now and then as you work.
You can do this by selecting the Refresh button in the top right-hand corner of the results list. This re-runs the current check only.
Proximity of Results
When you work through the word and phrase repetition results, it can be useful to know how close one result is to another. The results list appear in order, starting at the beginning of your document and continuing to the end.
An option exists on the Settings dialog to show the paragraph number of each result to the right of that result. This is useful in that it shows how close together two consecutive results are.
The screenshot below shows the phrase repetition results with the phrase near at hand highlighted. I’ve switch on the paragraph number setting, so I can now see that the instances of this phrase are scattered across my scenes, in paragraphs 235, 385, 394, etc. I might decide to look more closely at the second, third and fourth instances, as they are quite close together.
How far apart they actually are depends on the size of your paragraphs, but as a rule of thumb assume 10-15 paragraphs per page. Showing the paragraph number in this way makes it easier to read through the results list without having to enter the document itself to check how far apart two results might be.
The paragraph number is only shown for the word and phrase repetition results, though we may change this in the future.
The first time you use SmartEdit it will check everything in your Document tree, folder or scene — depending on which you selected — unfiltered. But every novel has words and phrases that are part and parcel of the work. In a Harry Potter novel, you wouldn’t be interested in how often Harry or school appeared. You can train SmartEdit to ignore certain results, results that you know are not significant.
To do this select a result such as the 92 occurrences of the word waterin the above results list and click the “Add Result to Exclusion List” button on the SmartEdit toolbar. From that point on, no results will be shown in the Repeated Words list for the word water. Every results list has this option and every exclusion list can be edited later to add or remove entries in bulk. The Settings dialog has an option to switch individual exclusion lists on or off, so you can always run a complete check, ignoring the exclusions if you so choose.
The screenshot below shows the default entries in the exclusion list for Repeated Words.
Common words are included alongside some specific entries I made for the Zane Grey novel I’ve been using, such as Jane, Jerry and Lassiter. It’s worth pointing out that most SmartEdit checks are not case sensitive. The exceptions are the Proper Nouns and Acronyms results which extracts values based on their case.
You should now have a basic understanding of how SmartEdit checks and results work and how you work with them. At this point it would be useful to run some of the other checks and examine the varied results they present to you.
The image above shows a further list of checks SmartEdit runs independent of the repetition checks. You can run these one at a time by selecting from the menu, or all at once by clicking the Word & Phrase Usage button.
Sentence checks include a host of punctuation monitors such as your use of semi-colons and colons, EM dashes, excessive exclamation marks, alongside a check that extracts sentences of varying lengths so you can quickly identify long sentences.
A final check that I will highlight is the “User defined monitored words.” This is where you specify your crutch words, words and phrases that you know you make mistakes or typos on, or simply words that you wish to keep an eye on.
Click on the Monitored Words button on the toolbar. The dialog that pops up allows you to add new words and to remove words you have no interest in. In the example above, I’ve chosen to keep on eye on a few character names along with some potentially embarrassing typos that creep in when I’m typing too fast. The results list for these words allows me to eyeball each instance, satisfy myself that no mistakes have been made, and move on.
And that’s all there is to SmartEdit. You decide what’s important. You decide which, if any, changes you wish to make. And you train SmartEdit so it knows what to ignore and what to draw your attention to. SmartEdit never alters your scenes directly. There are no automated changes made, which means there is never any danger of your work becoming corrupted or damaged. All the actual editing work is done by you inside Atomic Scribbler.