My writing group is discussing some great editing tools including Hemingway, ProWritingAid, and Grammarly. We like all of them, especially Grammarly, but those of us participating in the discussion are also die-hard Scrivener users and none of these tools have any kind of Scrivener plug-in. So what’s a writer to do if he or she wants to use the greatness that is Scrivener along with the excellent editing skills of one of these tools?
I took it upon myself to flex some of my day job (software engineer) skills and perform a little trial and error. Of the three tools listed above, the one I’m most interested in is Grammarly, so that’s the one I used. Also, I did all of this on a PC running Scrivener for Windows 1.8.6, Google Chrome, and the Grammarly plug-in for Word 2013.
Copy and Paste from Scrivener to Grammarly
For my first test, I copied the text of my Scrivener document to the clipboard and then pasted it into Grammarly’s online editor. But this technique failed before I could take a single piece of Grammarly’s advice. The copy-and-paste between Scrivener and the Grammarly online editor removed all of my text formattings. “And that ain’t too cool,” to quote Hendrix.
I don’t use italics often, but I don’t want to lose them once I have them in place. And I’d rather not wait and apply them only to my final draft. So this technique failed.
Upload RTF to Grammarly
One advantage Grammarly has over some of its competitors is that in addition to copy-and-paste, you can upload a document file into its online editor. So for my second test, I found the Rich Text File (RTF) for my chapter-in-progress in its Scrivener folder and uploaded it to Grammarly. This technique didn’t work for me either. First, even with an uploaded RTF file, my formatting was lost. That disqualified it right there. But if that part had worked, Grammarly gives the option of downloading your edited document from their online editor back into its original format. So I downloaded the RTF of my original doc and then compared the original RTF to the Grammarly-edited one using a simple diff tool (WinMerge).
Eww! Grammarly changed the formatting of every single paragraph in the document. The paragraph formatting was so different from what Scrivener creates, I didn’t even try opening this new RTF there. Another fail!
Open RTF in Word with Grammarly plug-in and save it back to RTF
One advantage Grammarly has over some of its competitors is it offers a Microsoft Word plug-in. After you install it, you don’t even have to use the Grammarly web editor. You open your document in Word, apply Grammarly’s suggestions, save, and get on with life. For this test, I made a copy of my Scrivener RTF file, opened it in Word, edited one word, and saved it back to RTF. Then I used WinMerge to compare the original RTF to the new one.
This was getting embarrassing. This was an even worse mangling than the one Grammarly did to my RTF file. Times New Roman Baltic, what the heck? I don’t even use that font. I’m a Charis SIL man.
Copy-and-Paste from Scrivener to Word, edit, then copy-and-paste from Word to Scrivener
Around this time I was starting to think that to make this work, I was going to have to write some custom code to convert Grammarly RTF into Scrivener RTF. But before I took that route, I wondered what would happen if I copy-and-pasted text from Scrivener into Word, edited it, and then pasted the text back into Scrivener?
The first phase of this test passed. My italicized text made it from Scrivener to a new, blank Word document with the italics intact! But would it survive the return trip? I made a minor change and then copy and pasted the text from Word back into Scrivener, right over the top of the text already there. Then I saved it in Scrivener and compared the original, unedited RTF to the new one.
Look at that! No mass editing of the formatting code for every paragraph in the document! In Scrivener, the doc looked identical, except the comma I added in Word after “ride” made it back over. Success!
Therefore, the best way to use Scrivener and Grammarly together seems to be:
- Copy your text from Scrivener to the clipboard
- Paste into Microsoft Word with the Grammarly plug-in installed
- Edit away, Ernest Hemingway
- Do not save! Instead, copy your text from Word to the clipboard
- Back in Scrivener, paste your text right over top of what was already there
This all works because copy and paste between Scrivener and Word keeps formatting intact while copy and paste between Scrivener and web windows doesn’t. Combine that with the Grammarly plug-in for Word and voila, your formatted text now has a relatively painless path between Scrivener and Grammarly and back.
There’s one big drawback to all of this and that is that as of today, Grammarly doesn’t have a plug-in for Microsoft Office on Mac. Boo! But I wonder if copy-and-paste between Scrivener and a browser other than Chrome might keep formatting intact? Or if pasting into Chrome for Mac might keep the formatting intact? If anyone figures out a way to use Scrivener and Grammarly together on Mac while keeping formatting intact, or of an even easier way to do it on Windows, I’d love to hear from you.