When I received the revised essays, I reviewed them along with my wife (also a professional writer) and my daughter, the author. The reviews were done blind, without indicating the source of any of the edits, and we all rated each essay on a 1 to 10 scale. I also threw in a copy that I roughly edited. For the sake of comparison, the raw essay scored an average of 4.8, while my edit garnered a 6.9.
Here’s what the various services cost, and how well they performed.
Total price: $13.91, 48-hour turnaround promised. Edit received within 24 hours.
Scribendi offers seven different turnaround time tiers, but its 72-hour and one-week turnarounds were the same price as the 48-hour turnaround. A four-hour turnaround was quoted at $28.53. Scribendi returned both a changes-tracked version of the document and a “clean” version with all edits accepted. Scribendi’s edit was not just the fastest, it was incredibly thorough—almost nitpicky—with 16 comments or prompts to the writer suggesting avenues for additional content or revisions that were beyond the scope of a simple edit. Oddly, the final edit didn’t resonate with readers, who largely felt it was somewhat awkward and clunky in its overall flow. That said, the editor’s notes and the service’s overall speed were a big plusses.
Readers’ rating: 5.0
Total price: $13.90, three-day turnaround promised. Edit received after two days.
Elite Editing has an Advanced Editing service for $40, but the $13.90 plan I chose offers only “basic editing,” which doesn’t include “suggested rewrites to eliminate awkward phrasing, repetition, passive voice, etc.” and “taking into account your original assignment.” Three days is the standard turnaround; one-day turnaround for the Basic Editing plan would have cost $19.90. The site crashed when I checked out, but my payment and submission both went through successfully. As promised, Elite’s edit was indeed basic. Its editor made the fewest changes of any of the services and left only three comments, one of which was about whether the use of indentations and double-spacing was appropriate. While Elite’s edits were correct, they weren’t terribly deep—although that was enough to propel it to a second-place finish from the readers.
Readers’ rating: 5.7
Total price: $15.32, five-day turnaround promised. Edit received after four days.
Wordvice has eight different pricing tiers, with rates as low as 4 cents per word for a seven-day turnaround, though that tier was limited to materials longer than 3,000 words. The five-day turnaround tier was only marginally more expensive. When I received Wordvice’s edited document, I was offered an upsell for a “second look” (basically another edit) for 30 percent off. Wordvice’s embedded commentary was nearly as thorough as Scribendi’s, though Wordvice was less obsessive over grammar and more focused on overall clarity. Turns out that was the right move: Wordvice’s edit was the overall favorite of the quartet, and the finished draft reads cleanly and clearly.
Readers’ rating: 6.3
Total price: $31.33, seven-day turnaround promised. Edit received after four days.
Scribbr initially quoted a price of $25.36, but I shelled out an extra $6 for both the “structure check” and “clarity check” options, despite not really understanding what those were. Prices include a 2 percent surcharge for using a credit card. For those in a hurry, 24-hour turnaround doubles the price. Scribbr seems more focused on editing academic coursework essays than admissions essays, with a relatively formal structure applied to its edits (removing contractions completely, for example). Editor’s commentary was sparse, though on target. This draft was the most divisive of the services, earning high marks from my wife but very low marks from my daughter, who thought it stripped the writing of her voice.