There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal this week about English Editing Software. If you've had a chance to use Microsoft Office 2007, you know the spellchecker and grammarchecker have been updated to catch more mistakes. That's nice, but Microsoft's grammarchecker doesn't really do enough to catch errors.
A much nicer program is called StyleWriter. (http://www.stylewriter-usa.com/)
StyleWriter is great for reminding you when to use "its" or "it's" and other commonly confused words. It warns you when your sentences are too long, scolds you when you use big words instead of simple ones, and hates it when you use redundancies. If you follow its suggestions, you can trim you writing down and make it very concise. However, because academic writing is often supposed to be obtuse, difficult, and well. . . academic, if you make it too clear and simple it will read like a newspaper article rather than a journal submission.
WhiteSmoke is another editing software. What's best about WhiteSmoke is they have a free webpage to try it out. WhiteSmoke will find weak words and offer to substitute it with better ones through its thesaurus. It also offers "enrichment" words, modifying adverbs or adjectives, which can further enhance your meaning. This may be effective in helping native speakers improve their vocabulary and word choice, but I don't think its helpful for non-native English speakers. Try it out here!
In fact, ESL students often have a much better vocabulary than the average native speaker. The trouble is when they try to use all those big words at the same time, stringing academic jargon together into run-on sentences. This kind of writing is often technically correct: free from errors or mistakes. However, it can take a native speaker a lot of time to figure out just what is being said, what the point is, and how it connects to the other information being presented in the paper. A great solution for non-native graduate students in particular is called BullFighter. A free microsoft plugin that looks for unnecessarily obtuse language and fancy words. Bullfighter will let you know if your writing is too complex, relying more on catchwords, rhetoric and gibberish than real content. Download it for Free!
I'm also a huge fan of translation software like Babelfish or Google's Language Tools. Maybe some day, we won't need editors at all. We won't even need translation. We'll just speak into a tiny microphone and our words will automatically be converted to any language, and typed out perfectly for us. Until then, come visit us at www.mypaperperfect.com