Scrivener vs. Word

Being a new writer can be intimidating.  There’s so much to learn and so many ways to go take the wrong path.  Ideally, the question of which software you use to write wouldn’t be a tough question, but its one that crops up all over the place.  Today I’m going to focus on a question I see everywhere.

“Should I use Scrivener or Word to do my writing?”

The answer may surprise you.

Or not.  It’s Word.  It’s 100% Word.  Don’t use Scrivener.

Still, I need to bang out an article, so let me break it down for you.

1. Editing and formatting your document

Scrivener makes is stupid easy to move blocks of text around in your manuscript.  You know that scene you wrote where the aliens discover that ice cream melts in hot water?

aliens and icecream
You know – that scene in the book you’re writing called “Aliens and Ice Cream”?

Maybe that scene works better in the middle of the book as opposed to the ending.  Because Scrivener allows you to easily break everything into chapters, sections, notes and so on, it’s very simple to pick up and drop entire blocks of text.  You can move chapters around in seconds.

Word is just one big clunky document that makes moving blocks of text around difficult.

Winner: Word

Reason: 100% of the places you submit your writing to will require it in .doc format.  The Word conversion engine in Scrivener is a monstrous piece of shit that will destroy your life and your manuscript.

2. Working on multiple documents

Scrivener has a ton of features that allow you quickly switch between projects.  What’s more, it has built in tools that let you drag and drop your sections easily between books.  It’s great!

Word is a very linear process, that forces you to write the book as it unfolds.  You can open multiple documents at the same time, however Alt+tabbing between the two can be a pain.  Clearly, Scrivener is superior in this regard.

Winner: Word

Reason: If you are serious about submitting your writing professionally, you will need it in .doc format.  The scrivener conversion to .doc is horrific.  It’s like the reboot of Nightmare on Elm Street.  Pointless, loud and ultimately leaves you feeling dirty.

3. Price

Scrivener is cheap, at about $50.  What’s more, it’s a one-time cost.  Compare that to Word, which requires an annual subscription, and it’s about $100 a year!  Fuckers!

Pictured: Microsoft’s pricing department

Obviously Scrivener wins in this case, right?

Winner: Word

Reason: Anytime you’re starting to query or submit your work to any publisher, they will ask to see your materials in .doc format.  I’m not sure if you’ve heard this, but Scrivener doesn’t handle the .doc conversion very well.  In fact, you might say that it literally ruins entire marriages – even if you were never married to begin with.

4. Word Count

My favorite, favorite feature in Scrivener is the word counts and targets.  Not only can you quickly see your overall word count, you can also see it by section so you know how long your chapters are.

It also has a wonderful feature that allows you to track both your novel’s progress and set daily / session targets for yourself.

Easily the best part of Scrivener.  Seriously, it’s awesome.

Word lets you see overall word counts, but that’s about it.  Scrivener is the clear winner in this category.  It’s honestly no contest and there should be no disagreement about the superior software.

Winner: Word


Reason: I’m not sure if you’re picking up on a theme here, but have you heard that literally every single publisher, agent, magazine, website, short story collection and writing contest will ask to see your work in .doc format?  Have you also heard that when you convert Scrivener documents to Word, every butterfly within a two mile radius dies?

 5. Things

Scrivener does many things.  Word also does many things.

Winner: Word

So there you have it.  In virtually every single category you can think of, Word manages to be the superior software to Scrivener.  Hope this helps in your writing journey!

If anyone from Scrivener ever reads this – holy moly guys.  FIX YOUR CONVERSION TOOL.  How do you not do this properly?  HOW?  Why does every single chapter export as a single document?  Why does half my formatting vanish?  Why do I have to go through and re-mark up my whole document?  Why isn’t there a literal one-click button to perform this function?


All joking aside, I really love working in Scrivner, but I end up losing dozens of hours reformatting my work to get it to look right in Word.

For a long while I was writing my drafts in Scrivner, converting over a weekend and then finishing in Word, but I ended up resenting the time loss.  It’s so pointless.


  1. I’m not sure which version of Scrivener you’re using, or on what platform. I use Scrivener on a Mac and it converts to Word .doc without any problems. I used it to produce my last two (published) novels, and I’m currently using it for the 3rd in the series.

  2. The whole thing is a tongue in cheek. I was mildly frustrated by the process. It’s why I classified this under “funny” instead of “writing tips”. I kind of like Scrivner too, but I find myself shrugging and using Word more and more lately. I tend to be a very linear writer, I don’t jump around a lot, so Word mostly works fine for me.

    1. Ah, the lack of body language can so easily fool readers! I’ve come across other writers who have had problems with Scrivener, so I thought you were suffering the same way. I’ve found it a very useful tool. As a pantster, I need to edit my first draft extensively, and Scrivener allows me to do that easily. Mind you, I do get irritated by its dictionary function (I’m able to use Webword so easily with Word). And there’s a fairly steep learning curve in acquiring the knowledge needed to use the program well. I’m still learning!
      Word, of course, has its faults as well. So much of it is designed for commercial use rather than for writers that some of its best features can be hard to find among all the other stuff!

  3. The fundamental problem for me is that the source document in Scrivener becomes unusable because inevitably there will be format, spelling, and grammar changes in the final word document. You might even change a few sentences reviewing it in a new light. If I want to return to Scrivener I have to upload the latest word draft and then split it into chapters. It can be confusing with different versions of a project in different formats. I would prefer to do everything in scrivener. My advice is to keep it in Scrivener until it is a finished project, then load your final word draft back into scrivener in case it needs a rewrite. It is fiddly and were it not for Scrivener’s low price I would do everything in word. Scrivener in many ways is a planning and research tool. I find keeping multiple documents in one binder its biggest positive.

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