All writers need to hone their craft. I was feeling guilty about one paragraph in yesterday’s blog. It contained one long, unruly sentence. I should have deleted it. I did not. The blog would have been better without it. As I was thinking about it again this morning, I got a promotional e-mail from PerfectIt about StyleWriter 4. I had tried PerfectIt last summer and was not impressed enough to buy it.
StyleWriter is different. I have downloaded the 14-day free trial, and now have it as a Word Add-in. In one hour, I have gained many insights into my own writing. Because I am pedantic and very specific about the words I use, I do not agree with all the suggestions. I do know the difference between sensual and sensuous. Lucky me. I do not need to have that kind of thing brought to my attention. No grammar checker or style tool is able to distinguish between a passive verb and the use of the verb to be with a past participle used adjectivally. That does not matter. I can.
There is a tutorial and an informative Help function. You need to learn a few definitions before you start. A Bog word or Bog sentence is one that is bogged down with too many difficult words and clumsy expressions. Glue is another aspect to look out for. Glue words are the roughly 200 most common words in English. In a sense, no language can exist without glue. The amount of glue applied determines the wordiness index. Pep is good, and coloured bright green to give you positive reinforcement.
I set StyleWriter to work right away. The first text under the microscope was the interview on Caroline Alberoni’s blog. Many people complimented me on the written style of this piece. I know it was not an easy read. I did not intend it to be. I felt it was more important that the style reflect the real me as closely as possible rather than pander to my imagined audience.
I used the settings “Academic paper” for a “Specialist audience” as this was what I felt most closely matched the style of this interview.
StyleWriter freaked out. Too much Bog! (blue) Too much Glue! (yellow) And 45% Wordy!
There are other interesting features:
Translation is a heavy word, people!
Stylewriter has three variants: US English, UK English and Australian English (known only to the Australians, I fear).
Pep is interesting:
Depending on the type of text you are supposed to be writing, your style ratings will change. StyleWriter has the option of inserting the ratings as a comment in the original Word document, as shown below:
A note about the Style Index from the Help file:
The Style Index measures all the plain English problems in your text, including a weighted score for long sentences. It then converts this measure into an index. The best writing consistently scores below 20, equivalent to two style faults for every 100 words.
I tried out StyleWriter on two other texts each with a different style.
I wished to confirm that my guilt over yesterday’s blog was justified. Of course it was. Bog and glue! StyleWriter deemed the offending paragraph dreadful! Bog and Glue overdose!
Despite one dreadful paragraph, the overall statistics were less so:
I need Glue remover.
I was still curious about the “Fiction for Public” setting, so I let StyleWriter gobble Salad Days, a very short story I wrote with minimalism in mind. It will probably cheer you up after all these statistics.
Style is a subjective matter. In Salad Days, I used Glue as part of the style. Most people will not notice the Glue in this story because it is more fluid, so to speak. (I bet “so to speak” is a Bog phrase!) At 476 words for the entire story, I think 45% Wordy is an exaggeration.
I like this tool. I can use it to improve my own writing in a conscious, more methodical way. I can also use it to swear out loud as I do at Microsoft’s grammar checker, just for the hell of it. It is an integral part of professional editing practice with a very long tradition, after all. I can also use it as an aid to edit other people’s writing, and insert the less obnoxious advice the tool has to offer into the Word document or an SDL Trados “external review” document. It is a pity I have to wait to purchase this tool. I shall therefore make the most of the remaining 13 days of my free trial.
Here are the ratings for this blog, which prove that a conscious effort can produce an improved result:
©2016 Allison Wright