Selected Reviews and Endorsements
Melissa Alvarez - editor of About.com's Romance Fiction
StyleWriter — the Plain English Editor is a software program that runs from within Microsoft Word, Word Perfect and other word processors. I've got to tell you that I LOVE this program. I've never seen anything else like it on the market and I believe that the developers have hit on a very good product.
StyleWriter goes through your document and highlights problem areas. This includes, repetitive words, grammar problems, clichés, passive voice and many other items. When you use StyleWriter you will find that your own writing improves because the more you use it the more you notice things you're doing wrong.
Another thing that I liked about StyleWriter is that it gives you an analysis of your work. This analysis includes the documents word count, average sentence length, the number of passive voice usages and best of all a number for style.
Beside each of these numbers you also get a word to describe your work. For example, a style of 181 would be Dreadful and a style of 15 would be Excellent.
StyleWriter also highlights words and phrases that might be unclear. The program points out the problem and it's up to the author to correct it. Within the program you can choose the types of problems that you want StyleWriter to look for. You can even set your own "House" style with this software. I really liked this option.
While StyleWriter doesn't rigidly hold you to any set style of writing by pointing out standard errors that an editor would catch, it allows you to improve on your own.
I highly recommend StyleWriter as an effective learning tool and as an excellent editing program for anyone who writes, regardless of what they write. If I could give this program ten stars I would.
WinPlanet.com - Software Reviews for the Small Business
StyleWriter: Keeping Your Prose in Pristine Form
Going Above and Beyond Your Average Word Processor
by Scott Koegler
Business writing involves several skills, disciplines, and procedures. For most businesses it's rare enough to find an employee that can write professionally, much less follow a particular style the company has developed. StyleWriter won't write your documents for you, nor will it structure your prose into logically flowing communication — that's still the responsibility of the writer. But what it will do is analyze your document for grammatical and linguistic problems, while also identifying words or phrases that need to be changed to match your organization's definition of standards.
StyleWriter installs as both an add-on for Microsoft Word and as a standalone application. If you regularly use MS Word as your editor you can click the icon in the Word toolbar to start StyleWriter's analysis. If you use another editor you'll need to start StyleWriter separately, and you may need to paste your document into the app.
You can also use StyleWriter with any other application by copying your text to the Windows Clipboard. This does however make the process more cumbersome since StyleWriter's changes can't be automatically applied. In this case you will need to make the edits manually based on StyleWriter's instructions.
So how is StyleWriter different than your average word processor?
All word processors can check your spelling, and most will even review your grammar and suggest changes, but StyleWriter goes beyond that. When StyleWriter is started from its icon in the Word taskbar it performs a preliminary analysis of your document and scores it on three criteria — average sentence length, number of passive verbs used, and overall style.
Different document types use different styles. For example, research papers have distinctly different styles than press releases. StyleWriter offers several choices for the type of document to be checked, including general writing, newsletter, resumé, cover letter, technical report, instructions, and general letter. Selecting the type of document you'll be checking loads StyleWriter's basic analytical parameters.
Besides checking sentence length and the number of passive verbs, StyleWriter's style indexes check for a wide variety of common editorial issues like misused words, confused words, complex words, jargon, abstract words, hyphenation, overused words, legal words, sexist writing, clichés, grammar, and redundancies. And it goes even farther and does some of the same things a human editor would look for, such as overwriting, foreign words, sentence structure check, and even preferred spelling.
Now the Fun Begins
After loading and scanning your document against the active parameters, three grades are shown ranging from "horrid" to "excellent."
That's when the fun starts.
StyleWriter works like an inline spell checker in that it identifies and highlights each of the offending items that contributed to the high score, then offers advice on fixing each problem. The word or phrase that was identified as violating the rule and the suggestions for repairing the problem are displayed in the Advice window. Many changes can be applied by simply clicking the suggested fix. For example, StyleWriter identified the word "authorized" as a Complex Word, and suggested using "let, allowed, approved, or sanctioned" instead. Simply clicking "allowed" replaced the word in the main document and moved to the next offender.
Some changes require editing the document directly, wherein StyleWriter automatically minimizes after clicking the Edit button so you can make your changes manually.
In addition to making your documents easier to read using its built-in rules, you can also create your own set of House Rules checked by StyleWriter to ensure that documents adhere to them. For example, if your company has standardized on the spelling "e-mail," StyleWriter can check for offending spellings like email, eMail, or Email, and suggest they be changed. The other parameters that control sentence length and passive verbs can also be modified to suit the company's preferences.
A Complete Package
Overall, StyleWriter is a valuable tool for organizations that need to produce high-quality documents and that don't have a full-time editing staff. Even with a documentation or public relations department, StyleWriter can help by ensuring a consistent set of standards and by easing the burden of training staff on the company's preferred editorial guidelines.
Anne Bradbeer reviews a software package that should bring a touch of style to your work.
I first encountered StyleWriter tucked away unpretentiously at the back of a computer exhibition. It was competing for attention with a virtual reality game, free teddy bears, and a reconstruction of a Parisian cafe. At least you could tell what the StyleWriter stand was promoting. I liked it already.
"StyleWriter is designed for people who do a lot of writing, but wouldn't necessarily consider themselves writers", according to the program designers. I'm sure it could benefit many people who do consider themselves writers.
As a manual writer myself, I believe that good software needs a good manual. When a product claims to help with writing style, its manual is doubly important. The StyleWriter (CD) manual is excellent. It is clear, to the point, and gives you every confidence in the claims of the software.
The package is easy to use; you certainly don't have to be a computer genius. It accepts text directly from the most popular word processing packages or through the clipboard. If you have a little computer experience its use is pretty intuitive, but the computerized manual and tutorial provide thorough backup.
StyleWriter has two kinds of online help. Predictably, one is about using the program. The other is like having the Chicago Manual of Style at your fingertips. For example, if you forget how to use the exclamation mark correctly, advice is available at the press of a key.
As it checks your text, StyleWriter looks for stylistic horrors such as long sentences and passive constructions. It also watches for sexist language, jargon and foreign terms amongst a host of other problems. It checks for up to 26 different categories of stylistic and proofreading pitfalls. The house style category lets you include your own organization's style rules for checking.
StyleWriter is undoubtedly useful for anyone who writes, not just technical authors. It takes the hard slog out of editing, and draws your attention to stylistic faults you probably didn't know you had. In an ideal world, every technical author would have a copy of it.
by Roy Johnson
People who design spelling and grammar-checkers must be the
most frustrated of software developers. No matter how useful their
programs, few people like them. The complete spell-check of a
document can be as little as two keystrokes or one click on a
button-bar, but who bothers? There are a couple of understandable
reasons for this public resistance - the checker's inability to make
subtle distinctions, and the programers' decision to make a fetish
out of correcting the passive voice. Add to this those annoying
warnings about the difference between it's and its, or principle and
principal - the result is that many people just don't bother, even
though perhaps they should.
StyleWriter tries to overcome this problem by offering a wider
palette of distinctions and a selection of writing styles from which
to choose. Its stated aim is to help users produce plain English. As
the manual says "A low average sentence length and a low Passive
Index makes your writing much more readable and interesting."
[See what I mean?]
The program is invoked from within your
word-processor, and it works by splitting the screen in two. The
top window reveals several lines of your text, with any problems
highlighted. This has the advantage that individual items can be
seen in their grammatical context. The highlights are also colour-
coded: dark red for suggested improvements, black for misused
words, and bright red for spelling mistakes. The bottom window
contains your original file, which can be edited. This editing
function is commendably efficient: it takes the cursor to the exact
spot in your text where corrections will be made. A full help
system is available from pull-down menus, and this also includes
tips on punctuation, grammar, and appropriate style.
At the end of the check, a full statistical report is available. This
includes a word and sentence count, and a natty bar chart with
encouraging comments on your results [Sentence-length
'Excellent!'] There is also a summary which reveals the number of
occurrences of features such as complex words, business cliches,
foreign words, hidden verbs, and jargon. These can all be
So - the program is well worth recommending. I have ditched
Grammatik in its favour, hardly without thinking.
The Daily Telegraph
by Richard Jones - Editor of the Good Software Guide
StyleWriter teaches the art of editing; how to run the editor's pen through inadequate writing; how to cut the waffle, how to turn a draft into clear and concise plain English.
It persuades users to change their ingrained style. It persuades writers to produce prose that helps readers - effectively and briefly. And it is really very good.
The program works by analyzing writing for 35,000 known style and usage faults. To take two simple examples, it suggests altering "It was decided by the committee..." to "The committee decided..."; and "This pamphlet is intended to show..." to "This pamphlet shows...."
Blindingly obvious when you think about it. And it is what plain English is all about - clear, concise and effective writing. It also highlights complex words and suggests simpler alternatives, draws attention to abstract words, over-complex phrases, confused and misused words (a far more common problem than poor grammar) and the bare minimum of self-evident grammatical errors.
The results of using plain English are stunning. StyleWriter may well be a surprise when you start to use it, mainly because its advice is so devastatingly sensible.
Poor writing is often the result of slipshod thinking or the muddled memory of unnecessary rules.
StyleWriter has the chance to break habits most writers are not aware they had. Anyone smug enough to think they have no writing problems should remember the old saying "Most writers only have two writing problems: first they don't know how to write; second they think they do."
It is time to break these habits, either by joining the Plain English Campaign, or, on computers, using StyleWriter. It had a significant effect on me, and I know I knew it all. These people are talking my language, or indeed our language - English - clearly.
Short Quotes from Selected Reviews
"If your writing is less than readable, StyleWriter can give you an English writing trainer, a sub-editor and an English teacher on a disk. If you already know how to write, StyleWriter picks up those faults that slip by when you are nudging a deadline."
Bits and Bytes
"StyleWriter especially impressed me in flagging only a handful of false errors that are so common with grammar checkers. Its advice was intelligent, and it came across as a practical and effective aid to good clear writing."
PC Plus Magazine
"By breaking bad writing habits, the program lets editors express themselves in their own words, clearly and concisely, rather than in the stale phrases and impersonal style common in typical office writing."
"StyleWriter deserves a place in every business office."
"The Best Word Processing Add-on."
What Personal Computer
"Running StyleWriter over one's writing is like a crash course in professional editing. It will not leave one's writing unchanged."
Computers and the Law
"Two years ago, when I was writing my book, High Impact Middle Management, I was an OK writer, but needed help and development. At first, my poor husband, who is a great editor, had to slog through each chapter, marking them up and returning them to me. He went through a lot of red pens! I got StyleWriter after I had written a few chapters. I started putting each chapter through StyleWriter before handing them to my husband, and the number of his marks went down to nearly nothing. And what I love about StyleWriter is that I am finding that each time I screen a document, my scores are a bit better to start off with.
In other words, it is teaching me to be a better writer!
I love this program. Love it. Love it. Love it."
Lisa Haneberg, Management Craft blog
"Thank you very much for the StyleWriter program. The software put an edge to the final cut of my Masters in Business Administration thesis submitted to Maastricht School of Management, The Netherlands where I was awarded a passed with distinction on my paper. In a highly technical subject like my research, StyleWriter was there to simplify the communication flow between the author and the reader. Once again thank you very much."
"StyleWriter is an excellent program that will improve your writing style and perhaps change the lives of others, as it has done for me. You will find just one draw back to using StyleWriter. After using the product for a time, the three-level grading statistics are going to improve substantially. And to such a degree, the user will make fewer changes. Get to know StyleWriter, and use it often because the product is remarkable.
As a computer forensics and electronic data discovery professional, I understand that facts are facts. During the past twelve months I had more than twenty technical articles published on this subject for attorneys and bankruptcy trustees. The year before that, only one article, and in the twenty-five years before that, none.
StyleWriter played an important role while crafting the appropriate text in every article. If you’re willing, the program is relentless in recommending improvements as you rank yourself. I have gained enormous respect for the software developers.
May I suggest you tell your readers to give themselves a gift, and use StyleWriter often? When they do that, I can only speculate they will have the same successes as I have enjoyed, as the results will be unbeatable. In the game of writing, as in life, you have choices, turning points, and if you want to focus your writing abilities, you need to use the gifts available right with the gifts given you at birth.
I am sure my story is not unusual, and had I failed to reflect on the reasons for my writing success during the past year this story would be lost for those that have the need to write. This acknowledgment of StyleWriter is unsolicited, but perhaps I can ask those who now use StyleWriter to tell us about your successes because of this product. After all, we should give credit where credit is deserved."
Jack Seward, New York, NY
"I wanted to personally write and say thank you. Your software has been a Godsend to me and my staff. We are not professional writers but we write copy for brochures, ads and sales letters. We have seen our writing skills increase after installing and using StyleWriter."
Director of Marketing and Sales, The Mpower Group
"I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this program. I have used StyleWriter in all my writing since the first trial I bought. I just keep getting better. It is awesome. The more you use it the easier it is and the better your own writing becomes. I really like that it doesn't change your own style, but makes the text more succinct. This is enormously helpful when writing publications, courses and instructional material - which is my job. The last document I sent for editing had virtually NO changes.
Now, I would say I am a very good writer, but this program has helped me enormously."
"Thanks for your help. I have been very impressed with StyleWriter and am now impressed with your customer service as well. I will be recommending the program and the company to all my students."
Lecturer, University of Phoenix
"I ran StyleWriter on an old report which had been thoroughly edited and revised to what we thought was a pretty good standard, and using every check available in MS Word. StyleWriter showed us so many genuine stylistic improvements - I am amazed. The advert is right - it is like having an expert editor sitting at one's side. What an incredible program."
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