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How to Write Clearly

How to Write Clearly

ADVICE TO HELP YOU WRITE CLEARLY AND CONCISELY

BLOG BY NICK WRIGHT of EDITORSOFTWARE.COM

 

StyleWriter can show you how to write a strong, convincing resume cover letter

FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2012 - page 1 of 2

New StyleWriter Professional Edition

As an editor and writer I’ve always valued the way StyleWriter gives me key ways to measure the clarity and readability of any document before I start editing. Knowing the average sentence length, the style faults and bog index (style and readability measure) gives me a head start. So if I know before I start editing the passive index is low, I know I don’t have to change every passive verb in the document.

But looking to improve on this, we’ve designed a couple of new features.

  • New Editor’s List (reviewed in this article)
  • New Readability Grade Formula (see separate blog posting)

We’ve also now redesigned StyleWriter into three editions so you can decide on the features and budget to suit your needs. The three editions are:

  • Starter - $90 – designed for those on a budget or those who want a simplified style editor.
  • Standard - $150 – the current StyleWriter with a new readability grade formula.
  • Professional - $190 – introduces the unique Editor’s List feature for writers and journalists.
Professional Edition – the Editor’s List

The Professional Edition’s Editor’s List analyzes your word choice on each document. You call it up from the tool bar and you can see all words in your documents at a glance.

StyleWriter Professional Editors List

In this 10,446-word document, you can review your word choice. For example, clicking Spelling in the drop-down menu generates the following Editor’s List.

StyleWriter Spellcheck

The Unknown Words column shows you any words not in StyleWriter’s word dictionary. For example, here we can see adhoc and upto listed as they are not usually one word and workstack and workstyles as unrecognized words that are probably better written as two words or avoided as being outside the audience’s vocabulary. You can use this list to review Questionable and Unusual words found during the spell-check of your document. StyleWriter will advise you on the Questionable words found suggesting the preferred spelling for focussed, graphical, preventative, refocussing. For example, the preferred spelling of focussed is focused. But in this document, the writer uses both forms. You can also see any words added to the spell-check.

The main advantage of the Editor’s List spelling tab is to spell-check a long document in a few seconds rather than going through a document clicking one suspect word after another.
You can go to any word you want to change from the list to your text. See: Using Trace in Text in the next section.

Checking for jargon

The Spelling tab in the Editor’s List lets you see unknown words at a glance. If the words listed are not proper nouns (taking a capital letter) or misspellings, they are often jargon or highly specialist words outside the common 200,000 words in the English language.

But you can also click on the Jargon tab.

StyleWriter Jargon Checker

Here you can see a list of Abbreviations, Difficult words and Jargon phrases found in the current check. For example, the Abbreviations list shows the writer has only used BPPD, BPPDG, CCC, CCN1, EBITDA and GAP once. Any abbreviation in writing only used once or twice is usually better written in full. So if you are a technical writer and want to know which abbreviations to avoid, you can use this list. You can click on any abbreviation you want to avoid and click Trace in Text View to go to that abbreviation and change it.

Similarly, you can use the Difficult Word list as these words are probably outside the typical reader’s vocabulary and best avoided if possible.

Tip:
You will see above the Jargon phrases list [> 2] meaning the program will list all jargon phrases scoring at this level. As StyleWriter’s default setting in the Category screen is > 3, setting it at >2 will list more possible jargon phrases. In this document, the program finds such abstract phrases as:

  • activity management
  • business management resource
  • convergent network solutions
  • discretionary activities
  • disparate systems
  • Due diligence scoping (whatever that is)

So for technical writers see a comprehensive list of possible jargon in a document and to speed up editing in the Category Summary screen set the Jargon Phrase Category to > 2 and then turn off each of the three categories.

Jargo Phrase Category OptionsThen click Set Defaults so StyleWriter finds the maximum number of jargon phrases and all Abbreviations and Difficult Words but does not highlight the issues in your text. Then you can use the Editor’s List Trace in Text View to find the jargon you want to change without stopping on the words and phrases you think are essential to your document’s content.

Use the Editor's List Trace in Text View to find the jargon you want

Tip:
Click on any word to highlight it.
Click + Ctrl highlights each word or phrase you click on.
Click + Shift highlights a group of words.

Back at the text screen, you can jump to the words or phrases you highlighted in the Editor’s List using the Trace arrows buttons to go back or forward without stopping on other issues highlighted by StyleWriter.

 

 

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