Yes, I know, I know. But I have an excuse: I’ve been a bit preoccupied with things like rising rivers lately. The Red River—not the one in Texas, but the one that runs north along the North Dakota-Minnesota border and into Manitoba—has been misbehaving lately. While my home isn’t in immediate danger, the entire Fargo-Moorhead community has pitched in to help fill and place sandbags to guard against the record-setting crest. (The river has receded some, but we’re bracing for a second crest coming in about a week.)
myWriterTools is a collection of tools you can use to automate many of the tedious, time-consuming, and error prone copy-editing and proofreading tasks. It’s an add-in for Microsoft Office Word, so all of these tools are available from the toolbar (or ribbon, if you’re using the latest version of Word).
myWriterTools is much more than a souped-up spelling and grammar checker. Among other things, it performs a readability analysis of your documents, showing you the average number of sentences per paragraph, letters per word, and words per sentence, along with the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (two common readability ratings). From there, you can use the Lighten Up tool, which helps you find and revise the long words and sentences.
Another tool in the myWriterTools toolbox is the Word Flipper, which searches for frequently misused words. When you run this tool, it shows you the definition of each word it finds and offers an alternative, so you can be sure you’re using the right one. For example, Word Flipper will help you be sure that you didn’t use counsel (advice; plan of action) when you meant to use council (an administrative body), or vice-versa.
One thing that caught my eye was a tool that helps you identify words that are spelled and used differently in U.S. and U.K. English. While we can usually puzzle out what things mean—for example, American’s usually understand that when a British writer mentions afters, they’re talking about dessert, and Britons understand that a talk show is a chat show—each time you have to stop and mentally translate something, it hinders your understanding of the whole thing. If you’re an American writing for a mostly U.K. audience, it seems to me that the polite thing to do would be to check that you haven’t used too many Americanisms, at the very least.
There are more tools that I haven’t mentioned—FormatFixer, JargonBuster, lyRemover, ClichéCleaver, GenderBender (the authors seem to have something about mashing words together)—as well as a writer’s reference library and a style guide that you can customize for yourself or your organization.
The interface of myWriterTools does look slightly dated, with a Windows 95 vibe. However, I found that there was much value under the covers. There are two editions, myWriterTools and myWiterTools Plus—Editor’s Edition, and both are available for discounted introductory prices.
I think myWriterTools is a well-rounded and powerful set of tools that can help you polish your work. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows in future versions. It’s currently available only for Windows 2000 or later, and works with all versions of Microsoft Office Word from 2000 on.
Check it out at www.mywritertools.com.