"Style checker" programs are no longer much in evidence though some are still
around. If you find one, use it with discretion. Don't automatically accept any style
checker's suggestions on word choice. Grammatik, for example, tells you to simplify
expressions like "one more" to "another" and automatically questions each use of
"girl," whether you're talking about female executives or Brownie scouts. Its advice
is frequently nonsensical. And no style checker yet developed is much help with
hundreds of common writing problems you need to avoid. For a broad outline of errors
a style checker may or may not catch, click here. On the other hand, most flag trite
expressions, there constructions, and passive verbs for possible editing. All have
counters that give you words-per-sentence and syllable-per-words counts, and measure
your writing against various "readability" indexes.
You can do a lot of useful style analysis by taking advantage of a regular word
processor's text-moving and highlighting capabilities. For instance, emphasizing
the deadwood in a wordy passage, perhaps in color, can make the problem jump out
at you. For an example, click here.
Or simply add a return to the end of each sentence to get a graphic representation
of your sentence length. Remember, variety is good. To see what I mean, click here.
Of course, you can refine this technique a great deal by adding a return to each
breath unit, as in this example.
Want a quick count of syllables per breath unit for a long passage? Block it,
copy it into a new document, insert a period at the end of each breath unit, and
run a statistical check. Since each "sentence" in the new document is a breath unit,
the program will now identify the number of words per breath unit. Multiplying by
the number of syllables per word gives you the syllables per breath unit. To work
with individual breath units, copy each one separately into your new document. The
checker will directly identify the number of syllables for you, no multiplication
Why copy the text you want to measure or otherwise manipulate into a new document?
Just to save yourself from having to hunt through the original and take out all the
changes you've introduced.
Go through a passage displayed by clauses highlighting your subjects, and you'll
have a clear idea of how well they cluster to promote coherence.
Or mark the verbs to see how lively and effective they are.