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Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: MyWriterTools

I was lucky enough recently to be sent a copy of myWriterTools, a new program designed to help writers create better documents.

In view of the name, I should perhaps start by clarifying that this is not a WCCL product (WCCL sponsor My Writing Blog and My Writers Circle, among other sites for writers).

myWriterTools operates as an add-in for Microsoft Word. It works with Word 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007. Once it's installed, you can access all the functions it offers via a special toolbar.

In versions of Word prior to 2007, the myWriterTools toolbar shows up directly above the document and is visible all the time. In 2007 (which I use) you have to click on the Add-Ins tab; the toolbar then appears under this and you can access all its functions there. I actually rather like this, as it means the toolbar is hidden until you need it. Here's a screengrab with the drop-down tools menu activated...


So what does myWriterTools actually do? It's designed to help writers in a variety of ways. For example, it will help you fix common formatting problems (e.g. replacing all double spaces with a single space), find and replace incorrectly used words, make documents gender neutral, convert US to UK English (or vice versa), and so on. There are also tools to help you improve the readability of your work, e.g. by finding and fixing long words and sentences, and built-in style guides. Other features include:
  • lyRemover - finds and changes unnecessary adverbs ending in -ly
  • JargonBuster - finds and fixes commonly misused words and jargon
  • ClicheCleaver - finds and changes overused cliches
  • GenderBender - finds and replaces sexist language to make documents gender neutral
There is also a built-in back-up tool, which time stamps back-up files with your comments.

myWriterTools does not include generic spelling or grammar checkers, presumably because Word has these already. The program is really designed to extend the range of tools provided within Word and make them more specific to the needs of writers.

Overall, I was impressed with myWriterTools. It is much cheaper than similar products such as WhiteSmoke, while still offering a wide range of features. In fairness to WhiteSmoke, I should point out that their software (which I do also recommend) operates rather differently. It has its own built-in spelling and grammar-checkers and can be used with other text-based applications, including word processors, email programs, web-based forms, and so on. myWriterTools, as I said earlier, can only be used with Microsoft Word.

Nonetheless, if you're looking for help bringing your writing up to the highest possible standard - and you use Word, of course - myWriterTools is well worth the modest price being asked. There is also a slightly more expensive version for proofreaders and editors, offering additional features such as format tags and style sheets.

Incidentally, the latest addition to the myWriterTools product range is myWordCount (scroll down the myWriterTools homepage to see this product). This is a standalone program that will analyze your Word document for word and phrase usage and sentence length. It then produces sortable tables of counts for all words and phrases, and graphs sentence lengths. It looks like a useful tool for polishing your writing, and I'm planning on buying a copy myself (it's on offer for just $9.95 right now). I'll review it here soon.

Finally, just a small note of caution. Programs like myWriterTools and WhiteSmoke can save you time and help you to identify mistakes and weaknesses in your writing, but they are NOT a substitute for learning the rules of grammar and punctuation. My downloadable guide Essential English for Authors covers all the common problem areas, and will bring your written English up to a publishable standard in the shortest possible time.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Barni-Google said...

Are we sure this program won't take over our personalities Nick?

Sounds like the writer could have a shelf life if things get too automated.
I was a graphic artist for a living until the computer crowded me out.
P.S.-I had to guffaw slightly on the part where it tells you if you're sexist.
My apologies to those who's undying devotion to improving me as a writer. I need all the help I can get.
Mostly a Bunsen burner under my bum I think! Without you and MWC times would be a lot less encouraging... and I say thanks.
-dynodreamer

3:20 AM  

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