StyleWriter helps you write in clear, concise English – often called plain English. Many people think plain English means simple, boring or childish. But it’s not. Think of plain English editing as cutting the complexity and redundancy in your writing to leave a clear, streamlined and flowing style your audience can read effortlessly. It’s the writing style of the best professional writers and communicators.
“Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of the English language. Writers of plain English let their audience concentrate on the message instead of being distracted by complicated language. They make sure that their audience understands the message easily.” - Professor Robert Eagleson
Plain English editing and a professional editor’s skills are similar. Both use commonsense rules to guide them to produce a more concise, clearer style. The 10 most important editing principles are:
- Think of your reader’s needs.
- Organize your content well.
- Write in a natural style.
- Keep sentences short.
- Use active verbs.
- Be specific rather than general.
- Cut all redundant words and phrases.
- Use simpler words rather than complex words.
- Cut down on jargon.
- Edit vigorously.
“For writing punchy, effective text, even with your own whimsical style, look no further.”- Good Software Guide
Good editing simply removes the bad style habits so your individual writing style can shine through. There’s plenty of room for individual style, rhetoric and imaginative writing. So let StyleWriter help you get rid of your poor writing habits and let you express yourself in your own words.
It will cure the common poor writing habits found in most writing. However, StyleWriter doesn’t check your grammar (as Word has a built-in grammar checker) or cure all faults. Instead of duplicating the features you have already built in to your word processor, StyleWriter concentrates on finding thousands of style faults and checking for good English usage that can transform your writing style.
StyleWriter uses a sophisticated and comprehensive database to match patterns in your writing style. Because it does not parse the sentence, the program is quick, working through about a page of text a second and displaying and analyzing all style and possible usage problems throughout the document.
“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
There are other areas StyleWriter cannot help with—no computer program can. For example, StyleWriter cannot tell you how to plan your document or arrange your sections. It cannot tell you if the content you have chosen is good or bad. One reviewer of StyleWriter summed it up well: “StyleWriter will show you how to write anything in a clear, concise and readable style. However, if you write nonsense, it will show you how to write clear, concise and readable nonsense.”
Just about anyone who writes.
- Advertisers for better ads, leaflets and press releases.
- Editors who want to use software to develop a house style.
- Journalists to check and polish their writing style.
- Judges for legal briefs to be just that - brief.
- Lawyers trying to break centuries of bad writing habits.
- Scientists who want to write clearly about complex issues.
- Social Scientists who want to sound human.
- Students wanting to get A-Grade essays.
- Technical Authors for shorter, readable documentation.
- You, if you want to learn the secrets of clear, direct language.
National governments, councils, multinational corporations, major industry bodies and others have adopted the plain English model for sound, commercial reasons — plain English saves time and money. The savings claimed for plain English are remarkable:
- The US Navy estimated plain English could save it between $250–$300 million every year.
- General Electric saved $275,000 by redrafting manuals into plain English.
- The US Department of Veterans Affairs saved $40,000 redrafting one standard letter into plain English.
- Customers in three surveys of standard letters from banks unanimously preferred the plain English versions.
- British Telecom cut customer queries by 25 percent by using plain English.
- The Royal Mail saved £500,000 in nine months by redesigning one form in plain English.
- UK businesses lose £6 billion a year because of badly written letters.
- A UK Government Plain English initiative saved £9 million in printing costs.
These savings come from organizations training key staff, employing professional writers and editors. But these people can only edit a few of the thousands of documents produced each day in large organizations. Imagine the savings if you used training and editing software to guarantee all employees wrote clear, plain English in every document.
StyleWriter works with all versions of Office and Word from Word 2000 onwards. For all other programs, you need to save your document to the clipboard. StyleWriter can then check the clipboard text. Although this does not offer the same ease of use offered when working with Word files, it means you can check any text.
Alternatively, you can copy clipboard text into Word, edit with StyleWriter and then copy the edited text back to the original program.
StyleWriter 4 is a Win32 application and works on all current editions of Word and Windows.
- StyleWriter 4 does not work with the Apple Mac, but some users have successfully run the program on this system using products such as Parallels Desktop® for Mac.
Installation and activation
Installation, either from CD or download, requires:
the executable file StWrIV.exe (either local or on a share),
data files containing the patterns (SW4xx.ptn) that find problems and messages (SW4xx.msg) that provide advice (either local or on a share),
Help files (SW4xx.chm) that must be on the same path as the data files,
a Word add-in template for calling StyleWriter from Microsoft Word (either in the user's Word\Startup folder or the Office\Startup folder),
optional Tutorial files, and
Registry entries that tell the system where to find the executable file and tell StyleWriter 4 where to find its data and Help files.
The StyleWriter 4 executable is copy protected and must be activated to run beyond its 14-day trial
Using StyleWriter 4 with Word
When Word documents are open on the Desktop, StyleWriter 4 uses Word's COM interface to interrogate the Word document and get a copy of the text.
StyleWriter 4 displays its own view of the text, highlighting the problems it has found, and offering editing advice. When it can suggest direct replacement of a word or phrase, StyleWriter 4 offers the suggestion in blue underlined text as an active link. Clicking this link causes StyleWriter 4 to use Word's COM interface to replace the text in the source document, then get a fresh copy of the text.
When checking a Word document, StyleWriter 4 offers the alternative of inserting advice comments in the source document, creating a 'marked-up' document.
The Word add-in template SW4_AddIn.dot allows users to call StyleWriter to check the current document, and to call StyleWriter's writing advice and the Tutor, House Style advice and Writing Course if installed. The add-in has an AutoExec macro that adjusts its own toolbars to suit the version of Word and the Editor Software applications installed.
StyleWriter 4 can be configured to save document statistics to an archive file.
Using StyleWriter 4 with other programs
When Clipboard Text is available, StyleWriter can check and display this in the same way. It offers suggestions in blue text without underline, and without any link to the source document. Edits must be done manually.
- If Word is used as the editor in Outlook (2003 and earlier), Word provides full interactivity for StyleWriter to check emails.
StyleWriter 4 does not make copies of documents.
StyleWriter 4 does not access the Internet.
We’ve designed StyleWriter to work with Word in Windows.
Although we do not support Apple/Mac, some of our users have successfully run the program on this system using products such as Parallels Desktop® for Mac, where, according to their claims:
"You don’t have to choose between Windows and Mac OS X. You can seamlessly run both side-by-side, drag-and-drop your files between operating systems, and run Windows applications on your Mac without rebooting."
If you want to download and try StyleWriter before you buy, you can do so by visiting our downloads section.
Please note that while we're happy to offer advice on using StyleWriter for Mac users, we cannot offer technical support.
We have United States, United Kingdom and Australian versions of the program. Each international version of StyleWriter reflects the English usage of the area. Each entry in the program, its advice and help screens are consistent with the following authorities:
- USA— Webster’s Dictionary
- UK — Oxford Dictionary
- Australia — Macquarie Dictionary
When you install StyleWriter, you can choose the US, UK or Australian versions or all three.
StyleWriter is normally a single-user license that allow you to install on one machine. You can buy the License Extension Pack for $30 to allow you to install StyleWriter on up to three machines for your personal use. This allows you to have the program on your home, portable and work machines.
The License Extension Pack does not allow you to install one StyleWriter license on multiple work or office computers used by someone other than you or let a second user install the program.
The $30 fee covers administration, technical support and registration for each extra machine licensed.
If you have bought the License Extension Pack, install from the download file or the Software for Writers CD on each machine and complete a new registration for each copy installed and ask for a Second Authorization or Third Authorization. We will then send you codes authorizing use on your second and third machines.
Rather than give you a 30-day, money-back guarantee, we encourage you to download the StyleWriter free trial. That way, you don’t buy the program unless you’re 100 percent happy with it.
If you buy the program without using the trial, we will normally refund your payment if you have not Registered the software. We cannot issue refunds once you have Registered the program.
However, we will consider any requests for refunds and our decision will depend on the specific circumstances.
StyleWriter’s Bog Index is a measure that improves on the standard readability formulas. Its key feature is to measure readability with a graded word list rather than simply using a syllable count, or word length. It then rates the style and readability of your document according to document type – the Writing Task and the Target Audience.
Sentence Bog measures the effect of sentence length for different writing tasks.
Word Bog measures word difficulty (rather than word length), abbreviations and acronyms, wordiness, passive verbs and other style issues.
Pep measures features that are the hallmarks of good writing. They include proper names, interesting words, conversational expressions, direct questions, short sentences, and sentence length variety. Sentence length variety is measured by taking the sentence length standard deviation, multiplying by 10 divided by the average sentence length.
The Passive Index shows whether you have used too many passive verbs helps you decide how many you need to change into active verbs. Too many passive verbs make writing tedious and difficult to read.
StyleWriter counts the number of passive verbs, divides them by the number of sentences and multiplies the result by 100 to give a Passive Index score.
If you have too many passive verbs, change as many passive verbs as you can into active verbs. If you can keep your Passive Index below 20, you're using a good, active writing style. If you can, write with the Passive Index below 10.
Changing passive verbs to active verbs transforms your writing. To change verbs from passive to active, either:
Place who did the action first - click here to see examples
Cut out as much of the passive verb as you can - click here to see examples
The Style Index was StyleWriter’s measure of good writing before we designed the Bog Index. The Style Index measures all plain English problems in the text, including a weighted score for long sentences. It then converts this measure into an index. The best writing consistently scores below 20 – equivalent to two style faults for every 100 words.
How does the Electronic Writing Course compare to conventional training?
Although nothing can replace an inspiring tutor in the classroom, the Electronic Writing Course has certain advantages.
- You can learn much more in one day using the Electronic Writing Course. You would probably learn three to four times the information, tips and ideas as you would get on a conventional course.
- You can learn at your own pace, spreading the training over several days.
- You can revisit any part of the Course to brush up your skills.
"I suddenly realized half way through the Course how many faults had crept into my business writing style over the last 20 years. The Course shone like a beacon, highlighting the habits and showing simple techniques to transform the way I communicate. Now I just have to convince everyone in the corporation to go through this expert training."
- Senior Vice President
A single-user license to the Electronic Writing Course designed for the US Federal Government costs $75 (UK £50 + VAT). Discounts are available to organizations buying large licenses.
How much does a Course site license cost?
A customized Course means redesigning it with your employees’ writing samples and takes about two months to create. The typical cost is $100,000 for a license to use the Course to train all employees. This makes it economical in organizations of over 2,000 employees. However, the larger the organization, the cheaper it becomes to train each member of staff.
If you want to discuss your organization's need for training in effective writing skills, please contact us.
Do I need StyleWriter as well as the Course?
We recommend you use both programs. The Electronic Writing Course teaches staff how to write clearly; StyleWriter makes sure you follow the lessons learnt.
What is an Electronic House Style?
Our Electronic House Style service is a way to guarantee consistency in every document. While StyleWriter guarantees clear writing, a house style sets a consistent style for staff to follow. There are usually two main areas to a house style:
- A written house style guide
- Computerized house style guide
Most organizations have rules for the way to lay out reports, memos, email and so on. Although you can set these up as templates in your word processor, many organizations ask us to design pop-up help screens in your word processor. These show how the finished document should look and act as a quick reference for any employee.
Most organizations have preferred ways to write dates, product names, weights and measures and so on. We can code StyleWriter for thousands of such problems and guarantee all employees write these consistently in all documents.
How much does the Electronic House Style service cost?
We usually design an Electronic House Style for our clients who take out a StyleWriter site license. In these cases, we design a house style as part of this license agreement. As a guide, an Electronic House Style to check for 2,000 problems in StyleWriter with a dozen help screens typically costs a one-off fee of $25,000
Here are the common technical support issues for StyleWriter 4.
If you have a technical support problem and you cannot fix it by reading the explanation below, click here to contact us
We aim to answer all technical support issues within 24 hours.
Downloading, installing and activating StyleWriter 4
Whether you have bought StyleWriter using our online shopping cart or asked for a trial, you’ll download the same installation file with its 14-day trial/activation period.
If you bought StyleWriter using our online shopping cart, download it by logging into your "Customer Area" using the username and password you created when you ordered StyleWriter:
Then click the "Downloads" link (highlighted in red):
Click the "Download" button to start the download. The setup file is called StWrIWV-4setup.exe and will download to your default download folder:
Double-click the saved download file in your download folder to start the installation.
We recommend you allow the default installation. However, during installation, select Custom installation if you don't want to install all three versions of StyleWriter (USA, UK and Australian), or if you don't want to install the tutorial.
The installation places StyleWriter 4 and its associated files in C:\Program Files\Editor Software\StyleWriter 4. The executable file installed is StWrIV.exe.
The installation places a StyleWriter 4 add-in template SW4_AddIn.dot in Word’s startup folder. Each time you open Microsoft Word, it loads the StyleWriter, help file and Tutor buttons in either Word’s tool bar (Word 2003 and earlier) or in the Add-Ins tab (Word 2007 and later).
If you have installed all three versions, you will also see the following Start menu shortcuts at:
Start/All Programs/Editor Software/StyleWriter 4:
Activating your StyleWriter program
If you have downloaded a trial copy of StyleWriter 4, it will run as a trial for 14 days. For unrestricted use, you need to buy StyleWriter so you can activate the program. Click here to visit our online store
If you have bought StyleWriter, you need to activate the program by using the license ID and password you received in the order confirmation email. You can also find these details in the "Payment History" section of the customer area by clicking on the "StyleWriter 4" product link:
Next run StyleWriter by:
- Opening or creating a document in Word.
- Clicking on the StyleWriter icon.
Then choose "Activate StyleWriter 4":
Now click "Activate StyleWriter 4 Online":
Enter your License ID and Password sent to you in email receipt when you ordered. Click continue:
If the activation was successful, you will see the message below. Click continue to open StyleWriter. If there is an error message, please contact support quoting the error message.
You run StyleWriter by:
- Opening or creating a document in Word.
- Clicking on the StyleWriter icon.
StyleWriter opens over the Word document and analyzes the document showing you where and how to edit.
You edit by clicking on the blue-underlined suggestion (this changes the text in both StyleWriter and Word) or using the Edit/Resume button to move between Word and StyleWriter to make your changes manually.
When you have finished editing, close StyleWriter and save your Word document.
To understand all StyleWriter’s features, use the Tutor – downloaded with StyleWriter 4. For more help on StyleWriter 4, look at the help files.
How do I change the version of StyleWriter running?
StyleWriter has three international versions: American, British and Australian. The version currently running is shown by the initials of the country next to Audience. The screenshot below shows the American version is the pattern file loaded.
If you want to change the pattern file used by StyleWriter, first check that you have the three versions installed.
- To open the 'Open Pattern File' dialog, either:
- Click on the language version and select 'Open a different Pattern File …', or
- Click the Tools menu and select 'Open Pattern File'.
- If the version you want is listed, select it and click Open. StyleWriter will then use that pattern file to check all future documents.
If the version you want to use is not listed, you'll need to install it first.
- Run the StyleWriter installation again and choose Custom/Modify the installation.
- Select the version(s) you want to install.
- After installation, select the pattern file you want from StyleWriter's Open Pattern File dialog as described above.
How can I check text other than Microsoft Word files?
(Checking through the clipboard)
Although StyleWriter’s designed to check Word documents, you can use it on any text or any file created by another program. You need to save the document to the clipboard and check the clipboard text.
You can check text with StyleWriter through the clipboard.
- Save text to the clipboard (highlight text [Ctrl+A highlights the whole text] and press Ctrl-C)
- Run StyleWriter from Start/All Programs/Editor Software/StyleWriter 4/StyleWriter 4
- Choose clipboard text if offered this option.
To save time, you can make a shortcut for step 2. Do this by using Start/All Programs/Editor Software/StyleWriter 4[right-click mouse]/Send to/Desktop (create shortcut). You can also drag that shortcut to your Quick Launch bar in the Task Bar if you wish.
This means the instructions become:
- Save text to the clipboard (Ctrl+A and Ctrl-C)
- Run StyleWriter from clicking on the StyleWriter shortcut
- Choose clipboard text if offered this option.
You will have to make the changes manually when using StyleWriter through the clipboard.
Why do I get a message saying: Could not open message file SW4US.ptn?
This means the installation program has not installed the Registry value the program needs to find the Pattern and Message files. This may be because the program was installed under a different username.
In Vista or Win7, these files would be installed to:
C:\ProgramData\Editor Software\StyleWriter 4\
In XP, they would be installed to:
C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Editor Software\StyleWriter 4\
- Open Windows Explorer and go to this folder to see if the files are installed.
- If they are not present, run a search to find SW4US.ptn (SW4UK.ptn or SW4UA.pnt if you installed other versions).
- When you have found the files, Open StyleWriter.
- When StyleWriter asks for SW4US.ptn, use the Open File dialog to navigate to the correct folder and open the Pattern File.
If the program was installed under a different name or the Administrator, you need to:
- Copy StyleWriter's Registry entries from the Administrator account to your normal account.
- As the Administrator, open the Registry Editor (Go to Start/Run... and enter Regedit),
- Go to the key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Editor Software\StyleWriter\4.0\Basic
- Select this and go to: File/Export to export the values to a file (for example SW4.reg and save it somewhere accessible to both users, such as C:\.
- To Import the values into the user's Registry, log on as the user, open Explorer at the C:\ drive and double-click the Exported file.
Why don’t I have a StyleWriter button in Word’s tool bar or Add-in tab?
StyleWriter should put its button in Word's tool bar or in later versions in Word's Add-in tab.
If you have no StyleWriter button in Word (either in the tool bar or Add-ins tab), it means Word is not loading the add-in template SW4_AddIn.dot. This should have been installed to your Word\Startup folder, In Vista that's:
If the installation was done using a different username, the add-in would be in that user's Word\Startup folder.
- Search for SW4_AddIn.dot to see where it’s installed.
- Copy it to your own Word\Startup folder.
If you still have a problem, contact technical support here
Why do I get an error asking if I want to save the changes to SW4_AddIn.dot?
This message displays on exiting StyleWriter because Microsoft Word is finding and loading two copies of SW4_AddIn.dot.
- Open the Templates and Add-ins dialog.
For Word 2000, 2002 and 2003, this is in Word's Tools menu.
For Word 2007 or 2010, it's in the Developer tab. If you can't see the Developer tab, go to Word Options and in the 'Popular' section select 'Show Developer tab in the Ribbon
You will see a list of add-ins. Click on each one, the dialog shows where the file is located.
- Remove all copies of SW_AddIn.dot except the one in the Startup folder.
Why do I get Error 69 when registering my copy of StyleWriter?
Error Code 69 usually occurs if you close down the Activation between the time of sending in your User Codes and getting the Activation Code 1 back from Editor Software. It sometimes occurs if you send in the wrong User Codes or type in the Activation Codes wrongly.
Follow the instructions below to send to Editor Software your StyleWriter User Codes now displaying in the Activation Screen. Don’t close the screen, but wait until Editor Software emails back the Activation Code 1 to you.
- Open the Activation Screen from Start/All Programs/Editor Software/StyleWriter 4/Activation.
- Click Activate StyleWriter 4
- Copy and paste the two user codes for StyleWriter 4 on your machine with your name and customer ID into a return email to firstname.lastname@example.org
User Code 1:
User Code 2:
Note: Do not close the Activation Screen.
Editor Software will send you the Activation Codes you need for unlimited use of the program on your machine.
- Paste the Activation Codes in the Activation Boxes below the User Codes.
- Click Continue.
If you still have a problem, contact technical support here