Hidden Gems in the Grammar Checker
If you dig around in your word processor, you can find some amazing things at the back of the cupboard - if you know what to do with them.
I don't know if this is as new to you as it was to me - but I have discovered something genuinely useful in the grammar checker's tools. I have always been a bit sniffy about them on the basis that you seemed to need to understand grammatical terms to be able to act on its advice - and if you understood the terms, you probably didn't need the advice.
For example, what use is "passive, consider revising" if you don't know what the passive is?
Anyway, go into the grammar checker's toolkit and tick the box called "readability statistics", which is not ticked by default. Here's how:
Tools/options/spelling & grammar gives you a page of tick boxes. Readability statistics is the last one.
Click on the office button; go to "Word Options" right down at the bottom of the box; click on "proofing" third down on the left; readability statistics is three-quarters of the way down the page.
Now, when you run the spellchecker right through your document you will find some gems. The first one is that you find out your average sentence length, which is quite useful (anything over 20 is hard to read). The real surprise to me though was the Flesch reading ease index. A client of mine encouraged me to look into it - so I discovered its value. If you check it out on Wikipedia you get the full explanation, but the short version is that a high score is easier to read than a low score - and it really works. An article from the Sun got 62, the Financial Times and the Independent both got scores in the 40s, a poorly written report got 34 and some particularly long-winded text in a random website got no points at all.
In other words, it can be a genuine indicator of how accessible your writing is. Personally, I think reports should be in the 40s and web content should be higher. If you play with this, let me know what you discover.
This blog gets 69.5
Let me know what you think of this tool, and any others you come across in the process.