Hey, guys! I’m alive!
I’m slightly late on this week’s YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday, but here we are nonethless:
This Week’s Topic is: What word processing program do you use to write you manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you’ve learned in that program that has helped you while you write?
Ah, a nice easy one to get me back into the swing of blogging like a responsible blogger who doesn’t abandon her readers (sorry).
I primarily use Microsoft Word because I’m vanilla like that. One thing I like about Word is being able to enable “Readability statistics”. In Word 2010, you can find this under File/Options/Proofing. I’ll include a screenshot to show you where it is on the pop-up menu (click to see a larger version):
What this does is bring up a dialogue box after you’ve run your document through spellcheck:
This can be helpful to a writer in that it can tell you how hard your writing is to read. The “readability” heading basically takes all the data shown above it and distills it into some numbers for you. Since fiction writers (at least of genre and mainstream fiction) prefer to avoid having too many passive sentences, the percentage for that can be useful. In essence, the more passive sentences you have in your writing, the harder the reader has to work to make sense of it.
The Flesch Reading Ease is a 100-point scale that, as the title might suggest, tells you how easy your work is to read. The Flesch-Kindcaid Grade Level tells you how many years of education a reader would need to understand your writing, at least on a sentence-by-sentence level. Actually comprehending the subject is a different matter entirely and can’t be measured by the formulaic approach outlined here. The Wikipedia page for the readability tests has more information about calculating these figures. The system isn’t perfect, but it can be a good starting point when trying to make sure your work is accessible to readers.
It should be noted that a lot of bestselling authors have rather low grade levels assigned to their work, indicating that the average reader prefers books that are easy to read. I must admit I’m not actually surprised. A lot of readers find dense text incredibly time-consuming and frustrating.
I’m sure a lot of your guys already know this stuff, and that’s awesome. Hopefully I will have helped somebody who didn’t actually know about this tool.