Elite Minds – RightWriter 5 review

specialist grammar checking program
Photo of Elite Minds – RightWriter 5
$29.95

Writing is a skill what we all hopes to do good at, though it is nothing but not easy, is it? And that’s where a grammar checking program like RightWriter 5 comes in, hopefully ensuring that an aberration of a sentence like the previous one will be rightly burned in such an intense heat that its constituent vowels and consonants are reduced to ash beyond recognition. Or rewritten correctly in proper English; either way’s good.

Using RightWriter is a matter of selecting the style of document you’re dealing with – general writing, technical or fiction – then cutting and pasting in the text. Clicking on the analyse button, a few moments of muse follow before a detailed report of any grammatical inaccuracies is presented.

In catching errors, the program employs the throw-a-bucket-of-paint-and-see-what-sticks method. In other words, every single potential mistake is highlighted. The instruction manual points out that many of these will be misdiagnosed, as it simply isn’t possible for a computer program to determine the context of an author’s word usage. Neither can it read his or her style.

So when we ran an article of ours past RightWriter, it brought up 30 suggested corrections. We only actually applied 5 of these, the errors in question being: a slightly wordy sentence, one piece of clumsy phrasing, and a long sentence that needed splitting in half. The last two were minor points, one of which was changing a passive use of voice into active.

The passive voice is a good example of why the help file warns against slavishly correcting everything that is flagged up. It’s fine for the passive to be used to some degree, and you should only consider editing if there are lots of passive phrases in a document. A healthy mix of passive and active is what you want, so says the program, and we’d agree that’s sound advice.

RightWriter’s favourite bugbear is too short or lengthy sentences, although it’s here that the program’s critique gets overly fussy. It constantly highlights “long” sentences which are actually a perfectly reasonable length. The program even suggested splitting a twelve-word sentence in two, although such obvious outright errors are rare occurrences.

We tried RightWriter with a few articles, reviews and chapters of fiction, with generally pleasing results. While it didn’t prompt us to make a huge number of changes, it certainly helped polish up the writing. The program also offers a spellchecker, a corrections tab where any general errors and mistakes are pointed out, and a summary report.

The summary measures the work in terms of its readability index, alongside strength of writing, descriptive balance (use of adjectives and adverbs) and jargon levels. This is interesting feedback, particularly the readability level which is a good meter for judging whether a piece has strayed into too wordy or convoluted territory. However, the writing strength gauge seems overly harsh, giving out generally poor ratings to everything we ran through it (even broadsheet newspaper articles).

It’s worth noting that the program doesn’t have full functionality unless Java is installed (the corrections tab won’t work otherwise). And indeed it’s designed for 32-bit Windows (XP or Vista), as on a 64-bit platform the main analysis tab doesn’t function.

Company: Elite Minds


Verdict
RightWriter is a compact grammatical tool which serves up a useful post-composition polishing process. However, you have to be able to judge when to apply its suggestions, as many aren't applicable, particularly the constant highlighting of supposedly long sentences.