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Writing tools for Windows

Windows tools that can help you best get your point across, whether by coming up with the perfect word or phrase, or just giving your writing that much-needed punch in the arm.

Let’s face it: Even if you don’t write for a living, you still need to know how to write. Most white-collar jobs come with a certain amount of paperwork (reports, analysis, etc.) and if you can express yourself clearly and effectively, you’re one step ahead of the competition.

This edition of Windows Advisor concentrates on Windows tools that can help you best get your point across, whether by coming up with the perfect word or phrase, making sure that your grammar and punctuation is dead-on, or just giving your writing that much-needed punch in the arm, not to mention a swift kick in the pants.

Microsoft Word

Word is, by far, the best word processing program available to Windows users today. But even if you use Word regularly, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some of the features that could help take your writing to the next level.

Did you know, for example, that Word can analyze your documents and tell you where your words stand on the Flesch-Kincaid readability chart? This column, for instance, rates at a twelfth-grade level, with a reading ease level of 53 percent.

What does that mean? In a nutshell, it means that anyone who graduated high school shouldn’t have a problem reading it, and that 53 percent of the words in the article (such as “Flesch-Kincaid” itself) are considered “hard words.” Oops, it just went up to 54 percent.

The formula isn’t perfect, but it does provide a good guideline to aim for in terms of readability and accessibility. (57 percent now–OK, OK,, I’ll stop.) You don’t want your articles, reports, or summaries to be over your reader’s head, but neither do you want to talk down to them. If you’re somewhere between eighth- and twelfth-grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, you’re probably all right.

Word also offers other features to improve your writing, including the oft-used grammar and spell check, as well as the less-frequently-cited style check. Be careful, though: for whatever reason, Word doesn’t–correction, does not–seem to like contractions. Whatever other benefits you might gain from the style checker is offset by this oddity, and for that reason I tend to just enable grammar and spelling and let my style take care of itself. All of these options and more can be found under Tools>Options>Spelling & Grammar.

Word comes as part of Microsoft Office, the standard edition of which retails for around $300. You can find more information at Microsoft’s Web site >www.microsoft.com

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