Two important writing tools that I use when I revise are readability and www.wordle.net.
I learned of the readability feature in Microsoft Word from “The Writer’s Little Helper” by James V. Smith, Jr. To turn on the readability feature is simple. When you spell check a document, click on options and select “show readability statistics.” Then after spell check, a box will appear with numbers. According to Smith the ones to shoot for are:
Words per sentence (average): 15 maximum
Characters per word (average): 4.5 maximum
Passive voice: 5 percent maximum
Flesch Reading Ease: 80 percent minimum
Flesch-Kincaid Level: 6 maximum
Although with the Flesch Reading Ease, I’m happy with 65 to 75 percent and with the Flesch-Kincaid Level 7 or 8 is great. But it all depends on who your audience is and your goals for the piece. I try to keep the Flesch scales consistent around a certain range for a piece, letting the style dictate the range. The passive voice number is very important because passive sentences are definitely weaker than active ones.
Wordle is a handy tool I picked up from National Novel Writing Month. Go to http://www.wordle.net and click “Create.” Paste the text of your short story, for example, and then click “Go.” The site creates a picture (or word cloud) of the words used most often in the text. I for one use “that” and “just” too often. So wordle is a great tool to see which words you overuse and then try to weed those from your work.
Both readability and wordle have helped me cut unnecessary words from my writing. Tighter prose is cleaner and easier to read and convey information.
If you would like to see a word cloud of this post, click below: