With the start of this blog I became interested in writing style. I don’t think I’ll be alone in saying that writing in a clear and direct way can be difficult to achieve. There have been metrics around for years for judging the clarity and structure of writing, so I became curious about what might be available online for analyzing it.
Doing an internet search for “writing style analyzer”, I found a few of sites that satisfied my curiosity!
The first one is Expresso. Simply copy and paste a passage of text, and it gives a list of metrics and how often they occur in the text. There are metrics like “filler words”, “weak verbs”, “entity substitutions” (vague use of pronouns). But this isn’t simply a static list of statistics on the text; it’s very interactive. Click on one of the metrics and the words that fit that metric are highlighted in the text. Hover the mouse over any metric and a popup will explain more about what it means. Hover the mouse over a word in the analyzed text and a popup will provide possible alternatives for the word. I found this site very powerful yet easy and direct to use.
Another “copy and paste” site that I looked at, Analyze My Writing, provides a wide variety of metrics on writing style, including the Gunning Fog and SMOG readability indices, as well as some interesting graphical depiction of readability (Fry Readability Graph, Raygor Readability Graph).
Then, just for fun, there’s the I Write Like site. Enter a block of text, and it will return the name of an author whose writing most matches it. I did several trials, entering a couple of paragraphs at a time, and got Kurt Vonnegut, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and David Foster Wallace as my authors. The latter author I’ve never read; Kurt Vonnegut, science fiction writer, always liked him, good for a technically oriented blog! And Sir Arther Conan Doyle? What better style for a site that promotes curiosity? Clearly, this all should be taken with a grain of salt; I entered a couple of passages from an obscure short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that I found on Gutenberg.org and the site classified it as the writing of Robert Louis Stevenson. But still, fun to play with.
Style Analysis in WordPress
I searched WordPress for style analysis plugins with features similar to the websites discussed above. I didn’t find any kind of plugin that would support the kind of interactive analysis that the Expresso site has, but I did find a few plugins that would show readability scores. None of the plugins found were tested on recent versions of WordPress, but still three of them seem to work pretty well.
The “FD Word Statistics Plugin” by John Watson displays a plugin at the bottom of the Edit Post page with the Fog, Kincaid, and Flesch readability grades, as well as a count of the number of sentences. The information page for this plugin says that this plugin will not be maintained after May, 2016, but it still seems to work under WordPress 4.8.1 as of the writing of this post (September, 2017).
The “WP Readability Analysis” plugin by Salvatore Della Pepa was last updated 2 years ago; the info claims that it is compatible with WordPress 4.3.11 and later as of this writing. It displays the Fog, Kincaid, Flesh, and Gulpease readability grades along with the number of sentences in a widget at the upper right of the Edit Post page.
The “Better Writing” plugin by Mike Riethmuller was last updated 4 years ago; it is listed as being compatible up to WordPress 3.7.21, but still seemed to work OK with WordPress 4.8.1. This plugin, the most full featured of the three that I tried, displays several of the readability metrics (Flesch Reading Ease, Coleman Lau, Gunning, SMOG, Automated) in a widget in the upper right of the Edit Post page, and also shows word count, sentence count, average words per sentence, and average syllables per word. In addition, the Flesch metric appears in an added “Readability” column in the All Posts page. And this plugin supports 8 different shortcodes to display any one of the metrics in other locations (posts, pages) in the site.
The site Daily Writing Tips has an extensive collection of great articles on how to improve writing style. Check out the article 10 Tips for Clean Clear Writing for a great overview of ideas.
Analyze My Writing
I Write Like
Daily Writing Tips
“The Mystery of Sasassa Valley”, By A. Conan Doyle on gutenberg.org