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ProWritingAid Help 2022-04-07 00:00

How to Use the Writing Style Check

The Style Report is one of the most popular and comprehensive reports that ProWritingAid offers. It highlights several areas of writing that should be revised to improve readability, including passive voice, overuse of adverbs, hidden verbs and more.

When you run the report, it will look something like this:

prowritingaid writing style report

The review panel to the left will give you an overview of the writing style suggestions for your document.

The improvements fall into the following categories:

  • Readability Enhancements
  • Hidden verbs
  • Passive verbs
  • Passive index
  • Style improvements
  • Long subordinate clauses
  • Adverbs outside of dialogue
  • Emotion tells
  • Repeated sentence starts
  • Style guide items (more on that soon)

That's a lot of categories. But you can use the navigation menus for each to focus on the areas you want to prioritize.

prowritingaid writing style check navigation menu showing and eye icon and an arrow icon

Each item on the review panel corresponds to a highlight in your document. To hide the highlights for an item, click on the eye icon. To jump to the highlight for an item, click on the arrow icon.

If you would like to focus on one category in particular, e.g. Readability Enhancements, turn off highlights for all other categories by hovering over the category headings and clicking the eye icon. To show the highlights, click the eye again.

Contents:
  1. The Style Report Categories
  2. Style Guide Terms
  3. Final Thoughts
  4. Try ProWritingAid's Editor For Yourself

The Style Report Categories

Let's look at 7 of the most common Style Report suggestions and how they appear in ProWritingAid.

Readability Enhancements

Readability Enhancements make your writing easier to understand. This doesn't mean dumbing down your ideas. Instead, you're simplifying language that is unnecessarily complicated (or omitting simple language that is unnecessary) or resolving awkward phrasing.

readability suggestion to remove 'very', with explanatory article

If you're not sure why ProWritingAid has made a suggestion, you can click on the orange 'i' in the corner of the suggestion to find out more.

It's a good idea to check your Readability Enhancements after running ProWritingAid's Readability Report in order to improve your hard-to-read paragraphs. Find out more about the Readability Report here.

Hidden Verbs

Verbs are the engine of our writing. Many novice writers end up accidentally hiding their verbs. This process (called nominalization) turns verbs into nouns and adds a weak verb in their place. For example:

  • We will make an announcement of the winner on Friday.
  • We will announce the winner on Friday.

The first sentence uses a weak verb (make) and hides a strong verb (announce) as a noun (announcement). The second sentence is shorter, clearer and stronger.

hidden verbs message in prowritingaid

The Hidden Verbs category highlights all your hidden verbs so reveal those strong verbs in all their glory.

Passive Verbs

Sentences are weakened by passive verbs.

Passive verbs weaken sentences.

See how that second sentence is punchier? The Style report highlights your passive verbs so you can make them active.

Passive Index

The Passive Index tells you how much of your text is written in the passive voice.

passive voice correction

If you're using the passive voice intentionally, just hit 'Ignore' to remove the highlight, as above.

Style Improvements

Have you ever been wowed by writing that describes something as 'good'?

style improvement suggestion

Style improvements will suggest changing run-of-the-mill words like good, large, big, small etc. for more exciting, informative alternatives.

Adverbs

Adverbs are words that add color or emphasis to a verb. Compare these sentences:

  • The barista made a cup of coffee.
  • The barista grumpily made a cup of coffee.

The adverb “grumpily” offers an additional layer of understanding to the scene.

How to use adverbs

But, as Stephen King famously said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Lazy writers use adverbs to modify a weak verb instead of searching for a stronger verb. Look at these examples:

We certainly don’t suggest that you remove ALL adverbs; sometimes they will be exactly right for what you are trying to get across. But adverbs tend to prop up weak verbs and so you should always ask yourself “Is there a stronger verb I can use here instead?”

Repeated Sentence Starts

The Style Check will highlight paragraphs where you have started multiple sentences with the same word. This is most common with pronouns: "I woke...", "I showered...", "I called...", etc.

repeated sentence starts suggestion

Change up your sentence starts for more engaging writing.

Style Guide Terms

Your Style Guide is a customizable bank of rules and suggestions that you input yourself for use in ProWritingAid. If you writing breaks one of your Stle Guide rules, the error will appear under 'Style Guide Terms' in the Style Report.

Find out more about how to use Style Guides here.

Emotion Tells

When we write, we want our readers to feel something. For many writers, creating a strong emotional response, whether that's a need for a product, concern for a character or motivation to change, is a sign of a successful piece of writing.

When you're in the writing zone, it's easy to use placeholder words like 'scared', 'excited', 'sad' and 'smiled' to tell your reader (and your future editing-self) how your characters are feeling. ProWritingAid can root these out in your writing so that you can replace them with descriptions that show your reader what they're feeling instead.

Take these examples:

There was a rattling sound from the other side of the thin wooden door. Julie was scared. She looked around for another way out, but there wasn’t one.

Here, we're shown what Julie is feeling. We have no idea what that looks like or really feels like for her, and no real connection to that feeling ourselves.

ProWritingAid will highlight phrases like 'was scared' to help you work out where you need to add more detail:

screenshot of an emotion tells suggestion for 'was scared'

The suggestion won't tell you how to rewrite your sentence. You know your character (or your own aims for your reader) better than anyone.

Let's rewrite that sentence:

There was a rattling sound from the other side of the thin wooden door. Julie felt a bead of cold sweat trickle down her temple. She wiped it away with shaking hands. Her eyes darted around the room, looking for another way out. There wasn’t one.

This is better. We know what it feels like to be in a cold sweat with shaky hands. We get a physical sense of Julie's experience, helping us to imagine ourselves in her position.

Check your own writing for emotion tells by running it through the Style Report.

Final Thoughts

The Style Report helps you to make your writing as engaging, readable and effective as possible. You don't have to accept every suggestion, but trying out a few of them could help you transform your prose in a couple of clicks.

Try ProWritingAid's Editor For Yourself


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