Before proceeding with the review of SW4, mainly from the view of a person writing in English as a second language, I would like to stress that:
- The program does not write for you – so if there’s no writing, then there’s nothing to review
- The program does not help you change or edit a sentence style. It only tell you, or in its word ‘advice’ you that a sentence needs fixing. You still have to fix the sentences yourself. It does show some tips. But that’s almost it.
- Its main core function is improving your writing style, not your grammar. For grammar, in my view GRAMMARLY is the best. In fact, I think SW4 does not check for grammatical error (I tested this in a couple of sentences)
- The program, as I once pointed out when reviewing GRAMMARLY, does not check for writing cohesion. (I think no program can, maybe in a million years or so…)
- Unlike GRAMMARLY, SW4, does not check for plagiarism (especially for materials found online)
- Compared with GRAMMARLY, you do not need to be online to run SW4. So you can do your editing with less distraction 😉
The program ‘Measures and rates your readability and clarity’ – termed a ‘Bog Index’. The higher the bog rating, the poor the readability of your document. It also ‘Measures and rates your Average Sentence Length’; and your use of ‘Passive Verbs’.
It also does all the basics writing software does, including checks for ‘misspellings and highlights questionable words or errors missed by spellcheckers’. In addition, the SW4, ‘Highlights jargon and abbreviations, longs sentences and wordy sentences – termed ‘High Glue words’ to discourage their use. You can choose from several wrting styles, including Academic paper, student essay and general writing.
Trying the software on one to two documents, I think the program is fairly easy to understand and use after you got the hang out of it. Run the Tutor once or twice or thrice, then that should do it:-D The program main screen looks rather ancient (reminds me of my Word Perfect days), compared with WhiteSmoke (another writing software).
Once you managed to run your writing through SW4, you will feel slightly overwhelmed with all the highlights, colours and bold words and sentences. Well, at least I did! SW4 will give a statistic of your writings and show all the words and sentences that need to be improved. The tutorial helps a lot in understanding what each colour, highlights or bold sections meant. Sometimes you can turn off some of the ‘highlights’ on the View Tab to concentrate on certain of your writing only, for example passive sentences.
Most of the simple changes in SW4, for instance, correction of spelling and deleting some wrong choice of words can be done by clicking the suggestion given by the program and it will be automatically updated in your original document. However, when it comes to changing the style of the sentences, you have to go back to your original document to make such changes. You can click on the Analysis Tab to include any particular comment or advice from SW4 into the word document for easier reference and print out. Unlike GRAMMARLY, there is no available direct print function from the program. A word of caution: Do not click on the ‘Include All Advice’, because the SW4 will then include every comment on your document, again overwhelming the document (and YOU!). You can also always choose to edit your document on a separate PC or get a bigger LCD Screen.
Personally, I am of the view that, if your command of English is good, then SW4 will improve your writing style. It does not help in improving writing by itself. You’ll still need to find your own solution to writing concisely, clearly and with the correct grammar. In my opinion, GRAMMARLY and SW4 complement each other in improving your writing. If you have the fund, get both. But please be warned, editing writing, writing style and grammar using both software take a painstakingly long and stressful time. Thus, it is advisable the program be use early on in your writing and not towards the end of your PhD thesis. Then, perhaps it’s better to have a professional ‘alive’ editor to review your writing (Be warned too – that getting a professional editor that actually work to your advantage is another headache altogether ;-P).