It works with Microsoft Word 2003. Once installed (it’s a free download), it appears as a small toolbar. There are two main tools:
- Bullfighter. This works like a regular spelling and grammar checker but it warns if you use certain cliches or business bull words. You can add your own pet hate words to the list.
- Bull index. This brings up a window showing: a bull index (a score generated by the number of bull words used in the text), the average sentence length and the average word length and a Flesch readability score. All these different elements are combined into a single ‘Bull Composite Index’ for the document.
Getting a Flesch readability score at the click of a button is very useful. Word’s grammar checker will do it but you have to click through the wholel document first. The Bull detector is helpful. I picked up a couple of poor word choices that way.
Overall, I recommend Bullfighter. It’s useful. It might be educational for bad writers (it was developed originally by a firm of management consultants).
Bullfighter did highlight one problem with readability statistics. This isn’t a fault of Bullfighter specifically but of all these kinds of tools. Across a very large document, it’s very hard to generate even small improvements in Flesch or other readability stats. I spent four hours reviewing and editing my 6,500 word document and managed to budge the average sentence length by 0.2 words per sentence.
What I would love is a tool that ran through the document and heat mapped or highlighted sentences that were too long, dangerous long words and so on. It would allow me to focus my editing on the bits of the document that needed the most work. There are lots of tools to help me WRITE but very few tools that help me EDIT. It’s a curious oversight. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be very grateful.