Word in the 2004 US Election

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Even poor old Microsoft Word can’t miss getting involved in the US election.

Even poor old Microsoft Word can’t miss getting involved in the US election. First there was ‘Rathergate’ with documents supposedly from the 70’s being produced on more modern software. We didn’t cover that here in Office Watch simply because it was being analyzed in mind-numbing detail by every media outlet in the US and we figured that you, dear readers, deserved a break.

But now I see Word is being dragged into the election again. The St Petersburg Times uses the grammar-checking feature in Word to analyze the speaking styles of the two major candidates.


HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

The Flesch-Kincaid grade level and other stats are buried inside Microsoft Word. They’ve been there for a while, at least back to Word 2000 and probably before that.

To access them first you have to go to Tools | Options | Spelling and Grammar and check the option ‘Show readability statistics’.

Then open the document to check and start the grammar checker – Tools | Spelling and Grammar. Once you have changed any problems detected in the document (or clicked Ignore All) then you’ll see a dialog box with readability statistics.

The details given (in Word 2003) are:

Word, Character, Paragraph and Sentence count Average sentences per paragraph Average words per sentence Average characters per word Percentage of document that is passive sentences

Flesch Reading ease (the HIGHER the number, the easier the document is to understand) This is a rating out of 100 with 60-70 being a standard score.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (the LOWER the number, the easier the document is to understand) The grade level works off US school grades but as a comparative test works for anywhere in the world. According to Microsoft most documents score between 7 and 8.

These results can only ever be a guide and be wary of using them alone and without other considerations. For example the famous Gettysburg Address scores an 8.7 grade level (compared with Grade 10 for Kerry and 7th Grade for Bush) and the last sentence brings up a massive green wiggly line – yet I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest that either of current candidates was an oratory match for Lincoln.

 

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