Rewiring Your Brain to Write While You Write
Jul 12th, 2020
iA Writer, my writing app of choice for over ten years now, recently released a brand new Style Check feature.
I quite like using this. After a couple of months of using it on my phone (pretty much every article on Narrative First is the result of my daily habit of walking and writing my phone), I notice a significant improvement in the clarity of my writing. Compare the last two articles, Adapting Character Motivations to the Story Goal and The Complete Guide to Justification, with items from the Vault (pre-2010 writing). The difference is palpable—the latter is rife with filler bred from insecurity, the former educates and enlightens without caveat.
The feature even prompted a massive re-write of both Narrative First and Subtext, one that saw the gutless concept of the ""Overall"" Story Throughline returned to its former glory of the Objective Story Throughline.
I use Grammarly all the time, but there is something special about iA Writer's implementation. I noticed it started to rewire my brain AS I write, resulting in clearer thoughts and brief passages.
Being clear, concise and reducing things to their essence are core principles at iA. Our apps are built with these ideas in mind. It happens that good writing follows the same principles. Cut the fat. Remove the fluff. Style Check improves your text by distilling it into a concentrated, more potent form. We'veWe've been using Style Check internally for the last couple of months and it has exceeded our expectations.
At first, I didn't like it. I felt the implementation was weak in comparison to Grammarly. No explanation why the removal of a specific phrase or word —just a greyed-out strikethrough. I appreciated Grammarly'sGrammarly's suggestions and recommendations and was hoping for the same for iA. After years of being told day after day to stop writing a tautology, I can now write an entire 3500k word article without using the phrase "the Main Character's own personal throughline." Own personal? Choose one or the other, Jim.
A decade of trust built through a considered point-of-view from iA led me to keep the feature on—and I'mI'm glad I did.
Sometimes you need fillers for rhythm, sometimes because you like them, and sometimes you really need them. Style check doesn't want to delete everything it highlights. It wants to make you think and reconsider if what you said is what you meant.
In the beginning, I was going to turn the feature on during editing, using it the same way I used Grammarly. But I started to appreciate the gentle nudge to be precise while I wrote. I did the same with Adverbs years ago (a Syntax Feature of iA Writer Stephen King would love), why not do the same with extraneous words and nonsense?
It wasn't until reading iA's official explanation of the feature today that my experiment turned to practice:
Crucially, no deletions occur unless you choose to do them. Nothing is ever automatically removed
I didn't know this was the approach. I assumed that the strikethrough was an automatic deletion and that I had to remove the offending word or phrase. Grammarly requires confirmation of removal, but in a way that is didactic and omnipresent. Knowing that iA's greyed-out strikethroughs are only suggestions grants me the ability to make that editorial decision for myself while honoring my writer's intuition (you don't know how badly I still want to say "my writer's own intuition, and yes—iA suggests removing ""badly"" and ""still"", but I'mI'm leaving them in for style 😝).
In short, the Style Feature stays on.
Whether or not I listen to it, is up to me.