Spellcheck on steroids: City of Seattle implementing WordRake editing software

When writing, it’s sometimes easy to be wordy and use unnecessary phrases. A Seattle startup is out to fix that problem with a click of a button.

WordRake is a software that scans documents and suggests edits for more clear and concise statements. The City of Seattle announced today that it has implemented WordRake to help several departments — transportation, purchasing, mayor’s office — tidy up their prose. 

The software, which can edit a 10-page document in 30 seconds and eliminates useless words, was originally designed for lawyers. But now other agencies and businesses are realizing the need for an editing software like this which can be easily integrated with Microsoft Word.

Based on total survey responses by beta participants, 84 percent of lawyers say WordRake improves their writing and/or saves time.

WordRake founder Gary Kinder.

“Once I saw WordRake in action, I realized the software would work well for anyone in government, not just lawyers,” Nancy Locke, Director of Purchasing for the City of Seattle, said in a press release. “It takes the bureaucracy out of our writing.”

The city will use WordRake to edit contracts, letters, ordinance language, and policy documents.

WordRake, which has six patents, offers three-tier pricing based on number of years. The service is $99 for one year, $178 for two years and $237 for three years. Prices decrease with the more licenses bought.

WordRake was founded last July by Gary Kinder, a lawyer, author and writing instructor. Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs to law firms and wrote the New York Times bestseller Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea.

  • MarcP

    Seems expensive since it costs more than MS Word. Word is $115 to purchase from Amazon; usually MSFT takes three years between releases. Rake is $237 over three years. For a utility? Yikes.

  • http://twitter.com/lukobe Benjamin Lukoff

    Interesting, but I’m wary of software packages that make claims like this. Any idea how many licenses the city is buying?

  • Ellen Antonelli

    Actually, I would pay a lot more for WordRake. I used it to edit my 500-page book, which saved me weeks of time. It’s worth every penny!

  • http://www.seomoz.org/team/aaron Aaron Wheeler

    This is so cool! I’d prefer people simplify their writing from the get-go, of course.

    • Justin

      Cool! People should simplify their writing from the start.

  • Steven Spenser

    This article was posted in a Seattle public-relations forum, where participants are debating WordRake’s potential impact for PR writing and editing. My take on its application for that particular use:

    WorkRake could be very helpful for PR practitioners who aren’t strong editors, in which case they probably shouldn’t be involved with assigning, writing or approving PR documents. But this software also could lead to lower billings if clients using it come to insist that their drafts no longer need careful or thorough editing by professional PR editors, who, obviously, do this sort of thing for a living.

    But the downstream impacts are potentially more dangerous. Any time essential business practices, such as editing, are perceived to be rendered less necessary by tools such as this–that any idiot can run simply by clicking a button–the PR practitioner’s expert skill set risks being devalued. Worse, if new professionals enter PR (or any other business field) having relied on programs such as this to handle all their editing, then they won’t have learned the necessary skills to be a proficient editor, and the overall quality of the profession–and its capability to serve clients–will decline.

    I’m a former copy editor and freelance writer for The Seattle Times, and I was an editor, reporter and freelancer for The Associated Press. I doubt any non-professional editor (and even few of them) could ever write a software program that can edit something as comprehensively, precisely and accurately as I can. WordRake can hardly be considered a time-saver if someone is still going have to review its results.

    Being an author does not, necessarily, make someone into a proficient editor–as evidenced by how many publishing houses use editors on authors’ initial and subsequent drafts. By the same token, teaching lawyers how to write better is a simple task that does not require great proficiency, since lawyers (like most business executives) tend to be abysmally poor writers to begin with, and their profession requires them to be verbose. Thus, teaching “over 1,000 writing programs to law firms” hardly makes WordRake’s founder an expert on editing.

    Proofreading is merely the most basic form of editing, which can involve much higher considerations of content, including not only what should be kept, added or deleted, but also fact-checking; libel; adherence to house style; and ensuring accuracy, fairness and taste. Technical editors with expertise in particular fields are always going to be better at catching incorrect terms, units & dimensions, fixing data and graphical presentations, and identifying citation errors. Software programs can correct for grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax, but I doubt they can catch conflicts with general or particular knowledge, disambiguation, or inconsistencies in related sets of figures, the way a professional editor will.

    Spell check–even on steroids–is no substitute for a professional editor’s careful review of any document, and neither is this program.

  • James Smith

    I signed up for the WordRake news letter. As soon as I did, I got slammed with TONS of spam from just about every source you can imagine. I sent a very understanding email to every WordRake email address I could find (since there is no email for customer support or the business in general) stating that either their server had been hacked or they are intentionally selling my email address. I asked that my data be deleted from their database. No reply. I sent another email. No reply. I sent a total of 4 over a month period. Never once did I get a reply from any of the 5 email addresses. This tells me they are selling your information. This company and product has monstrous red flags. I would say avoid like the plague!