SAS Writing Reviser is a terrific free Google Doc tool for helping students identify writing issues and improve their written work. Available as a Google Docs Add-On, SAS Writing Reviser analyzes a document for potential grammatical and syntax issues, highlights or lists the issues it finds, and provides information for resolving them. Once installed, SAS Writing Reviser is available for use in any Google Doc. Simply open the Add-On in Google Docs and it appears to the side of a Doc.
SAS Writing Reviser contains 5 major sections: Sentence Economy, Sentence Variety, Sentence Power, Sentence Clarity, and Support Tools. Sentence Economy is designed to make your writing more economical, while Sentence Variety aims to make your sentences more interesting, Sentence Power prompts you to incorporate forceful verbs, and Sentence Clarity prompts you to use words carefully to make your meaning clearer. Finally, Support Tools offers statistical highlights of your essay and identifies prepositional phrases, passive voice, and vague words. Each of the five sections contains subsections with related content.
To use SAS Writing Reviser, select one of the 5 sections and then one its subsections. The image to the right shows that Sentence Economy contains the following subsections: Wordiness, Prepositional Phrases, Passive Voice, Relative Clauses, and Repeated Words. Click on any of these subsections to reveal potential issues. SAS Writing Reviser will highlight any potential instances of these writing issues in the document.
In the image below, SAS Writing Reviser has identified instances of passive voice in a student essay. SAS Writing Reviser does not assume that passive voice is used incorrectly, but prompts the student to review her work by asking “Is this the wording you want?” and “Or would an active verb be better?” To help the student, SAS Writing Reviser provides an “about passive voice” section that explains that passive voice often leads to weak sentences and offers ways of spotting passive voice in a sentence.
Other subsections in SAS Writing Reviser work similarly, with some variations. For instance, if you select Repeated Words, SAS Writing Reviser provides you a handy visual list of all repeated words in the document and the number of times they have been repeated. It also asks you to consider: “Have you repeated words on purpose?” “Have you repeated prepositions in clumsy or awkward ways?” and “Have you chosen a variety of nouns and verbs to clarify your subject?”
SAS Writing Reviser helps draw attention to writing issues commonly discussed in English and Language Arts and Social Studies classrooms at the secondary school and university level. For instance, the Sentence Clarity section can help students identify dangling modifiers, vague words, and cliches and jargon. SAS Writing Reviser also helps speed up the revision process by providing automatic feedback and saves the teacher from having to identify and spell out issues.
Finally, yes, I did use SAS Writing Reviser to review this article. It highlighted several potential instances of vague words, passive voice, and other issues. I guess students won’t be the only ones using SAS Writing Reviser to improve their essays!