WRITER'S HELPER (WH) sounds like the name of a modest word-processing
program--what with other programs with names like WORDSTAR, WORD
PERFECT, and TOTAL WORD. But, in fact, WH is not a word-processing
program; it's meant for use with other word-processing programs.
WH is a collection of programs (IBM PC, Macintosh, and Apple II
versions) designed to help writers plan, write, and revise. It
also is a winner of Educom's award as the best writing software.
Although WH's high-quality manual focuses on classroom use, individual
writers can also easily learn from it.
WH's planning or pre-writing programs consist of activities that
can help the writer find, explore, and organize the writing topic.
Included among the Find and the Explore activities are brainstorming,
random revelations, and audience analysis. Included among the
Organize activities are creating a tree outline (clustering thoughts
about a subject into categories and arranging the categories into
a tree), formulating goals, creating an outline, and developing
WH's revising tools guide the writer in finding structural and
stylistic problems. For example, the overall structure can be
checked by using WH's Outline Document command which will list
the first sentence of each paragraph. The Paragraph Coherence
command will display the first and last sentence of each paragraph.
Other commands include: Paragraph Development (displays the number
of words and sentence in each paragraph), List by Sentence, and
In addition to providing the readability level (by using the Fogg
Index), WH offers you counts of standard transition words, prepositions,
and "to be" verbs. The manual discusses the significance
of each of these measures.
Finally, WH provides checks for commonly confused homonyms (such
as its and it's, principal and principle)
and common infelicities (such as "reason is because",
"due to the fact that"). These initial lists
can be customized.
In addition to all of the above features of the IBM PC and Apple
II versions, the Macintosh version has the Notebook feature, which
automatically prepares a table of contents of all of the activities
completed in a particular work session or project.
Unlike RIGHTWRITER, GRAMMATIK, or CORRECT GRAMMAR, WH does not
attempt to correct grammar or punctuation errors. In short, WRITER'S HELPER can serve as a first-rate instructional tool for teachers
C. J. Wallia teaches at Vista Community College
in Berkeley, CA.
WRITER'S HELPER (IBM PC, Macintosh, Apple II); $125; Systems requirements:
single stand-alone computer.