Last week I wrote about PerfectIt, which is proofreading software. Today’s topic is Wordrake.

Wordrake is editing software. Like PerfectIt, Wordrake is a Word ad-in that launches from the top ribbon in Word. There is also a version for emails that I have not tried.

The Wordrake homepage contains a good 30 second video demo about how the product works.

Run Wordrake in your Word document or Outlook email and it suggests revisions. The suggested revisions shorten sentences. With the click of a button, you can accept or reject a suggested revision.

Here are the price plans. $129 per year for Word or Outlook; $199 for both. There are also discounts for multiple orders by law firms. Those discounts can get quiet steep.

In my experience, Wordrake’s revisions almost always improve the text by making sentences clearer. If a sentence can be made shorter, Wordrake will suggest it. This is an important feature for lawyers.

What’s the number 1 suggestion from judges to lawyers about legal writing? “Shorter is better” has to rank at the top. Wordrake ‘rakes’ away the words to make the text shorter. Judges will appreciate you raking your documents. Heck, if I was a judge I would use it to rake my opinions.

To be fair, some attorneys need to use Wordrake more than others. People who write short sentences in active voice will not see as many suggested revisions as people who write in passive voice. Consistently writing in passive voice is the easiest way to make your legal writing long and hard to follow. Identify good legal writing and it’s going to be in active voice.

They don’t teach the active-passive dichotomy in law school. Or if they do, no one pays attention. Over use of passive voice is a common error by young attorneys.

I wasn’t aware of the importance of the active-passive concept until the late 1990’s when I went to a Bryan Garner legal writing CLE in response to my boss Bill Reed telling me that my writing sucked. Reed was fanatical about short clear sentences. He must have gone through two red pens a day editing associates’ documents. The most frustrating part of the exercise was that his edits almost always improved the draft.

The first time I ‘Wordraked’ a brief, I looked at my computer like Bill Reed was about to jump out of it. He could have written the software.

Wordrake and PerfectIt perform different jobs. They are both great. I highly recommend them for all attorneys who write.