There are some writers you can spot immediately. The words they use most frequently and their sentence constructions give them away. Look at Dave Trott, master of the 'one sentence per line' technique.
What if your web browser could pick up on your style and help you change it?
Apparently, it can.
Numerous media outlets, including The Indy and Gadgette, have recently reported on a new app that acts like an overzealous proofreader. The Chrome plug-in, Just Not Sorry, points out words that could 'undermine' what you're trying to say.
Naturally the words 'just' and 'sorry' come in for the heavy criticism, as does 'I think'. The experts say these words could give off subconscious hints that you don't truly believe in what you've said. Little pop-up windows tell you why your choice of wording is diminishing your message.
I'm guilty of using 'just' and 'I think' fairly often. Not that I never apologise, of course. Saying 'sorry' is so British that we should put the word in sticks of rock.
Some of the other suggestions are plain obvious. The day I put 'I'm no expert' in an email to a client is a sad day indeed.
Then we get to phrases like 'does that make sense?' I don't think that lessens the impact of my emails, personally. I'd include that as a courtesy, in case I've confused the poor bugger who has to read my explanations. (Is this where I say sorry? This is where I'd usually say sorry. Sorry...)
I can see the benefits here. On the face of it, having a built-in 'maybe you shouldn't say it quite like that' detector would be wonderful. Thousands of Chrome users have the plug-in already, and it's a good way to teach people to write more assertively.
One thing rankles: it's aimed primarily at women, and specifically at women in leadership. Just Not Sorry was also co-created by a woman, Tami Reiss. Her argument is that women in more powerful positions are more likely to soften their speech with these words.
I think (see what I did there) that men could benefit from Just Not Sorry too. Women making things for other women is not something I want to discourage. Let's not miss the opportunity to widen the net.
And this opens the door for other types of 'stylechecker' apps to emerge. How about one that warns you if you've written 'all received' but not 'thank you'? Or a plug-in that automatically changes all instances of 'should of' to 'should have'? Suggestions on a postcard, please.