I’m happier than Ralphie on Christmas Day when he got the official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! I’ve been selected to be a beta tester for the AP Stylebook from the good folks at StyleGuard. I get free access for a year in return for providing feedback. I’ve waited for this since my first newspaper job in 1986. That was before Windows, before Word, I think. We typed stories into some proprietary newspaper system, the name of which escapes me now.
In any case, the AP Stylebook functions kind of like a plug in for MS Word, but it’s a separate program really. You have it open as you’re typing into Word, and it will flag any AP Style violations in Word with bold brackets. A separate window shows you the paragraph in question, and cites from the pertinent section of the Stylebook. You can choose to accept or skip the recommendation, or accept them or decline all suggestions. It does not do spell check or grammar check, only AP Style.
You can shift views in the window from a page view that is a narrower box than the book view, which separates the highlight of the offending text from the citation in the Stylebook on the next page.
It’s pretty easy to use. The user interface looks like something from the mid-90s, but it works well. One complaint I have so far is there’s no way that I can see to make it switch which document it is analyzing. It automatically looks at the top document. But I tend to switch between projects and it doesn’t keep up very well. It will show an error that there’s no Word document open when there are four or five open at one time. It would be nice to have a menu option to manage which open document it’s connected with at any given time.
I’m not sure that it notices whether compound modifiers should be hyphenated. That may be too much to ask of software right now. Or, I may be a chronic over-hyphenator.
The 2012 paper edition of the AP Stylebook is out now, I believe. I’ll order the dead-tree version as well, but when the StyleGuard version hits the market I’m going to seriously consider paying my own money for it.