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How to refine your writing with LibreOffice's statistical analysis tool

LibreOffice includes a powerful tool that can help improve your documents, so you're not overusing verbs, nouns, or adjectives. It even checks your work for readability.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Kilito Chan/Getty Images

LibreOffice is my office suite of choice for writing my novels. As I write, I try very hard to not repeat words and/or phrases within a paragraph or adjacent paragraphs. However, it's not always easy to look at a document with the naked eye and get a solid grasp of the overall picture. 

More LibreOffice: Page Number Wizard | Setting the next style | Accessibility Check | Using different languages

What words have I used the most within a manuscript? That's an important question to ask…and one my editor would just love for me to answer. You see, every writer has their "crutch words and phrases." For example, I was recently called out by my editor for using moment too often. Now, when viewing a document via LibreOffice's Statistical Analysis tool, I find that I've used moment in only 0.6% of the document. Although that might sound like a low instance, when you have a word that's memorable, it might behoove you to make a few edits to lower that percentage. In that same document, I found the following:

  • door 1.4%
  • hand 1.3%
  • man 1.4%
  • time 1.3%
  • man 1.2%
  • thing 1.0%
  • woman 1.0%

The list goes on and on. 

With the help of this tool, I can get a fairly clear idea of what words I've overused within a document and set about changing some of them to lower the percentage.

How do you do it? Let me show you.

How to refine your writing with LibreOffice's tool

What you'll need: To run a statistical analysis of your document, you'll need an up-to-date version of LibreOffice installed on your platform of choice (Linux, MacOS, or Windows) and a document to check. That's it. Let's run that check.

1. Open the document to be checked

The first thing to do is open LibreOffice and then open the document for which you want to run the statistical analysis. Don't worry if this document is on the long side. I've used this tool on manuscripts that were nearly 70k words (100 plus pages) long and the tool works quickly.

2. Open the Statistical Analysis tool

With the document open, click Tools > Language Tool > Statistical Analysis. If your document is long, the tool will take a few seconds to pop up. When the Statistical Analysis tool opens, it will default to the Readability option with all of your chapters listed.

The LibreOffice Statistical Analysis check for readability.

For very long documents, I would go chapter by chapter for the readability check.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Run an analysis

Let's say you want to run a check to locate your most-used nouns. From the top drop-down, select Statistical Analysis: Most used noun. You will then see a list of your most-used nouns. You can then switch between noun, verb, and adjective to check what words you've overused. Once you know about these words, you can go through the document and change some of the instances to lower the percentage. 

The LibreOffice Statistical Analysis check for most used nouns.

Checking for most used nouns in a book manuscript is a very useful feature for writers.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Check the text difficulty

The other test is the readability. For this test, select Readability: Too difficult text and then go through it, chapter by chapter, and look for phrases that are color-coded red, which indicates a passage might be difficult. Find any sentences coded red and you might consider re-writing (depending on your audience).

The LibreOffice Statistical Analysis check for readability.

Here's a sample of the readability test from my latest manuscript.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Also: How to customize the formatting of LibreOffice comments for easier collaboration

Of course, what an acceptable percentage or difficulty level is up to you (or your editor). But this tool certainly makes it easier to get a head start on improving your documents or manuscripts even before they go through that first round of edits.

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