In our experience, the phrases Deloitte Consulting and making the world safe for e-editors don’t always naturally occur together.
But those who watched in disbelief as Deloitte launched its Bullfighter project a few months ago will already know that the consultants did a great and good thing.
Bullfighter is a piece of software that Deloitte’s people developed to help business writers improve their copy and shame themselves into using less jargon. Then, having developed it, they made it available, free, to anybody who wanted it.
They’ve trademarked the software package, but they’re happy for everyone to download it and use it (click here for all the background information, FAQs and download instructions for Bullfighter 1.1).
Bullfighter runs in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, within Windows 2000 or XP. It works a lot like the spelling and grammar checker in those applications, but focuses on jargon and readability.
Try it on bad, pompous, overlong, overinflated drafts and it coughs up two figures you can shame the perpetrators with.
One is the long-established Flesch Reading Ease index, which assesses readability on the basis of word and sentence length. The other is the Bull Index, a reflection of the number and nastiness of the jargon and business clichés Bullfighter finds.
Like E-EDITOR, Bullfighter embodies some pretty subjective judgements, but is almost infallibly correct. And because it generates numbers, with all the spurious objectivity they convey so well, and carries the authority of a top consulting firm, it provides a very handy stick with which to beat your authors and managers.
Download Bullfighter and play with it yourself now. Once you learn to use it, it can even be adapted to the specifics of your industry. Aficionados can feed in their own prejudices and loathed phrases, building up a custom dictionary for use in one particular office.
Just to convince you that Bullfighter is on the side of the angels, here’s a brief extract from the comprehensive and witty FAQs on the Deloitte site.
Q: How can I improve my score?
The Bull Composite includes the Bull Index and the Flesch Reading Ease indices. The Bull Index counts the frequency and severity of jargon, while Flesch focuses on sentence length and syllable count. If you want to clean up your score quickly, look for the ‘High’ penalty bull terms when you run Bullfighter. Nasty words like leverage hurt your score far more than innocuous but overused words like global. Long sentences can also kill your score. Readers can’t follow comma-spliced lists of more than a few items anyway, so a bulleted list can help. If every word has six syllables, you might try to find shorter words. Remember that Flesch is graded on a curve, so that a score of 60 or better is very respectable.
Useful, no? Since every e-editor is something of a gadfly picador, Bullfighter is a free resource you should use and abuse on a daily basis.