At Cognidox, we spend a deal of time talking about quality documents in the context of quality assurance, ISO 9001, and so on. Now, it's time to talk about document quality.
Most of us are familiar with features in tools like Microsoft Word for spell checking and grammar correction. Such features have their place, but imagine you had a real Sub-Editor to assist as you write. Editors know not only about spelling and grammar, but can also advise on more complex matters. They are able to tell you when your writing style becomes hard-to-read, or you use terminology that is not consistent with the company style guide. Maybe you used an internal product name in an externally facing document? Or, you like to call a company product "Gizmo 4" in your documents when the official name is "Gizmo-IV". They know if key phrases have already been created that could be reused in your document. Those phrases may already have been carefully translated into other languages. They can tell you whether your documents help or hinder your SEO by examining how keyword placement in your documents affects search rankings.
Such issues are faced every day by the Technical Author community. We listened to them talking about software tools they were using or evaluating to help with these tasks. Acrolinx was a product they mentioned frequently. We certainly liked the idea that their tool was based on "geeky linguistic analytics capabilities".
We made a quick call to Acrolinx and we were soon integrating CogniDox with one of their products - the Acrolinx Add-in for Microsoft Word.
The add-in tool is easy to learn. Once installed, you select it from the Review tab and tell it to Check your document. It parses the document and checks it against Acrolinx rules tailored for your document type and organisation. It returns a score for the document and you can continue to look at each issue, one at a time. It advises you what is wrong and suggests improvements. If you accept these changes and run a subsequent check, you find the document quality score has improved.
The question for us was how to integrate a tool such as Acrolinx into the document lifecycle?
Without going into details, Acrolinx provides metadata embedded in the document that can be re-used in CogniDox. In our example, we created a placeholder for Acrolinx validation. A CogniDox plugin reads the Acrolinx metadata - in this case score and status. A high number indicates there are a lot of issues. Each time you add a new version, the score is updated if you re-check the document. The plugin is able to spot if the new version was not checked.
The next consideration was: should we do this for every CogniDox document type? The answer is no. It makes sense to score the quality of some document types but not others. It is essential to check a marketing brochure or product datasheet, for example. It is less essential to check an Engineering Change Order. The plugin can therefore be configured to only look for Acrolinx data in specific document types.
If you would like to find out more about CogniDox integration with Acrolinx, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll answer any questions you may have.