Almost two months ago, the Associated Press launched StyleGuard, a style check plugin for Microsoft Word. The PC-only initial product has been tested by users, with a Mac-compatible version planned for the summer. The pricing for individuals ranges from $34.99 to $49.99 through March 31. “A few people have commented that if it saved them from making one embarrassing error, it would be worth the money,” said AP Stylebook Product Manager Colleen Newvine by email. Our edited Q&A follows.
Mallary Tenore: How many users does StyleGuard have?
Colleen Newvine: I don’t feel comfortable disclosing sales numbers without checking with our developers, Equiom. I can tell you that response has been strong, much better right out of the gate than I would have expected, and that’s even after years of fans asking on Twitter whether we could offer an automated style checker for Word.
Did you initially invite people to give you feedback on the product, or did you find that people started submitting it themselves?
Asking for feedback has been part of the plan all along. That’s why we launched in a restricted beta – so we could get the product into the hands of our loyal Stylebook customers and have them tell us how to make it better.
How would you characterize the feedback so far?
The feedback has been so helpful. Stylebook fans are passionate about getting the details right, which makes them the perfect group to test a new product.
Most of the feedback we’ve gotten has been high level, like asking for a Mac-compatible version or wanting us to offer a free trial. Those are both high on our to-do list.
We have had a few users give us specific examples of style errors they thought StyleGuard should catch but didn’t. Equiom has been fast to respond and rolled out a new version that addresses several user-submitted suggestions.
A few comments I saw online characterized StyleGuard as putting copy editors out of work, and I don’t think that’s true any more than Excel making accountants obsolete. StyleGuard is a tool, like spellcheck, but it’s not a substitute for the nuance and human understanding of a skilled journalist. If it catches the programmable mistakes (like whether it’s under way or underway), then copy editors can spend more of their time on the quality and meaning of a story. …
A new version of the software is already available, and I expect we will keep rolling out updates as we get feedback from more customers. We’re aiming for summer for the Mac-compatible version. I believe the proxy server fix is already in place, but if it’s not, it’s very close.
What sort of feedback have you gotten on the price of the product?
I haven’t heard much about the price, except a few requests for deeper discounts on larger purchases, like 50 or 100 licenses. A few people have commented that if it saved them from making one embarrassing error, it would be worth the money.