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MasterWriter — Online Writing Software Review by Christy BagasaoBarry DeVorzon
1323 E. Valley Rd.
Montecito, CA 93108 USA
Nothing enlivens the true word-lover’s ears like a well-formed phrase, a dazzling display of alluring alliteration, or the ideal winsome word plucked from a garden of prosaic possibilities. Sadly, for that word-loving ear, the common language of the day has sunk to a pitiful pile of overused words and text-speak, such as LOL, cool, and awesome. It’s a phenomenon that isn’t awesome or cool.
Arguably, the main reason for the decline of language is that we have moved from a society that sought out information, inspiration, and entertainment in books to one that now relies heavily on visual resources. The tirelessly patient book languishes on the shelf while people wile away the hours on smart phones, televisions, computers, and video games. Instead of steadily feeding on vivid words that paint pictures in a reading mind, we’ve become a society which passively absorbs scenes visually—no illustrative vocabulary necessary.
In an effort to regain descriptive words, extensive vocabularies, and eloquence in speech and writing, Barry DeVorzon and his son Matthew developed MasterWriter. It was originally designed for songwriters, but has since transformed into a tool for writers of all types—novelists, essayists, songwriters, speech writers, poets, and more. It is also an ideal tool for homeschoolers.
MasterWriter offers a variety of tools that homeschool students can use not only to improve their language usage skills, but also to expand their understanding of the English language. Students can write, edit, and save their essays, poems, stories or other pieces directly in the program. During the creative process, they have a myriad of tools at their disposal. Here’s a breakdown of some of those tools:
- word families
- figures of speech
The figures of speech section boasts an array of impressive subsections. It includes alliteration, allusions, idioms, intensifiers, metaphors, onomatopoeia, oxymorons, and similes. These tools alone can help a student change lifeless words such as pretty or nice to phrases that come alive on the page, such as dazzling, breathtaking, extraordinary, or revolutionary.
Students can work on a split screen, writing on one side and using a selected tool on the other. They can easily hop between tools without leaving their work and, consequently, their train of thought. Another feature that allows students to continue working with little disruption is MasterWriter’s ability to collect words. By double-clicking on each word, the writer can gather all possible suggestions and choose from the highlighted words—no more pausing to write words down.
Writers can also open dictionaries, follow a link to quotations, and explore a section called “The World.” By accessing The World, students can use a variety of filters and even a syllable counting feature to find people, places, things, and Bible references. So if your creative writer needs an island for a short story or your poet needs a three-syllable name for the poem’s heroine, MasterWriter can pull up a list of suggestions.
MasterWriter is not in and of itself a curriculum. It is online software that can be used both at the learning level and the professional level with much success.
We used the MasterWriter creative software in many ways. My husband is a professional singer and songwriter (StephenBautistaMusic.com) who is happy to have MasterWriter’s rhyming dictionary at his fingertips, something that was on his wishlist. As a writer myself, I explored every aspect of the program—my favorite, naturally was...everything, although not being a poet, I spent little time rhyming.
Our oldest daughter is a writer who revels in hunting down the precise word for her creations, and used the program for a musical she’s working on, as well as some articles. Our second daughter has been busy with college essays where she is required to put her best foot—or word—forward.
The next four children have been using MasterWriter for their poetry class...and just for fun. They’ve written a variety of poetic forms within the program, including shape poems. The working space on the software offered plenty of room for their creative needs.
We primarily stay within the split screen feature. The split screen has proven ideal for quickly looking up synonyms, rhymes, or intensifiers without sending children to other parts of the internet or distracting them from their pieces. I’ve even caught our nine-year-old looking for an island name for her epic poem project.
The youngest two aren’t reading yet, but they are benefitting from MasterWriter also. How? Excellent question.
We all fall into the rut of over-using our go-to words. Don’t deny it—you know it’s true! A person’s vocabulary improves simply by exposure to words. In the process of hunting for words on MasterWriter, the student is exposed to alternative means of expression. The selection that makes it into the poem, essay, or song becomes cemented in the writer’s mind through the hunting process and the usage. The word is then incorporated into the writer’s normal speech. Thus, our non-readers benefit by hearing an increasing variety of words used by the writers in the family.
I likewise find myself refusing to use words like fine, nice, cool, or amazing, and hunting my brain (or MasterWriter, if I’m working on an article like this one) for a more descriptive, exciting word, like fantablarosa. No, the program hasn’t stopped me from making up my own words.
There are a couple links from the MasterWriter software which access off-site information. One pulls up information from Wikipedia, based on what the student searches. The other links to Brainy Quotes. There are also a few descriptive words that parents likely won’t want their young children using in their writing, simply by reason of maturity level. Other than that, it is appropriate for the middle school years and beyond.
Barry and the MasterWriter team are finishing up the development of a related program called WordExpress for grades 3-7. It adds exercises and lesson plans to the MasterWriter tools. It also allows parents to assign activities and monitor progress. This approach exposes children to words and immediately puts them into practice, so children grow up with a dynamic vocabulary.
It’s time to close the lid on text-speak and banal vocabulary. I appreciate MasterWriter’s work in expanding the word usage in my family. I hope they reach the rest of the English-speaking world before English becomes a dead, or should I say dull, language.
“In a world where good is rarely good enough, MasterWriter will help you to consistently create the exception.” ~MasterWriter
-Product review by Christy Bagasao, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2017