The L&L Blog  /  Scrivener

Scrivener 3: Linguistic Focus

Note: This blog post pertains to upcoming features in Scrivener 3, which will be released on macOS later this year and will follow on Windows during early 2021.

As Scrivener’s name generator has been such a boon to those struggling to name the arch-nemesis of their main character, or any other character for that matter, we’ve added another writing tool into Scrivener 3. It’s called Linguistic Focus. (Dialogue Focus on Windows.) Attempting to see the dialogue within a wall of text, select ‘Direct Speech’ and suddenly all those spoken exchanges jump out of the page:

This is a great way of checking the flow of your dialogue and ensuring each of your characters has a unique voice. The macOS version of Scrivener 3 will also be able to highlight syntax elements such as nouns and adverbs thanks to a built-in feature of the underlying text system on a Mac.

So, if you suddenly want to skim over your preposition and conjunction usage, or check to ensure you're using the best adjective in the given context, it's only a selection choice away!

You’ll be able to find this new feature via ‘Edit > Writing Tools > Linguistic Focus…’ on Mac, and 'Edit > Writing Tools > Dialogue Focus…’ on Windows.



razyr  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

Really love the depth of the actual writing features of Scrivener 3. With stats, searches, research, etc. it's easy to temporarily lose sight that the core and underlying essence of Scrivener is a tool for writing/composition.

One of my pain points with Scrivener 2 was the integration of 3rd party linguistic tools. As a specific example, do you foresee better integration with Grammarly in a future release of Scrivener? Multiple cut/paste operations haven't been thought of as an acceptable workflow or a reasonable integration model since Windows 3.1. I'm not blaming Scrivener for this, just wondering if you, as a developer, see any light at the end of that, particularly dank tunnel?


shrumpkin  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

Thank you for this addition. This is just one more tool to polish the text, before it goes out to editors. Bravo. I cannot wait for 3!


PerlinP  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

Very nice feature !!! Indeed.

Is there a opportunity that this feature works (or might work someday) with one of the most used way of writing dialogue in French ? It doesn't use anymore either " or «  but mainly a -- at the beginning of the dialogue. If I retype extracts from your examples :

"My dear Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome !"

becomes :

-- My dear Bennet, replied his wife, how can you be so tiresome !

or even :

-- My dear Bennet, replied his wife. How can you be so tiresome !

and :

"Is that his design in settling here ?"

becomes :

-- Is that his design in settling here ?

As it is with " or even « , it is quite useless in French fictions. However, I really like the idea of highlighting (or even extract) dialogues. That's really really great.


KB  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

@razyr: there are no plans for better Grammarly integration at the moment, but I rule nothing out. The trouble is that we have many, many requests for integration with many, many different pieces of software, all of which have different APIs which change constantly. It would be almost impossible for me to provide support for all of these. I'll happily take a look when things have calmed down a bit after 3.0's release and after the (free) Scapple and Scrivener for iOS updates I have planned, though.


PerlinP  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

Example of modern French dialogue (Dumas, Three Musketeers) :


Noel Rodrigue  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

Hey guys ... I like where this is going, but have a question: why the naming difference between Mac & Win for this linguistic tool? This will just make it more confusing when there is an exchange of views between users. Given that the Win version is not yet out (the Mac one is probably close to ready), why not use "Linguistic Focus" in Win as well?

Eric Beaty

Eric Beaty  /  20 OCTOBER 2017

I noticed you mentioned (Free) updates for Scapple in your reply to rayzr. Will you be re-vamping Scapple as much as you are Scrivener? I have Scapple as well and am curious to see if you are.

I, too, agree that the copying/pasting between Scrivener and Word, Google Docs, etc., is a pain. I still have yet to figure out an acceptable way to correspond with my editor when Scrivener updates to 3 (if he decides to stick with 2). I've copied/pasted from Google Docs into Scrivener before, but it's definitely not ideal, especially when you need to go back and create actions within the text that don't apply within the Compile/Formatting window, such as "Preserve the Formatting" or "Keep with Next."


shrumpkin  /  21 OCTOBER 2017

I'm with Noel on this one. Why the nominative difference between Win and Mac machines? Why not keep it simples with Linguistic Focus across both platforms?


Malcolm  /  22 OCTOBER 2017

shrumpkin & Noel: I think the naming is different between Windows and macOS because the features themselves are different. Both platforms allow dialogue to be highlighted, hence the name, "Dialogue Focus".

However, the macOS version allows parts of speech to be highlighted due to the API macOS offers. This elevates its status to "Linguistic Focus" (more than just dialogue). Meanwhile, Windows only operates on dialogue, hence its name, "Dialogue Focus".


shrumpkin  /  22 OCTOBER 2017

Malcolm: Ah, that makes sense. Thank you for clarifying. Now, I'm just waiting for 3 to come out already. :)


KB  /  23 OCTOBER 2017

@PerlinP: That’s a good point. The code didn’t handle this, but I have updated it to do so (it will look for em-dashes followed by a space or non-breaking space at the beginning of a line). However, what it can’t do is fade out an attribution in the middle of such a line, because Scrivener doesn’t have that sort of language comprehension.

@Noel, Eric and shrumpkin: Malcolm hit the nail on the head here. We built the dialogue focus feature, but the Apple frameworks come with a built-in way of picking out nouns and verbs, too, so on macOS that is all part of the same tool - thus “Linguistic Focus”. On Windows, where this is not part of the OS, there is just the dialogue focus part, so it’s called “Dialogue Focus”.

@Eric Beaty: Scapple won’t be receiving a massive revamp, but I will be modernising the footer and inspector and fixing some outstanding issues. There are a number of things I plant to add, too, further down the line.


EvgenyVK  /  24 OCTOBER 2017

Any updates for academic writings?
Dealing with citations is tricky in Scrivener now...


PerlinP  /  24 OCTOBER 2017

Thank you so much, KB, for having updated the code. French writers will be delighted !!!

Indeed, in French modern dialogue, Scrivener won't be able to fade out an attribution and action in the middle of a dialogue. For example :
— Thank you, Sir, he said, before leaving the room, murmuring : what a great Scrivener 3 !

But that's really a trifle as long as that works :

Thank you again !


Deruji  /  24 OCTOBER 2017

This feature looks great, just what I wanted in scrivener for a long time. Two questions or suggestions though. Is it possible to set a custom prefix/suffix to mark dialogue such as ", « etc. or is that integrated as well, and can we set a custom colour for recognized dialogue in the theme options besides fading other text?
Additionally, can multiple optione be selected?
If these can't be influenced due to how Apple's framework works then no trouble, please.

Epsilon Rose

Epsilon Rose  /  24 OCTOBER 2017

It's a bit disappointing to find out that the windows version still won't have feature parity even after the 3.0 update. Are there any points that go the other way, where the windows version can do something better?

Also, I have to agree with Eric Beaty, getting text from Scriviner to certain web interfaces can be an exercise in frustration.

Thomas Rabenstein

Thomas Rabenstein  /  25 OCTOBER 2017

I find the new writing tools simply fantastic. I love this addition. They help me a lot to control the story flow. If I could make a wish, only one thing would be left - a tool that shows word repeat within a certain word range.


James  /  27 OCTOBER 2017

All of this sounds quite wonderful and I'm very much looking forward to the release of the new version. And (though I realize it may be difficult to implement) I share EvgenyVK's hope that something might be done to improve the way Scrivener handles citations. Like other academics, at this point I'm pretty much locked into Zotero and getting the two programs to work together has been it bit of an adventure.


KB  /  27 OCTOBER 2017

@Eric Beaty: Good news - since we last chatted, I have managed to add an “Export to Scrivener 2 format” option to Scrivener 3. So, if your editor sticks with Scrivener 2, you will still be able to use Scrivener 3 and export projects in 2.x format to send him.

@EvgenyVK & James: I’d love to offer better citation management options, but every time I ask users what they mean by “better integration”, no one is able to tell me. :) There’s a thread in the “Wish List” section of the forums in which I asked Zotero users to explain to me exactly how the saw Zotero integration working in Scrivener given how both apps work, and either noboody could say, or they realised that the way they work now was about the only way it can work. Please feel free to join in on that discussion if you have any ideas. I don’t have the resources to build my own citations manager (that would be a full time job unto itself), so we have to work with what is out there and the frameworks available.

@Epsilon Rose: Well, it depends on what you mean by “feature parity”. There are always going to be discrepancies, just as there are discrepancies between Word for Windows and Word for Mac. Where Apple or Microsoft provides a feature “for free”, we won’t withhold that feature just because it’s not available on the other platform. So, for instance, on macOS, Apple automatically adds speech and dictation features to the menu of any app that supports text editing. Likewise, Apple provides a syntax analysis framework that allows you to pick out all verbs (for instance) in two lines of code. As for going the other way, the Windows version has a more advanced name generator. There seem to be fewer extra features available to Windows “for free”, though, sadly.


EvgenyVK  /  29 OCTOBER 2017

Thank you for feedback! It looks like to date there aren't any straightforward solutions for citation workflow at all (in all similar applications). I mean, if a user has to do more than a dozen of clicks to get his target achieved - we can guess this is not an optimal workflow.
Probably a format of "extensions" or even community-based "plugins" to connect to Zotero or similar services could be easier to maintain than building a new citation manager. Zotero Web API gives some room for improvisation here. User could connect Scrivener with Zotero through API and parse his bibliography from Scrivener. It doesn't have to be real-time, manual update of bibliography list would make the synchronization simple.
If we imagine "ideal-case-scenario" during writing a paragraph I would press a hot-key and query my list of bibliography (for example, from Zotero) and then insert the selected reference item into paragraph in some form. And when compiling a document - it would be nice to get that list added to the end. And that's it.

Anna A. Ros

Anna A. Ros  /  12 DECEMBER 2017

The linguistic features in MacOS do not work on most non-English languages, except for the Linguistic Focus. The option for verbs, adjectives, etc. do not work in Dutch (and probably most other languages) as the MacOS text core functionality is not completely multilingual making these features unavailable. So English language writers are lucky. Most others miss out on these features (except Linguistic Focus which depend on the use of quotes in text).
Please make this limitation clear in the feature list.


Corrie  /  14 APRIL 2018

This is a very useful addition. I have a visual impairment and I find that, as it removes some of the noise, I am able to much more easily detect problems in my academic writing with this feature.


Evi  /  06 APRIL 2021

Hi! I just discovered that the full Scrivener 3 for windows has released, which is something to greatly celebrate! :)
However, I have a little question about the dialogue focus. It seems to use "", and only that. I use ' ' to highlight dialogue. Is there a way to change which ones the dialogue focus uses to find dialogue?

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