Enforcing text style with Vale

Prose Police

Article from Issue 283/2024

Maintaining a consistent style can become challenging when multiple individuals contribute to a software project's documentation or a magazine. Vale checks your plain text files and even allows you to create custom style rules.

Vale [1] is an open source command-line tool used to enforce editorial style guidelines in texts. It doesn't work with word processors such as LibreOffice Writer. Instead, it's tailored for documents composed in plain-text markup languages such as Markdown [2], reStructuredText [3], AsciiDoc [4], or HTML. These markup languages are often used in documentation of open source projects, making Vale an ideal tool for enforcing a consistent style in software documentation. The list of Vale users [5] encompasses companies and projects such as Microsoft, Docker, Linode, Red Hat, GitLab, Grafana Labs, Neo4j, Angular, and Fedora.

Of course, Vale isn't restricted to documentation. As long as you write your texts in one of the supported markup languages, Vale can check them. Since I've always written my magazine articles in Markdown, I began to use Vale a few years ago to check them for common language errors, using some custom rules to cater for the preferences of different magazines. I like how Vale provides capabilities for my text files that I'm familiar with from code linters for programming languages.

Installing Vale

The Vale project publishes its source code [6], written in Go, on GitHub under the MIT license. The Vale releases [7] page offers downloadable precompiled binaries for Linux, macOS, and Windows. Some Linux distributions have packaged Vale and offer it through their repositories, but these are often older releases. There are also third-party packages available to install Vale from PyPI or from npm. Docker Hub also hosts Vale as a container image, jdkato/vale [8]. You can find instructions for all installation types [9] in Vale's documentation.


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