Proselint is a "style checker" for your writing


#1

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#2

Quick, someone write a script that’ll feed it everything from fanfiction.net or A3 and graph the results.

Or at least record at which point Proselint commits sudoku.*

*Note: I am one of those terrible authors. Gallows humor really, and yes there are some very well written fan works.


#3

Or better yet, works of the Western Canon. Boy, those “great writers” don’t know how to write!


#4

“Bryan Garner, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk, Steve Pinker, Mary Norris, Mark Twain, Elmore Leonard, George Orwell, Matthew Butterick, William Strunk, E.B. White, Philip Corbett, Ernest Gowers…” It was nice of them to include one token women in the list of painfully masculinist writers.


#5

“Western Canon” - is that how English-language literature is referred to these days?
Cause I doubt that proselint would agree very much with Homer’s use of grammar.


To everyone whose native language is English and who hasn’t yet learned a foreign language:

Start learning a foreign language now. It takes a lot of time, but you can make it before all English prose has to be machine-approved.


#6

Well, even Homer is read in English (or other modern language) by all but a tiny handful of classicists. And Proselint isn’t a “grammar checker” (we’ve had those for decades, although they don’t work very well), but a checker (in theory) of the sort of thing that would survive translation – bad metaphors, trite phrases, and so on. Maybe “wine-dark sea” would be considered trite, maybe not.


#7

Those other modern languages aren’t English, either. I could have picked Goethe; that’s probably still read in the original more often. Either you really mean the English-language canon, or you can just proselint your English translation. And if more than 30% of your “Western Canon” was originally written in English, then it’s a biased selection.

So, I’ve had a closer look at it. It doesn’t look for bad metaphors, it checks for a list of known bad metaphors frequently used in the English language.

Proselint is, essentially, a list of arbitrary sequences of words that various allegedly smart people have declared to be bad.
On the example page at proselint.com/write I hardly found anything that’s not tied to the English language, or the surrounding culture. Yes, “et. al” is as wrong in German and Latin as it is in English. But apart from that, punctuation rules are different, and people overuse different bad metaphors, and make different usage mistakes.

The very idea that “filthy language” is something that I might want an automated checker to tell me about is something that completely fails to translate into my own culture.

And as usual, many of these suggestions depend a lot on what audience you’re writing for, and some are a bit strange.
If the words “mutatis mutandis” appear anywhere in a text, that’s bad style because using Latin is pretentious and people should speak English. If something is centipede-like, that’s bad because by failing to use the word “scolopendrine” instead you’re showing your lack of education.

Conclusion: proselint is not a grammar checker. It’s a syntax highlighter applied to the English language.


#8

I quite like the idea as a conceptual software art work.

If they’re being entirely serious with this then of course it’s a silly idea which will neither work as intended nor improve people’s writing; only the most prescriptive or hyper-specific pieces of advice can be expressed in regexp form, and Word’s grammar checker already does some of that kind of stuff (e.g. its hatred of the passive voice, which causes academic writing to be a sea of green underlining).

But what I like is the idea that (assuming its rules are easy to program) online forms could react to your writing in domain-specific ways. For example, if someone types “evolution is just a theory”, the comment widget could respond to their problems before they even click “send”.


#9

Was the code for proselint run through a linter?


#10

Sudoko as the software equivalent of seppuku? I sense a paean to game theory in there somewhere…


#11

Ask your doctor about Proselint today…


#12

I love Mondegreens! But besides it seems interesting to me that an AI can read as you type and go “that’s shit”. I would be keener to have an automatic yes-man going “omg that’s great! this story is so enthralling! what a great sentence, I’m gonna remember that baby!”.


#13

I would think that trite phrases would be language specific. Some of them even country or region specific.


#14

“Lint” and “linter”, as told by your pal, Wikipedia:


#15

I don’t think Proselint really works even in English, but seriously, a lot of worn out phrases are universal – “eyes like stars”, “Augen wie Sterne”, “Okuloj kiel steloj” stinks of trite unoriginality in any language, for example.


#16

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