Robots Will Edit Your Text


Via Galleycat, I was introduced to a new online text editor, EditMinion. According to EditMinion, it is a “robotic copy editor to help you refine your writing by finding common mistakes.” So, how good is it? I took a chunk of text out of my vampire novel and ran it through to see what it might find that I missed. Bear in mind, this is still rough text, and desperately in need of revision.

“I need an assistant, someone to take care of things during the day for me.” He started walking again, and without thinking about it Melanie followed.
“Are you kidding?” she said.
“No, not at all. My last assistant retired.”
“Retired?” she repeated sarcastically, almost trotting to keep up with him. His longer legs caused her to have to take two steps for every one of his.
“Yes. He was with me for a long time, but he decided to leave and start a small shop, something that wouldn’t keep him on the move so much.”
“So he’s still alive? I thought you meant…”
He grinned. “No, I didn’t kill him.”

It found no cliches, 1 adverb, 1 weak word, 0 ‘said’ replacements, and one passive voice construction.

Relatively good news, although granted this is very small sample. Its capabilities are somewhat limited yet, it can’t do much more than a paragraph at a time so it would be hard to do an entire novel manuscript this way. For now it seems better suited to randomly checking yourself. It does seem far more helpful than a word processor’s grammar checker (which are notoriously bad). It’s kind of fun to run some text through and see what it comes up with.

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30 thoughts on “Robots Will Edit Your Text

  1. What’s the Adverbinator? It sounds like a sci-fic/horror film set at my place of employment.:

    “mild-mannered writing instructor by day; by night she becomes

    THE ADVERBINATOR!!!!”

    Whom are we casting as the title character? In my mind’s eye I’m seeing a young Grace Jones, but I can’t think of a good fierce ass-kicking actress under 40.

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  2. Haha! 🙂 I dunno, there’s Milla Jovovich (‘Resident Evil’). Apart from her, I can’t think of any actresses who have embraced any kind of ass-kicking persona.

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    1. maybe Katey Sagal – she’s 50, but she looks great in leather and kicks serous ass on SofA. Or Helen Mirren, (did you see her in “Red?”) I’m enjoying the idea of a mature Adverbinator.

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  3. Looks interesting, to play with, but a paragraph at a time is so limited. May go play now- I should learn my weaknesses before it’s too late 🙂 I was laughing at The Adverbinator too. I pictured a comic book hero, though, saving writers everywhere from The Evil -LY 🙂

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  4. It said I could do a chapter so I did. I got all green lights, but need to work on my passive voice. Good to know. And, as I already know, I use “actually” way too much. I am really looking forward to revision 😉

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  5. I think at this point it will be its greatest use, just to sort of let you know what to look out for in your own writing. It is still a beta version, so I’d be really interested to see how much the developer can get it to do later.

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  6. These editors seem to work pretty well on short texts. Good way to check for repetitions and errors. The one I tried took everything though, and suggested a bunch of corrections. Too many to be used for longer texts, I thought.

    I wanted to comment on your post about fantasy epics vs SF bricks, but I can’t find the post. Did you delete it? (Hope not.)

    Love,
    Berit

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  7. Hi Berit 🙂

    Probably once you get a feel for what your patterns are in writing, you can do find/replace when necessary. I have a terrible habit of saying ‘actually’, or using two adjectives, like “annoyed and petulant” or something similar) when I need to learn to find one good word.

    The post you’re thinking of was not mine, actually (see? 😉 ) It’s over on King of Elfland’s 2nd Cousin. I thought it was such a great topic, I tweeted it out. He’s got a good blog.

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  8. 🙂 Indeed, we all have our favorite phrases or habits that are hard to break. I think of “find and replace” as “search and destroy”. 🙂

    Hmm good to see you didn’t delete the post. I missed it wasn’t in your blog. 🙂 Thanks for linking it back.

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    1. Now did one of those robot programs catch your tendency toward double modifiers, or did you notice it in your own work? Fang had a creative writing teacher who would say that the double adjectives/adverbs are just placeholders – writer what comes into your head, and then go back one day, circle all of them, and pick a single word that suits you.

      Of course I’m recommending that you keep listening to those Ulysses podcasts, and note how Joyce would just morph two words into one, or make one up when it suited him. 😉 I’m not going to be good enough to do it like that, anytime in this life, but knowing that it’s possible changed everything I know about language.

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      1. I know I do it, I don’t think the little bits I ran through the program even contained any instances of my use of them. And sometimes I still like them, I probably won’t change them all. It just depends.

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  9. Not something I’d ever rely on. Sure it might be able to note passive voice, adjectives, and adverbs, etc. But can it discern why the writer used such? Nothing in the writer’s toolbox is inherently good or bad. It’s how a writer uses the tools available to them that matters.

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      1. If you have a good reason for using the passive voice, it’s not like it’s a mortal sin or something. IMO it is a problem only when the writer is using it to avoid responsiblility by obscuring the subject of the sentence –

        “The Brooklyn Bridge was built in built in 1883” is perfectly legit, b/c the BRIDGE is supposed to be the subject of the sentence, not Stasz, Paddy, Manuel and the thousand other guys who did the building,

        whereas

        “Weapons of mass destruction have been located” is shady, because who the hell located ’em? “mistakes were made,” y’know? that ort of thing.

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      2. Usually you see examples of when it’s bad with something like “The dog was walked by George,” then pointing out “George walked the dog” being the better sentence. But as in your Brooklyn Bridge example, sometimes there is no other way to phrase it.

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      3. yah, right. “The dog was walked by George” only makes sense if we were arguing over whether he’d taken a dog, a mongoose, or a pigeon for a walk:

        “I’m telling you, George walked the pigeon!”
        “Hell no, Doris walked the pigeon. I saw George out back with the mongoose”
        “The f*ck you did. That was Maury, George’s brother, with the mongoose. Take it to the bank, the DOG was walked by George!”

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      4. My friend Professa Dessa advocates something called micro-fiction: she would tell us to take that bit of dialogue and shape it into a a story 2 paragraphs long. It forces you to focus on what you can achieve in a tight space, so to speak. If I sound as though I’m slacking over the summer, remind me to see what I can do with that.

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  10. “Nothing in the writer’s toolbox is inherently good or bad. It’s how a writer uses the tools available to them that matters.”

    words to live by. You rock, Gypsy Scarlett.

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  11. Hi Michelle,

    I’m afraid I don’t know what programs you’re referring to? I think this particular one is, as I said, good for finding any patterns you have that may need looking at, but I don’t think you can rely solely on something like this to edit your work. Too much is a judgement call when getting into stylistic approaches and some things text books may warn writers not to do are exactly the things that make your writing stand out. Ultimately we each have to find our own voice.

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  12. Totally off subject, but I liked the snippet from your novel. Kind of reminded me of a scene that might come out of an Anita Blake novel–with her having to trot to keep up. Witty and cute. I look forward to your finished manuscript. 🙂

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  13. Thank you, Jessica 🙂 I haven’t read any of those books, I was half afraid to thinking they might influence me too much.

    It’s funny, as I reread that bit after I posted it, I sort of cringed a little, thinking it could be better. We are our own worst critics, aren’t we?

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    1. worst critic is one thing, but constructive critic is huge and healthy. If I had written that and you wanted to help me make it better w/out hurting my feelings, what would you suggest?

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    2. Have someone else write it? 😀

      Seriously though, that is a great way to approach it. I honestly don’t know right now what it needs, I have to keep replaying the scene in my head, hoping to hear something that I missed.

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