Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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MS Word "Tone Checker"

For writing with just the right emotional punch
  [vote for,

The software works like the spelling and grammar checker, but checks for tone, and suggests revisions. For example, given the toneless sentence below:

“As circumstances dictate, it may become necessary to invade Iraq in order to remove weapons of mass destruction.”

A presidential speechwriter, wanting to rattle sabers, selects the “bellicose” tone, and the software suggests the revision:

“We will invade Iraq. We will remove the dictator.”

The style editor of a small local paper wants to write in the tone of Judith Martin, and selects the "etiquette" tone:

”Gentle reader, while it may become necessary to intrude upon Iraq, we must remember to tidy up afterwards. We must then dictate a note of apology.”

Replaces emoticons.
pluterday, Jan 25 2003


       Oh good. Gatesian tone for my sentences. I get _really_ pissed off when MS word suggests that bits of my writing are "fragmented". Like this.   

       <edit> So I do not think highly of this.
neelandan, Jan 25 2003

       Converting [neelandan]'s tone to “happy anno”, gives:

Oh, excellent! Microsoft tone for my sentences. I really get off on MS suggestions. Bill Gates - I love him to bits.

<edit> So I really think highly of this, sweetie.
pluterday, Jan 25 2003

       You fornicating dog...
thumbwax, Jan 25 2003

       [thumbwax] Hummm...turning the setting to "euphemism" gives

"Dear Mr. President..."
pluterday, Jan 25 2003

       Requires an impossible grasp of semantics on the part of the computer.
egnor, Jan 26 2003

Inyuki, Jan 26 2003

       If you did have an AI that could do this sort of thing, you would also need to be willing to change the meaning of your text quite a bit.   

       Still, though I agree with egnor, a much less ambitious version of this idea is possible: Your word processor could have certain dictionary entries flagged as particularly emotive, formal, derogatory, ambiguous, etc. It could simply scan your document for words and phrases with a tone flag that doesn't match your selection and suggest thesaurus replacements that do. The results would probably be bad and awkward (categorizing words and phrases in this way would be very problematic, readers differ, etc.) but it might be worth a try.
Monkfish, Jan 26 2003

       [Monkfish]//The results would probably be bad and awkward//

Yet, still good enough for George W...

Many things that the grammar checker does could be grouped together to make a rudimentary tone checker. For instance, conversion between active and passive voice, length of sentences, wordiness. All these things impact tone. It's just a matter of packaging.

Under tools/options, various writing styles can be selected which already goes part way to creating a tone. Select the “casual” writing style, and the grammar checker does not object to sentence fragments, for instance. [neelandan]

And it would easy enough to auto correct to replace wussy words (intrude) with strong words (invade), or the reverse. To replace “stupid” with “fishboned”, and “not quite so stupid” with “croissant”.

So, not only is it doable [egnor], but it is already partially done.
pluterday, Jan 26 2003

       Have you tried accepting the grammar checker's suggestions? Frequently they're quite ludicrous. It's not terrible at identifying problems, but it's not very good at all about fixing them. The fixes it does make are the most mechanical possible forms rewording -- nothing remotely like the kinds of examples you put in the idea! Those examples are full of semantic content.   

       Thesaurus-based word replacement tends to go horribly awry. Words have too many subtle context-dependent senses for computers to safely replace synonyms.
egnor, Jan 26 2003

       Yeah, partially done in much the same way that airplanes are partially done anti-gravity machines.
bristolz, Jan 26 2003

       Yeah. Extending existing grammar checkers slightly to include more words and phrases and bundling existing options according to "tone" is possible, and an interesting notion (although Word seems to already come pretty close to this). The original idea, though, was for a system that rewrites text according to a tone you select. The gap in complexity between the two is huge: One is practical, the other is something close to magic.
Monkfish, Jan 26 2003


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