Introducing the EditMinion

I had some important and pressing things to do recently so naturally I had to find something to work on while I was procrastinating. I decided to tackle the editing process.

I created a new tool called EditMinion.com.

EditMinion helps you refine your writing by searching your text for some common grammatical, spelling and diction mistakes that spellcheck won’t catch. It looks for adverbs, bad dialogue attribution, commonly misspelled words and ending a sentence with a preposition. It will also count how many times a given type of mistake is found.

It’s obviously no replacement for a human copy-editor but it will give you an idea of what areas you might need to focus on revising in your writing. If there are features you’d like to see implemented, please feel free to comment below.

37 Comments

  1. Eeek… It seems to hate like… A lot of Adverbs. I tested a few within sentences and they all just got highlighted – is that meant to happen? o_o

    Aside from that, it looks like a pretty useful tool. I’ll use it in future, even though when I tested it with the excerpt I wrote last night – not a single mistake showed up ;D. Hoo-hoo-hoo, look at me go.

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  2. It will find ALL adverbs, it can’t differentiate between good and bad uses, it’s just written in to the code because they should be used sparingly. Just because it finds things doesn’t mean all of them need changing. The goal is to point out your use of each item and make sure that each instance is deliberate and not a result of sloppy writing. If you want to feel better, paste a chapter of Moby Dick into EditMinion: http://www.princeton.edu/~batke/moby/
    It’s one of the texts I use for testing, obviously a great book and yet there are instances of all the things EditMinion searches for.

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  3. Oh thanks, DrWicked! I get it now πŸ˜€ I’ll be sure to bear that in mind in future and take the editing with a pinch of salt :3

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  4. Having been a keen fan of you other piece of software; WoD. I was really looking forward to your new web program that could edit all the rubbish I splurged out into my NaNo project. I do understand that it is an EXTREMELY early beta but here are some of the points I would like to raise and features to add:

    -I noticed from your previous comment that it highlights every adverb, will there be in a future version something that can distinguish the cliched and overused adverbs from the others?

    -Pages (for Mac) has a system in which it states that you have used a wordy phrase or a ‘stock’ phrase that should be used rarely, among with a few other features that are useful for editing. Perhaps you could look up the details and replicate them. I have no idea how hard that would be.

    -In one of the newer versions of Word (I forget which), word used in the wrong situation are make with a blue squiggle line (e.g. ‘to’ instead of ‘too). Again, I have no idea how hard this would be to copy into this.

    -Here is a feature that would make me fall in love with EditMinion. If it could somehow ‘auto-correct’ certain words. For example, if I write as ‘beleive’ instead of ‘believe’ on several occasions, it asks me whether I want to correct all occurrences to the correct version within the text, (assuming we can upload large amounts of text).

    -Similar to the last request, if it could somehow pick up all the variants on a character name spelt incorrectly. If I write ‘Zeltha’ it could correct it ‘Zeltho’ automatically by uploading a character list at the beginning before entering text.

    -A bit unrelated but, since when were you not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition? I’m not aware of that rule and where it came from. (That ended with a preposition)

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  5. Hello Marco,
    Thanks very much for your suggestions!

    Every adverb: Right now it’s a list of adverbs, I’ve already edited the list a bit to take out regularly occurring normal adverbs. If there are particular adverbs that EditMinion finds that you think shouldn’t be highlighted, let me know.

    Stock phrases: This could be interesting. I’ll look into it.

    Blue squigglies for misused: This is harder to implement, I expect Word has some advanced logic. I’m not sure I could reproduce that in a web-based app.

    AutoCorrect: It’s primarily meant to be used it conjunction with a word processor/spellcheck, as a second pass through your text. I’ll think about adding this type of feature but I think Word’s spellcheck will do it better and I’d rather not re-invent the wheel.

    Character name variants: It’s extremely difficult to find “similarities” in text. I’ll ponder it though, it’s an interesting conundrum.

    Prepositions: It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, much like adverbs, just something to be avoided: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ending-prepositions.aspx

    Thanks for the feedback!

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  6. Wow Doc, that was quick πŸ˜›
    I really do hope this app is as successful as WoD, one more thing I’d like to add to the list; the possibility for text within speech and text out of speech to be highlighted in two different colours or bubbles so I can compare and keep a good balance. I was also thinking of a pace, or tension ‘measurer’. It could count the average number of words per sentence or something and plot a graph of your novel to see which chapters and paragraphs make climaxes and which have a slower pace. That way I could spice up some of the lagging action scenes, and calm down some of the supposed ‘slower’ scenes. In a chapter where it should be fast paced, it could perhaps note an odd-matching paragraph with a slower pace or vice versa.

    BTW: Thanks for providing us with yet another free web tool πŸ˜€

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  7. I realize that the software is still in beta form so there are bound to be areas to improve on, but I found that the part that checks for forms of “s/he said” highlights all of the words that might need to be replaced by “s/he said” even if the context doesn’t make sense to change it. Perhaps you could could take context into account for that?

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  8. I love it. It is exactly the right kind of tool to spot check me, when no one else will. Thank you for all for all your tools.
    I like how you can choose what to look for, especially the dialog attribution. Well done.
    My only issue is the passive tense. Any time I used the word “was” editminion believed it was passive. Is there any fix for that? I am deathly afraid (pardon the adverb and the pun) of using the passive tense, and I am still learning to differentiate between a legitimate use of the past progressive tense and the passive tense.
    Thanks again.

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  9. Gmmaster42: I’m working on that but it’s not likely that it will ever be overly smart. That particular search is useful more to let you know if you’re over-using such words.

    Vividtangeringe: Passive tense is something that I only figured out tonight, the current live version looks for (was,is,were,etc) … *ing. So he was being, he was already eating, She was madly hitting, all those will be found. Try again and see if you’re still having the same issue.

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  10. One more thing: the background color for “weak words” appears to be identical to the default background. That is to say, I can’t see any words highlighted as “weak words.”

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  11. Drwicked said:
    Vividtangeringe: Passive tense is something that I only figured out tonight, the current live version looks for (was,is,were,etc) … *ing. So he was being, he was already eating, She was madly hitting, all those will be found. Try again and see if you’re still having the same issue.

    um… first of all, none of those examples are passive, unless you follow a form of “be” with a past participle, i.e. “he was being eaten” (passive) rather than “he was being funny” (past progressive). The idea with passive is that the logical object is expressed as the grammatical subject. This is not a trivial problem either, but it has to be described right before you can attack it.

    If you really hate passive mood (not tense – it is compatible with all tenses) or if you just want to accurately identify it, it’s not made with with -ing, but past participle forms. However, please note that there is no reason to hate it, fear it, or avoid it completely, since it is a valid part of the language and is sometimes very useful (e.g. to de-emphasize the subject/agent or emphasize the object/patient).

    Here are some examples of normal passive clauses: he was killed in battle / the whole thing was filmed and broadcast live / this bread is usually served with butter / the presents will not be opened before midnight / it is understood that we all want to write more and better…

    What you really want to search for is a form of the verb be (was,is,were,etc but also including ‘be’ and ‘being’) and a past participle form, which is a little tricky since many are identical to past tense forms, regular or not (killed, understood, called, thought) but many are irregular and different from the past tense form (eaten vs. ate, fallen vs. fell). So some are *ed forms others are different depending on the verb. The last thing is to make sure you only include participles of transitive verbs (otherwise you’ll pick up things like “he was already gone” – lots of little traps in there). I’m sorry I can’t offer a specific place to go, but there are so many resources out there dealing with English, there must be a list you can import…

    I hope this helps a little. I love the idea of correcting in the writeordie window but spelling and grammar / style are really different, for both humans and computers. It’s harder to implement phrase-level generalizations, and with all the arbitrary prescriptive rules out there, usually presented with great authority, people sometimes freak out thinking they don’t know how to speak their own language, which is sad. Normal writers and users can relax and keep in mind that those are *style* guidelines, and usually not “grammar rules” to be followed at all costs.

    Now I will get back to writing — Happy writing, programming, and editing, and thanks Dr Wicked for this resource!

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  12. looped back around here on a procrasination tour… and that should be passive *voice* (not mood or tense), i.e. in opposition to active voice. sorry.

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  13. I just tested out the EditMinion site and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. grammarnerd’s concerns about passive voice are sound. Just searching “was” or “were” isn’t signaling passive voice; they are, after all, the past tense forms of “is” and “are.”

    Aside from that, I think it’s a helpful tool. There are other sites that do the repeated word check or point out frequently misspelled/misused words, but the advantage to EditMinion is the color coding. I might not have mistaken my “to”s for “too”s, but I did notice I used “to” way too much in the story I tested. Being able to isolate out the editing function is a great feature. Since I know, for example, that story didn’t use many adverbs, I can rescan the whole thing without the hot pink highlights to focus on other issues.

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  14. I love it! Genius idea! Can’t wait to watch it get better and better, well done and thank you for your work bringing us WoD and now EditMinion.

    Jaz
    p.s, it highlighted Began as a said word, this did amuse me slightly!

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  15. This is just wonderful, particularly for when I’m in a pinch and don’t have time have my beta double check my work. I will definitely be pimping it.

    You’ve probably already seen this, but I thought it might help with the cliche feature. Publishers list of phrases to avoid

    The only thing I would love to see added to this, would be a tense checker [something that would highlight present tense words in particular]

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  16. Terrific tool, very useful. I’d like to see a desktop version (for Mac) to speed up the editing process. I find with the web version that the time consuming part is looking back and forth between my writing application (which happens to be Scrivener) and the web page. If it was a tool that I could paste text into and edit, then cut and paste out again, that would save a lot of time.
    I like the way it highlights all adverbs, by the way. Gives you a chance to review ones use of adverbs and only keep those that deserve to be there.
    I’d also like to see the overused word feature suggested above.
    Another possibility is a highlight all dialogue option. It might clash with some of the others of course.

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  17. This is brilliant. I think I’m going to enjoy using this.

    One thing I might suggest is having an option of checking present tense instead of the past (for things like the ‘said’ checker). This might be just me, seeing as not too many people generally write in the present tense, and I don’t know much about coding but I have a feeling that that would be complicated.

    I’d third the overused word feature.

    And I will definitely be sharing this with other writers.

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  18. It doesn’t help with editminion, but as a tool for checking overuse of words, I occasionally plop a piece of writing into http://www.wordle.net, which gives a visual representation of every word’s occurrence in a word cloud (I generally do a find-and-delete on main character names, which inevitable show up the most frequently).

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  19. I love this idea! These seven areas are great starting points for first draft edits. An unedited piece of work can be just as daunting as a blank piece of paper.

    My suggestions!

    – Color scheme! Something a little less jarring for the background (the green). I would recommend maybe tooling around with a few different color schemes for the different highlights as well. Coloschemer.com is a good place to start.

    – In the Chrome browser for mac, the legend is bleeding into the text area. It didn’t do it with Safari, however.

    – Being able to click on the legend to go to each entry would be neat.

    – Being able to toggle certain parts, too, would be cool (as in just highlighting adverbs, or highlighting weak words and prepositions, etc).

    Lastly, please go back in time and release this while I was still in college writing term papers.

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  20. Posting again, because I”m dumb and didn’t see the check boxes at the top. So you can scratch idea four off because you… uh… already did it.

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  21. Just a suggestion that you can have a list of words (crutch words) that you commonly misuse or overuse so that it highlights them. For example “Suddenly”, “seemed”, “felt” etc. And you could have a default list to get people started since many are common.

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  22. I’ve been using edit minion, and I think there may be a glitch with the “oft-misspelled” function. It keeps listing all the words which have multiple spellings – To, two, too etc, as wrong. I don’t know if this is just me, but it might be something you want to fix.

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  23. I love this! Would there be anyway of getting it to detect tense shifts? I’m constantly sliding between past and present tense.

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  24. I love this tool! I know it’s very beta, but I would love to see it be able to find adjectives as well as adverbs. I tend to over-adjective… Great tool, though!

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  25. Dr. Wicked, I am impressed with this tool you have provided. As a writer I look to anything that can help me see errors or anything that might interfere with what I do. Thank you and keep on improving it. Your efforts are noticed and appreciated!

    I’ve enjoyed the ‘passive’ debate, but I will say your tool is for the thinking person. It is still left up to the creator of the work to change or not. I think most writers can see the positive in what you do. We may not agree with all the catches but at least it makes us think!

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  26. Making us think, consider, and be more critical of our own work (and having a detector for the computer): all for the greater good.

    Here are some ideas though: you have commonly misspelled words… what about *misused* words (besides adverbs)? How about redundant words?

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  27. Why isn’t EditMinion working? I plugged in my text and hit the edit button and nothing happened. At first I thought I had too much text and cut it down to only one small paragraph and still nothing.

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