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Ask YC: Feedback on PolishMyWriting.com (polishmywriting.com)
28 points by raffi on Aug 25, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 24 comments

Interesting idea...just for reference, I ran it on a recent blog post of mine: http://www.ryanwaggoner.com/2008/08/how-simple-is-too-simple... (sorry for the spam :-)

Overall, I would say that it was most useful when it was pointing out things like passive voice or cliches, and less useful when telling me to replace relatively simple words or phrases with even simpler ones. Some of the words were things like: "feedback", "solicit", "desire", etc. We could certainly replace these with "opinion", "ask for", and "want", but some of the meaning and nuance is lost, especially given the context.

I may not be the most eloquent writer, but I'm not writing for a group of 4th-graders. The "dumbing down" of language leads to dumbing down of thought in the long run.

As with any piece, your style should reflect its purpose and the intended audience.

In the "real world" I quickly discovered that eloquence and "getting the message across" are inversely proportional.

The human brain prefers the dumbed down language. That's why people take trash novels to the beach and not Scientific American.

Look at any novel and notice that nearly all the dialogue uses the word "said". Amateurs always switch this out with words like "exclaimed" and "retorted".

Pros know that the goal is to simply seduce the reader into their narrative as quickly and quietly as possible.

"But I don't want to be a pro writer of trash novels that are read and discarded on the beaches of the world," he retorted.

Given the choice, I'd much rather write the kinds of articles you see in Scientific American or the Economist. By writing for the masses, you must write for the lowest common denominator. No thanks.

What exactly do you mean by "The human brain prefers the dumbed down language."? Am I different from my brain? Because sometimes I enjoy books that aren't dumbed-down.

Also, the use of "said" allows for subtlety of dialog that would be lost with more trite words such as "exclaimed" or "retorted".

Joyce takes it to an extreme: only a dash separates dialog from narration.

I think that's an Irish writing style and not particular to Joyce. I know I've seen Roddy Doyle books use it, at least. Could have been copying Joyce's style, mind you, but I doubt it.

Joyce invented the style. It has since been used by many other authors. Now that I think about it, it was a kind of refactoring or re-encoding: making a shorter symbol for a sequence that's frequently repeated.

Without spending the time to test out the algorithm, I can tell you this is sorely needed in the world of blogging. I'm appalled by the atrocious grammar often found at places like TechCrunch. I can't imagine how the big blogs don't all outsource copy-editing.

Perhaps an awesome feature would be the ability for them to use your site and then have the copy-edited stuff published directly to the blog, maybe via xml-rpc or something.

I really like it. Great work!

The main addition I would like to see is an "accept" option in addition to the "ignore" button. When a list of suggestions is given, I would like to be able to select one and see that reflected in the text.

Under settings.slp: "Click a rule to unignore it."

This needs no unpolishing, yes?

Very functional. Good tips.

I think the "instant improvement" button should be renamed. I was looking for a "submit" button or a "show suggestions" button. Instant improvement almost implies that the changes will be made automatically.

Please try to avoid Comic Sans whenever possible. The background distracts from your logo a bit. That area could be simplified.

The whole thing is so simple it could look as clean as Google's homepage plus a couple of ads.

Overall, it's a neat tool.

Yeah, I wasn't sure if it was a submit button or an advertisement.

Down for anyone else?

Yeah, still down for me with proxy errors.

I think we killed it :)

PS. Great service. Definitely has value.

Should be fixed soon. There is a change I'm supposed to make soon to make the rule database shared amongst sessions. Right now its loaded for everyone and well that makes memory go bye bye real quick.

I really like it. An "Ignore rule" button would be nice. If you're trying to demonstrate a strong vocabulary in your paper, you might not ever want simpler words. (I chose that rule in particular because you seem to have made that rule too aggressive. A passage of solely simple words, while possibly more clear, is not as pleasant to read.)

Your suggestions don't always actually fit, but that's true of certain large, expensive pieces of software (Microsoft Word) too.

Also, allowing people to upload files (at least text files, maybe rtf and doc if you can parse them into text) might be nice so they don't have to select and paste it all.

Overall it looks like a very useful site though.

This is a great resource!

I've run a couple of draft essays through it, and it has helped speed up my revision quite a bit.

Just FYI, about 50% of the suggestions are useful. It's particularly good at picking up the passive voice. I find the word suggestions less useful. They work okay on relatively unpolished bits of my writing, but are mostly superfluous on the more polished bits. The reason, I guess, is that in the more polished bits the word choice is already quite careful.

I'm spreading word around on my blog, and on FriendFeed.

I liked it a lot... but when I tried testing it more, I started getting this:

"Proxy Error

The proxy server received an invalid response from an upstream server. The proxy server could not handle the request POST /process.slp.

Reason: Error reading from remote server

Apache/2.2.3 (CentOS) Server at www.polishmywriting.com Port 80"

It's still down at the moment, but are you aware of diction(1) and style(1)?

Yes, I reference them on the help page even. Dict has under 1000 rules in it and style's engine for checking things is pretty simple. When I started writing my engine I definitely looked at the source code for these.

polish != Polish:

polish = "make shiny"

Polish = something related to Poland

I think you need a different name.

He's hitting the Polish vertical before he strikes out into others: German, Farsi, Mandarin, etc.

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