diction: The words you choose and why

Earlier this month I pointed out a grammar checker utility that was, because of its age and its arrangement, omitted from this daily showcase of software. And I felt a little bad about that because as far as I can tell, it was the only grammar checker for a text-only environment that I’ve seen in 21 months.

There are two conclusions to be drawn from that: One, that relying on outside sources as a core component of your software might make it obsolete before its time. And two, if you’re a budding programmer looking to make your mark on the world, there’s a big open gap right around text-based grammar checkers.

If you want to take a step in that direction, take a gander at diction.


In that example, I fed diction a short and cumbersome passage from some lunkhead-Linux-blogger-wannabe I found on the Internet. 😉 And if you look close, you can see where diction plucks out particular words and phrases, and gives you reminders — sometimes grammatical — on usage.

Not really a grammar checker, and not really a dictionary, which makes diction something in-between.

Points of note: diction is really just a filter for specific words and phrases, with cued responses inserted where appropriate. That’s important to remember, since rearranging or misspelling those key phrases is going to let diction pass right over them.

Furthermore, diction is hopeless at innuendo, double-entendre, turns of phrase or deliberate wordplay. If it’s not in the onboard repertoire, diction will either run right past it or flag it as some sort of unrelated error. So higher-order writing is susceptible to false positives.

The only other gripe I have is that the output is particularly dense. No color filtering, no line-by-line trapping, no formatting aside from the use of square brackets to set off comments from original text. So while I appreciate the effort diction goes through, the results are going to need some heavy adjustment before they will be readable.

All that being said, this is a step in the right direction for anyone who wants to do some text wrangling from the command line. diction sends its analysis straight back through STDOUT, so it’s a simple matter to pipe it into something else — like one of the million color filtering tools we’ve seen — and further adjust it.

Now let’s move to diction’s little brother. …


2 thoughts on “diction: The words you choose and why

  1. Pingback: style: Similar idea, different direction | Inconsolation

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