Assisted Editing

I learned about artbollocks-mode.el from Sacha Chua's post, and it's pretty freaking amazing.

Basically, it does some processing of your writing--while you work--to highlight passive sentences and affected jargon. [1] And that's all. There are some functions for generating statistics about your writing, but I find I don't use that functionality often. You can enable it all of the time, or just turn it on when you're doing editing.

After a few weeks, I've noticed a marked improvement in the quality of my output. I leave it on all the time, but I'm pretty good at resisting the urge to edit while I'm writing. Or at least I'm pretty good at picking up again after going back to tweak a wording. In general it's hard to keep more than a few things in an editing pass at any time.

It turns out that the instant feedback on passive sentences, even though it's not perfect, is great for improving the quality of my content the first time out. And it's even better for doing editing work. It's harder to ignore a passive sentence when the editor is highlighting you see a screen full of them for you.

It's of course important to be able to ignore its suggestions from time to time, and it's no harder to ignore than "flyspell-mode" (the on-the-fly spell checker in emacs.)

[1]This is perhaps the clumsiest part of the default distribution, as jargon is terribly specific to the kind of writing you're doing, and it turns out that one of the "art critic"/post-modern words (i.e. "node") is a word that I end up using (acceptably, I think) in a technical context when describing a clustered system. And there's a difference between a technical lexicon and a jargon, and regular expressions aren't terribly sensitive to this, so the actual list of words that you need to call yourself out on, varies a bit from person to person. But once you customize it, it's great.
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