Fake Technical Writing: A Modest Proposal for the Creators of the Ulysses App

N.B.: This is a software add-on that I could only *wish* existed. Using my best fake tech writing skillz, I have created a command reference entry for a software function that would make us all better writers — especially literary theorists.

The command that I have invented, is for the program Ulysses, a Mac-only writing app. Generally used by creative writers and journalists, the command I designed is a modified Search function (as my tech writer husband pointed out). In this command, Search is enhanced: it can recognize elements of language and composition that many consider undesirable in published work, such as adverbs and cliches. I know there is a software program — Hemingway — that will do some of this already, in terms of grammar and syntactical complexity, but I am imagining software that would serve as a first-stop editor that would use basic AI to point out these “errors” of style. Beware: there is some tongue-in-cheek writing ahead.

Command Reference Entry for Editor


🗓 08/24/2018 🕓 4 minutes to read
Contributors: Anna Hiller

In this article

  • Function
  • Syntax
  • Parameters
  • Remarks
  • Examples

Applies To: Ulysses 12.0 or later


Editor is an enhanced search command for Markdown XL files written in the Ulysses app for MacOS or iOS. Running the editor command with the function <nonos> analyzes Ulysses files for problematic text. Create a specific search type using one or more parameters to define the <nonos> function. Parameters exist for macro-categories (known as elements) that name the scope of the search. For example, there are elements for style, grammar, syntax, and usage. Additionsl parameters, known as attributes, are subordinate to elements. Attributes (alone or in a string) specify the search type performed by the editor command.


editor <nonos> | /[element] / [attribute]; [attribute (optional)]



<nonos> A function that directs the editor command to search for problematic text in a Ulysses Markdown XL file.


  • style Searches selected file for stylistic problems, as defined by specific attributes.
  • grammar Searches selected file for grammatical errors; does not require definition by an attribute.
  • syntax Searches selected file for syntactical problems, as defined by specific attributes.
  • usage Searches selected file for lexical problems, as defined by specific attributes.
  • register Searches for shifts in communicative register, as defined by specific attributes.

Attributes Style Attributes

  • cliche Highlights known clichés, popular sayings, and aphoristic language.
  • passivevoice Highlights all instances of the passive voice.
  • weakverb Highlights unspecific verbs such as to be
  • adverbabuse Highlights unnecessary adverbs that could be replaced by a strong verb.
  • repetition Highlights all words used more than three times within 200 words.
  • jargon Highlights complex but essentially meaningless language.

Grammar Attributes

  • agreement Highlights subject-verb agreement inconsistencies.
  • prepend Highlights sentences ending in a preposition.
  • tense Highlights errors in the sequence of verb tenses.
  • whichthat Highlights errors in relative pronouns.

Syntax Attributes

  • runon Highlights run-on sentences.
  • modifier Highlights misplaced and dangling modifiers.
  • punctabuse Highlights misused or excessive punctuation.
  • complex Highlights whole sentences whose complexity exceeds a threshold of a 10th grade reading level.
  • derrida Highlights whole sentences whose syntax is more complex than 20th-century post-structuralist theory.

Usage Attributes

  • huh Highlights words that do not make sense within the context of the sentence.
  • itsits Highlights incorrect usage of apostrophes.
  • theretheir Highlights incorrect usage of homonyms.
  • whichthat Highlights incorrect usage of relative pronouns.

Register Attributes

  • notformal Highlights colloquial language in a predominantly formal text.
  • notinformal Highlights formal language in a predominantly informal text.


  • editor only works with Markdown XL files. It does not work with simple Markdown documents.
  • The grammar element can be used with or without a defining attribute. Without a defining attribute, the grammar element performs a global grammar check on all attributes. Including a defining attribute narrows the search to that attribute alone.
  • You cannot simultaneously search on multiple elements within the editor command syntax. You can only use Simple Strings. However, you can use a Complex String command—that is, issue a sequence of commands that will find instances of other attributes within the results of the original search. The sequence uses the `SUB` conjunction to execute this command.
  • You can search multiple attributes at the same time, but they must be sub-parameters within the same element.
  • After running editor, Ulysses can export a summary of the <nonos> found in the file. Select OK when the dialog appears with the text Generate Report?.
  • After selecting OK, select the export format in the next window. There are several options for exporting file. File types available for export are .rtf, .docx, .md, .pdf, and .html.


Simple Strings

  1. To find the cliched language in a document, type:
  2. editor <nonos> | [style] | [cliche]
  3. To find combinations of weak verbs and adverbs that should be replaced by a strong verb, type:
  4. editor <nonos> | [style] | [weakverb]; [adverbabuse]

Complex Strings

  1. To find language that is both jargon and overly complex, type:
  2. editor <nonos> | [style] | [jargon] SUB [syntax\derrida]
  3. To find run-on sentences that are also too formal (within the context of the document), type:
  4. editor <nonos> | [register] | [formal] SUB [syntax\runon]
  5. Alternately:
  6. editor <nonos> |[syntax] | [runon] SUB [register\formal]