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Letter sent on Mar 12, 2016

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You can’t automate subbing, but can you automate style guides?

Subediting is a tough task for humans at the best of times; how can a computer be so witty as to generate the headlines, be so smart as to know what words to cut, and be so particular as to notice every tiny formatting quirk.

Well, they can’t (at least not yet), but they can help us in other ways.

Enter proselint, a linter for prose. Linters have existed in programming for a long time, and the name is familiar to those of us that write any kind of programming language. Computers are really strict as to what they will accept, and linters help highlight in your code when you make mistakes, typos, or maybe create something that you never use so your code doesn’t get cluttered. Programmers have thought how this kind of instant feedback could be applied to prose, and have produced this basic ‘linter’ to test it out.

Proselint matches your writing against a predefined styleguide and highlights when you make a mistake, whether that’s a typo, or a cliche statement, or you format a date incorrectly, or you use a term that there’s a stylistic preferred alternative for. It does this all silently, in the background, improving how writers can write, and reducing the mental burden on subs to remember all the tiny things, so they can focus on the more cognitively taxing tasks.

You can try it out against their style guide at proselint.com/write/

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