Improve Your Writing With TextSoap

Along with PaperEdit, I'm using TextSoap, as a proofreading tool. Not the editor itself, but it's ability to combine RegEx with text highlighting and capitalization to call out words and phrases for improvement.

My original "cleaner" had a list of common words I wanted to avoid, such as "just" and "that." I've made several enhancements to look for past tense words, prepositions and others. These are in separate "cleaners" I can call on as needed. Or I can chain them together in a single pass.

For example, I've added \b(been|has been|being|to be|was)\b to call out specific past tense words.

There is also a check for words ending in "ed," which is usually past tense. Of course, Ted isn't past tense, so it's not foolproof.
\b(was \w+ed\b)

Same goes for adverbs and "ly." Again, Lily isn't an adverb, so you have to take the good with the bad.

I've also created a list of prepositions, just to see how often they get used.

On their own, these words and phrases aren't bad. They may be exactly what the article or story needs. But, if they're excessive and the entire page changes color, it's time to think about what I'm doing and saying. These types of checks are low hanging fruit, but it's a good place to start. They are easy corrections that lead to bigger and better changes overall.

The goal isn't to let the computer apply arbitrary rules to govern how a sentence is formed or how to write an article. It's about patterns and excess. A colorful page is great for a coloring book, not for an article I intend to publish. It also means my message is probably muddled.

The great thing about TextSoap, I can add as many of these as I like. It can either be a predetermined list, or with some simple RegEx, powerful highlighters.

These tools don't stifle creativity, they come into play when the writing is complete. They are a guide. I can ignore what I see or act on it. I see it as another example of the versatility of TextSoap.

At this point, it's a useful experiment.


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