WildBill's Blogdom

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Proposal: English-Lint

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We have “lint” for all kinds of programming-oriented things in technology. “Lint” makes sure whatever we’re writing passes basic syntax checks and is relatively sane. Why don’t we have this for English?

Seriously. I need “english-lint” as a plugin to my email program. That way, every time I get an email that is horribly mangled in some way, it kicks back an autoreply that looks something like the following:

Error: syntax, line 4. Expected question mark due to grammar, received period.
Error: syntax, line 5. Expected period due to grammar, received question mark.
Error: syntax, line 8. Missing preposition.
Error: syntax, line 12. Unnecessary use of plural. Language suggests singular.
Error: divide by zero, line 18. English-lint can't decipher this, but something's clearly wrong. 

Can someone PLEASE make this? I spent a LOT of time forcing my brain to parse weirdly-written English. We have all manner of other types of “lint” checks for programming tasks, so why not for written language? This has caused lots of confusion in the work environment from time to time – I’ve seen status reports miscommunicated and complete misunderstanding of project requirements due to this. I can tolerate a mistake or two in an email, but when I’m cocking my head sideways like the RCA dog trying to make sense of something, it’s incredibly frustrating. Even more so when the person is a brilliant programmer. Come on… you can learn various complex programming language syntax, but not English? Gahhhhhh. English-lint… it’s not just a good idea, it’s a great idea.