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I've noticed that there are a lot of people who edit posts. Even though they do an awesome job (I have a large vocabulary, but my grammar could use some work), I've noticed that most of (at least my) rewrites are tied to position of the comma, placement of the brackets, some basic mess ups among other more complicated stuff.

I am not trying to propose to leave people who edit other people's post out of their "job" (I don't know if they are getting paid). But wouldn't it be possible to make some weak AI to learn from already edited posts, and do all small stuff such as position of commas, trademarked names, capital letters, etc.?

To me it seems this website would have huge benefits from this feature. I personally would advise for "edited by grambot" activity, than interactive.

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    would have to avoid changing code on coding sites and presumably changing anything at all on English Language Learners for fear of correcting the question into something that doesn't make sense to ask e.g. why isn't it gramatically correct to say blah wouldn't be much good if blah got changed by an AI, would it? – Robert Longson Jul 25 at 12:21
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    @RobertLongson i think you went to far, i really meant something along of lines of blah ,blah => blah, blah, then anything trademarked as stackoverflow to Stack Overflow. I understand that it isn't possible to do it in big scale ... so something small. Like commas, brackets, trademarked strings. – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:24
  • like , if difference in original post and reedited is per 2 words is 2 characters, it can be valid re edit. Some other major screw ups still need an human eye. – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:26
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    If that comma is part of some code on a coding site the position of the comma could be significant. Also if I wrote a question here such as why is Stack Overflow called Stack Overflow and not stackoverflow and that was corrected it would look pretty daft as a question, Or I'm getting a stack overflow on this code... Do I want that to have initial capitals? – Robert Longson Jul 25 at 12:28
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    valid point. But then it could be limited to non formatted text. So if you wanted to ask something intentionally you could put it in coding formating or something. – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:31
  • No, that's not how it works. The system supports the users, not the other way around ... – Glorfindel Jul 25 at 12:34
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    Could you clarify "System supports the users, not the other way around"? – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:35
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    The users should not have to adapt the formatting of their posts in order to avoid the 'wrong' corrections by the system. That would be highly confusing. – Glorfindel Jul 25 at 12:36
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    True, but they still do... if question isn't formatted it is often harder to read [especially in wall of the text questions ]. I mean i get it, you are worried that stack overflow doesn't become autocorrect - with its all fun features -.- . It would be nice to get your input, how much of your daily re editing is actual commas, brackets, and capital letters ? I am guessing it is over 50 ish percent. – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:42
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    Why don't you capitalise "i" (not a rhetorical question; I am really interested in knowing the real reason)? E.g., do you do it deliberately? Because some others do it, and you think it is correct way? They didn't teach it in school? Because you learned English by reading on the Internet? It requires more work to type? You don't know any better ("my grammar could use some work")? Or something else? As I said, I am really interested to know the real reason. – Peter Mortensen Jul 26 at 16:32
  • I don't appreciate your tone, assuming ignorance. But if you must know , autocorrect doesn't work well with Slavic languages. Lower case I is equal to "and". And you can't get phone these days without autocorrect which is preset to English. – Danilo Jul 26 at 16:45
  • And I'm general ( as a token to autocorrect ) it switches randomly between languages. So depending on the counts of "I"s , "or"s , "if"s and etc. It can switch from correct to incorrect to correct since I try to re edit myself. Damn , sometimes I miss them, sometimes I don't. – Danilo Jul 26 at 21:14
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I agree improving grammar and spelling would be beneficial, but it's very hard to automate. Consider the following situations:

  • A question on English Language Learners about the correct spelling of a word. The AI would correct the wrong spelling, making the question useless.
  • Some parts of the question may be in another language, especially on some of the language sites. Especially short fragments may be very confusing for the AI.
  • When a new product appears with a name similar to an existing English word, the AI will not recognize it and wrongly correct it (Google -> Googol).

There are some userscripts which help with grammar and spelling while editing a post, e.g. the Stack Exchange Editor Toolkit. But that's an interactive program, not an AI; a human makes the final call on the content.

I don't know if they are getting paid

No, we're not. We're just "working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question" *; proper grammar and spelling is one part of that.

*: taken from the tour

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    Some valid points here. Honestly to some i've thought about, to some i didn't. And this might seem as a front, but i really meant this as an idea to help the people that do this job. You've edited a bunch of commas and brackets in my post, and i can imagine that you can be oversaturated with all commas,brackets etc that you encounter during editing. I just think we should ease your workload by figuring out a way to reduce the repetitive and frustrating parts. – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:38
  • That's where the Editor Toolkit would come in (but TBH I don't use it, I don't really mind doing the cleanup myself and if a post contains too much errors, I'll probably leave it alone). – Glorfindel Jul 25 at 12:41
  • Sure but that means there is a tool that you personally don't use ( and me , didn't even notice it was there ). So good tool is then not used. Perhaps better question would be "How to not overcrowd the user with tools/UX?". – Danilo Jul 25 at 12:48
  • The special cases can be handled (code, quotes, etc.) by various means (markup, restriction to certain sites (by white listing and/or black listing), opt-out options, etc.), but the real problem is the false positive rate (and if corrections could be fed back into the system to reduce the false positive rate). It should be easier in technical writing. – Peter Mortensen Jul 26 at 16:00
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    Magic Editor, as far as I know (I haven't tried it yet), is not intended for interactive use (though it can, if needed), but straight single-step text replacement (but with post factum manual review). Perhaps @rene can comment. E.g., it can fix broken English, for instance, I am wanting. – Peter Mortensen Jul 26 at 16:09
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The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of Anglophone speakers are familiar with the writing conventions that govern English.

Square brackets, i.e. [ ] are not normally used in writing, instead (round) brackets, i.e. ( ) are preferred. Likewise, Anglophone speakers have been taught from an early age that questions end in a question mark (?), that the personal pronoun "I" is always capitalised in English; that the word English itself is always capitalised; that a space follows commas, semicolons and periods; that the first letter of a new sentence is always capitalised. They also learn at school not to put a space between the quotation mark and the word that follows, e.g. “Hello, Bob!” Many of these orthographic conventions also exist in Romance languages, so the need to create an AI programme that will fix these basics seems to me redundant. It's one thing not knowing the language very well and making grammar mistakes, quite another not adding a space after a period, not capitalising the first letter at the beginning of a sentence, not using a spell checker, etc. AI shouldn't have to fix this type of sloppiness. A word about spell checkers, not always do they catch out spelling errors, if a word is spelt (spelled) correctly but carries a completely different meaning, a spell checker won't tell you this.

Leaving to one side whether the following excerpt is well-written, or if the word semicolon should be hyphenated, it is formatted and spelled correctly, so it is easy to read.

GOOD

Use a semi-colon (;) before and a comma (,) after however when you are using it to write a compound sentence. If ‘however’ is used to begin a sentence, it must be followed by a comma, and what appears after the comma must be a complete sentence.

NOT GOOD

Use a semicolon [;] before anda coma [,] after howeverwhen you are usingit to right a compound sentense .if ' however ' is used to begin a sentense ,it must be followed by a coma ,and what appears after the coma must be a compleat sentense .

(source)

  • Honestly... I don't know how to handle this. I can see the value of your post, but i don't see any relevance to the AI proposition. I am forced to think of your answer more as educational response than discussion based reaction. I am not saying that your post has to have correlation with an AI in main topic, but some connecting thread would be nice so we can continue this discussion in civilised manner. – Danilo Sep 4 at 0:15
  • I am honestly sorry if this seems invasive, but i can gather from your profile that you are born (or raised) in UK therefore you have leniency to profess proper English. Which could be then justified by general high activity in English language sub community of Stack Overflow. I we were living an hundred years ago I would be able to say (judging by your profile picture) that you have some Mediteran heritage, but with current migration status i can't tell for sure. – Danilo Sep 4 at 0:19
  • Now this all is prejudice but i am working with amount of data i can gather, i can only say that there is an high chance you think people need to correct themselves. Which would then suggest that you think that grammatical or semantic AI isn't necessary. Which i can say it seems is an bad received idea around here, which is ok. Where is fun in discussing if we all agree? :D But i would like to add that there is an high chance that some natural language bias is present since you have probably learned it at a young age. As an born English woman, English language is part of your identity. – Danilo Sep 4 at 0:23
  • But let's switch tables a bit. Let's say that global language is Italian, Chinese or such-and-such language. Is it valid for native such-and-such language impose its rules and its tenacity onto other users? Of course some rules must be followed, after all it is important that message gets transmitted. As you kindly mentioned Anglophone languages have their own rules, nips and tricks, Romance languages also. How about Afrikaans? Ashanti ? How about Sino-Tibetan ? You might have some Italian blood in you so you might have picked up language pretty quick with miniscule mistakes. – Danilo Sep 4 at 0:33
  • It is pretty easy to look at Europe as unified languages with connections and similarities between each , and to gasp at Americas in similar manner. But the world is bigger than us. And curly ,rounded or square bracket, space after comma might be so hard for the pictorial based language. I didn't propose AI because of me (even though i tried to give my example , but failed miserably). My suggestion was part of inclusion, not regresion. I really hope i didn't offend you a single bit. – Danilo Sep 4 at 0:35
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    Grammar and semantic mistakes are all part of the learning process. They're perfectly normal, part of life, and there's always room for improvement. But if you look at the two versions I put up, in the 2nd the grammar did not change! The errors are due to formatting, and a few common spelling errors that a spell checker would probably not catch. For instance, coma and comma are both words that both "exist" but they have very different meanings and their pronunciations are slightly different too. I'm just saying that many formatting, stylistic errors can be easily avoided. – Mari-Lou A Sep 4 at 1:10
  • Exclamation mark was unnecessary. Let's have civil discussion. I don't feel comfortable making many vague presumptions on your behalf so i would be very grateful if you could make a stand at least at one point. From there we can have at least common ground. What is your general opinion on self editing? Do you think everyone is equally adequate to self edit no matter their origin? And do you think AI of any sort would be beneficial ? – Danilo Sep 4 at 2:15
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    If an exclamation mark, which was only meant to highlight an important factor that you could have missed, meant I was not being civil, I prefer not to continue with this discussion. BUT concerning self-editing feel free to look at my profile page on EL&U, I make a ton of edits on my own and on posts of users. The aim is to repair, fix, add supporting evidence and improve substantially the quality without radically changing any content. Often the edited posts later receive upvotes, and/or stave off closure. This makes me happy. There's no way that AI can emulate these corrections or fixes. – Mari-Lou A Sep 4 at 2:31
  • I didn't mean to provoke such reaction. I am used on SO basic formatting to show emphasis, exclamation mark just threw me off the ground. I am used to recognise it in emotional and frustrating debate (from other users, and myself). Nonetheless, i would be grateful if you could elaborate more on what kind of repair and fix you have in mind? EL&U should have specific rule sets, and i am truly curious. – Danilo Sep 4 at 13:35
  • Re "They also learn at school not to put a space between the quotation mark and the word that follows": It was the exact opposite in Indian schools until recently (perhaps still going?), due to the outdated 1935 Wren & Martin textbook). In other words, they can't be blamed. But the Indian school system can. – Peter Mortensen Sep 4 at 13:40
  • BTW, most countries' school systems have idiosyncrasies - myths going around that refuse to die (say, comma before "that", things from the typewriter era (ended 40 years ago), and that English does not have rules for commas). – Peter Mortensen Sep 4 at 14:20
  • @PeterMortensen although I mention spelling, my answer is mainly on errors of formatting, not punctuation Hopefully, I explained why a spell checker will not fix every error but I should have also said that they can identify words that literally do not exist, especially typos where two words are not seperated by a space, e.g. "usingit". Nowadays, installing a dictionary/spellchecker is easy, I don't see why SE has to create a specific AI tool when it already exists and is easily accessible. I also agree with Glofindel about the limitations of AI for the reasons he gave. – Mari-Lou A Sep 4 at 14:46
  • I don't see in any way how this attempts to answer the question. – Stormblessed Oct 2 at 4:09

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