Maxit Simplified English?

Subject: Maxit Simplified English?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, alackerson <alackerson -at- msn -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 May 2006 08:44:22 -0400

alackerson wondered: <<My company is gearing up to buy MaxIT Checker to clean up our technical documentation. I watched a demo of it today and I'm not convinced that the tool can replace an eyes-on editor, much less significant improve bad writers. Has anyone out there had any experience, good or bad, with this tool?>>

I'm not an artificial intelligence (AI) expert, but I do try to keep an eye on this field. Thus far, I haven't seen anything suggesting that anyone has made a breakthrough that will let software parse English sentences consistently and effectively. Our language is simply to convoluted and complex for simplistic programming rules and limited language databases to capture. Semantics technology exists in very limited contexts, but not for general text. That being the case, I can't imagine that this software can actually "edit" text.

On the model of computer-assisted translation, what it probably can do (possibly even well) is act as a validity checker and source of suggestions: It's comparitively easy to program software to compare words against a list of valid options, and (to a limited extent) parse sentence structures based on a limited set of standard patterns so as to flag suspicious sentences; most grammar checkers try to do this, but do a poorer job because non-"simplified English" isn't forced to adhere to a carefully and narrowly defined subset of the English language.

All that being said, such tools must be closely supervised by someone with good English skills--preferably an editor. Use the software for what it's designed to do--support the work of a human expert--and you won't be disappointed, and may even find significant productivity and accuracy enhancements. Try to use it as a shortcut or substitute for expertise and you'll be unpleasantly surprised.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Maxit Simplified English: From: alackerson

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