back to article Boffins build a NAZI AI – wait, let's check that... OK, it's a grammar nazi

Pedants, imagine how much more relaxed your life would be if artificial intelligence automatically corrected grammar mistake's in online forum and social network posts. Never again would you explode with frustration and anger over misplaced apostrophe's, commas full stop's and exclamation! marks! The faults could be fixed up …

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  1. frank ly Silver badge

    "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

    I see what you did there and in other places. Are you also a grocer?

    1. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

      Definitely a top quality troll, no miner league stuff here.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

        Unfortunately, that correction would be out of scope. What a shame.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

        Trolling like a champ

        1. 's water music Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

          Trolling like a champ

          Would of been if the author had included some more egregious 'errors',,,

    2. Magani
      Headmaster

      Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

      ...misplaced apostrophe's, commas, full stop's and exclamation! marks! ...

      Well plaid, but you forgot the apostrophe in "comma's".

      1. Benchops

        Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

        I think you'll find the first person pluralization is "We'll"

      2. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

        So many grammar errors. I'm loosing patience.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

          Agh! And subject-verb-counting mismatches. So.... hard... to... read... without screaming!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

      Did find myself counting the commas, and there seems to be a lot more than I would expect in a Reg article....

    4. Borg.King
      Coat

      Re: "... misplaced apostrophe's, ..."

      I see what you did there and in other places. Are you also a grocer?

      Granville, fetch a cloth.

      (Mine's the shopkeepers coat)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The correct term is "Theiyr're", no need for AI now.

  3. Giovani Tapini

    It will be the end of puns as we know them

    Any kind of playful use of language will be translated into AI generated "Newspeak" and turgid prose will come of the computer controlled word sausage machine.

    Why not simply develop an AI to write the text in the first place? its probably easier than trying to fix language it cannot really appreciate.

    I look forward to the AI art critic suggesting "It's just a pile of bricks..."

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: It will be the end of puns as we know them

      What a Brave new World.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: It will be the end of puns as we know them

        "What a Brave, new World."

        FTFY

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: It will be the end of puns as we know them

      Why not simply develop an AI to write the text in the first place?

      Have you met amanfrommars?

      More seriously, AI is already being used to do the boring bits.

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: It will be the end of puns as we know them

        There are not now, and never will be, any AIs that could embed as many concepts into a single sentence as AMFM does.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: It will be the end of puns as we know them

      Why not simply develop an AI to write the text in the first place?

      Done long ago. One well-known example is Phillip Parker's patented book-generation system, which has been used to create hundreds of thousands of books on specialty topics. Which, yes, he sells, and apparently makes quite a lot of money from.

      Generating usable natural-language prose is actually quite easy, just like generating passable music (algorithmic generation of classical and jazz music good enough to fool expert judges has been demonstrated for decades). Creating writing that's stylistically interesting, and generating new ideas on a subject, are somewhat more difficult challenges.

      In any case, the point of Shan's system, and others like it, isn't to fix broken prose. It's to attempt to add punctuation to text streams that lack it, such as ASR (speech-to-text) output, to make it easier to parse correctly. This was in the article.

  4. CT

    "At the moment, it can only deal with commas and full stops, the most common and easiest of English's punctuation marks."

    If they were that easy how come so many people do without them writing enormous walls of text without so much as a pause as if their taking one deep breath and just letting out a single massive belch of their stream of consciousness ooh look a cat video ?

    1. A K Stiles
      Headmaster

      a pause as if their taking one deep breath

      You did that deliberately, didn't you?

      1. CT

        of coarse I did

      2. onefang Silver badge

        "You did that deliberately, didn't you?"

        Considering the goal was to leave out any form of punctuation except the final question mark, I'd say that dodging an apostrophe was deliberate.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Possibly because they are trying to imitate lawyers, who appear to believe that punctuation is subjective and therefore has no place in legal text.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        You’re assumption may need correcting and their is an example:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/25/business/worldbusiness/25comma.html

    3. Giovani Tapini

      @CT Becausewhenyouarewritingforfacebookandonlywanttosay

      whatyouhadforbreakfastwhatpyjamasyouwerewearingyoudontwriteassuminganyoneisactuallygoingtoreadyyourwalloftextyouareminlesslyfidgetingwithyourphoneinsteadofinteractingwiththosearoundyouwhichleadstoyouhavingnofriendsapartfromyourphoneandtellitallaboutyourlifebecuasethereisnootherrealityaroundyou.

  5. Wellyboot Silver badge

    oh. Harvey Mudd...

    First thought was the old Star Trek comedy villain! (Harry Mudd)

    A quick web-trawl seems to show that Mudd is a decent STEM college.

    and back to the comments in hand -

    What! Will! Happen! To! Reg! Yahoo! Headlines!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: oh. Harvey Mudd...

      Harvey Mudd is one of the Claremont colleges where I did 6 months (actually at Pitzer but I think the swimming pool I used was at Harvey Mudd). Memory is a bit cloudy, same for a lot of people at those colleges. There was a lot of sex.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Futile.

    Written language (especially kludge known as "English"!) is entirely too flexible for a mere computer to figure out. See such (t)witticisms as "Ode to a Spell Checker" for one way to completely balls-up an AI-bot that most readers wouldn't even realize was an issue. There are many more.

    1. AndyS

      Re: Futile.

      For the curious:

      Ode to the Spell Checker

      Eye halve a spelling chequer

      It came with my pea sea

      It plainly marques four my revue

      Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

      Eye strike a key and type a word

      And weight four it two say

      Weather eye am wrong oar write

      It shows me strait a weigh.

      As soon as a mist ache is maid

      It nose bee fore two long

      And eye can put the error rite

      Its rare lea ever wrong.

      Eye have run this poem threw it

      I am shore your pleased two no

      Its letter perfect awl the weigh

      My chequer tolled me sew.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Futile.

        Or, if you want the hole thing, with attribution:

        https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/containing/811857

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Futile.

        "Eye halve a spelling chequer [...]"

        Living in a small village near Stockholm was a good place to learn Swedish - which I did mostly by reading Asterix the Gaul. That gave me a fairly good grasp of everyday usage - but did little for my pronunciation.

        One day I went into the bakery shop and used my new skills to ask for my favourite cake - a long pastry crusted with nuts. "En av den där nötter kakor, tack". (one of those nut cakes please).

        I knew that "den" was locally pronounced as "dom" - but wasn't sure about "av" so tried my best guess.

        She picked the cake up - good - and then started to cut it in half!

        My mistake was to pronounce "av" sounding like "halv" (=half) - rather than the same sound as the English "of". Presumably there was a prior context for customers only wanting a half of that cake.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Futile.

          "Living in a small village near Stockholm was a good place to learn Swedish - which I did mostly by reading Asterix the Gaul. That gave me a fairly good grasp of everyday usage - but did little for my pronunciation."

          I have Esperanto translations of Asterix (er Asteriks I mean) books for that same reason. Though apparently my pronunciation is perfect. That's why they moved me to the advanced Esperanto class, so they could all listen to my pronunciation in awe, despite the fact I had no idea what it was I was saying. Which is why I left those classes, it wasn't teaching me anything. I later found out I pronounce Esperanto with the same thick Aussie accent I pronounce English with, just all the other Aussie Esperanto students and teachers didn't notice.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Futile.

            " I later found out I pronounce Esperanto with the same thick Aussie accent I pronounce English with, [...]"

            My Swedish colleagues in the Stockholm office said my accent was good - like a native of Gothenburg. They then explained that the Gothenburg Swedish accent is equivalent to the Scouse accent in English.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Futile.

      Written language (especially kludge known as "English"!) is entirely too flexible for a mere computer to figure out

      So are you claiming human beings rely on something formally more powerful than a Turing machine to interpret language? What might that be?

      Of course this is a long-standing debate. Searle, though he argued forcefully against one particular approach ("symbolic manipulation") to strong AI with his Chinese Room thought experiment, believed that the human mind was a mechanical effect, and therefore that someday, assuming continued progress, we would eventually have machines that were human-mind-equivalent. Penrose believes otherwise, and thinks human minds are formally more powerful. There are many others on both sides.

  7. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    not a religious lot then...

    Surely they should have weighed in on tabs vs spaces... much more relivant to the audience.

    (Tabs forever)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: not a religious lot then...

      Upvoted until I saw the final line and switched to downvote!

    2. Martin
      Headmaster

      Re: not a religious lot then...

      Downvoted for tabs AND relivant...!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A panda in the zoo eats shoots and leaves.

    The gangster in a restaurant eats, shoots, and leaves.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Mushroom

      The gangster in a restaurant eats, shoots, and leaves.

      Oxford commas are a religious war by themselves.

      1. Mycho Silver badge
        Trollface

        I propose we start calling the pluralising apostrophe an inverted oxford comma.

      2. Symon Silver badge
        Coat

        Oxford comma. Who knew what old Mr. Mandela's hobby was?

        "By train, plane and sedan chair, Peter Ustinov retraces a journey made by Mark Twain a century ago. The highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector." -- The Times

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Oxford commas are a religious war by themselves."

        Was " shoots, and leaves" an Oxford comma? It was merely a pause - not a comma separated list of items.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Was " shoots, and leaves" an Oxford comma? It was merely a pause - not a comma separated list of items.

          I'm afraid you're wrong; it was indeed a serial comma. The series in question is three verbs in a compound predicate. (They could also be described as three clauses, the latter two abbreviated. It comes down to the same thing.)

          Truss's eats-shoots-leaves example isn't actually much of an argument for or against the serial ("Oxford") comma, because the comma that's important for distinguishing the sense of the two constructions is the one between "eats" and "shoots". The second comma is largely irrelevant to interpretation.1

          The Ustinov-Mandela example someone else quoted above is a better one. In general, the serial comma really pulls its weight in cases like this, where it helps the reader distinguish between a series on the one hand, and an appositive or parenthetical phrase on the other.2

          The interesting thing, to me, about the serial-comma war is that it cuts across the lines of the other Great Comma War, between the "naturalists" and the "scientifics".3 The former want English punctuation to reflect style, pacing, and often the rhythm of speech. The latter want it to conform to some sort of grammatical principles: this construction calls for a comma, and that one does not.

          You might think that the scientifics would endorse the serial comma, say, because it can clarify an ambiguous phrase. But it seems plenty of them simply classify it as "unnecessary" and therefore undesirable. And similarly the naturalists are divided between those who abhor it as an ugly interruption, and those who feel its omission is lazy and jarring.

          And then there's the ongoing fight over comma typography, specifically whether commas should be moved within closing quotation marks, in the style still preferred by many US copy-editors, or left unmolested when they aren't part of the quotation. It's a holdover from the days of lead type, and now pointless, but habits die hard.

          1Which makes it no less contentious, of course, since proponents and opponents are perfectly happy to wage this war over questions of style, euphony, and consistency.

          2Alas, a great many writers have trouble with appositives in general, or rather with treating adjectival phrases as appositives. I particularly note this when people put unnecessary commas after job titles: "Department chair, Bob Smith, said...". Those commas are not preferred and serve no purpose - "department chair" is an adjectival noun phrase preceding the compound noun it modifies. Now, if the phrase were "The department chair, Bob Smith, said..." then "Bob Smith" is an appositive phrase, and it is customary to set those off with commas. It's an appositive because "the department chair" is a complete noun phrase on its own. Really, it' s not hard.

          3I'm ignoring the war between descriptivists and prescriptivists, because the latter are patently wrong and there's no point in discussing that further.

    2. Pseudonymous Howard

      Commas can save lives!

      Let's eat, Grandpa!

      or

      Let's eat Grandpa!

    3. MaltaMaggot

      well... if you've heard the one about the panda entering the brothel, bento box in hand, then you'll know that the panda eats, shoots, and leaves as well...

  9. Arctic fox
    Headmaster

    "..... that the word "but" is more likely to be followed by a comma....."

    It should then be trained to assassinate anyone who follows "but" with a comma. Icon? What else?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: "..... that the word "but" is more likely to be followed by a comma....."

      It should then be trained to assassinate anyone who follows "but" with a comma.

      I was tempted to agree, but, on reflection, it occurred to me that there are many cases where the clause introduced by "but" will begin with some type of phrase that is traditionally set off with commas, such as an adverbial.

      That said, there is a nasty tendency among some writers these days to move the comma that traditionally appeared before a coordinating conjunction (such as "but") to after it, and this should be greeted with scorn and derision.

  10. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Commas and clauses

    My experience of reading junior engineers' English was of seeing clause after clause separated by commas, with only the occasional full stop. No other type of punctuation mark.

    It was English written as it is spoken, but often with very limited vocabulary. No concept that writing is a more formal performance.

    One of them told me once that I was the first person who had ever gone through their writing to point out the mistakes. This from a person in their early twenties.

    1. Nifty

      Re: Commas and clauses

      "My experience of reading junior engineers' English"

      Do we have to call in the 'use of the noun 'engineer' in Anglo-Saxon culture police in?

      Or would that be the same engineer that fixes the taps in our washrooms?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grammar Nazi?

    Is that a racist old woman?

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