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Where is the robotized language police?

Mainly in English. But now she has to dip her sharp pen in Swedish ink too. That doesn’t happen perfectly, of course, but as she said to me: ‘Dad, don’t worry, we have a language police here in the office, a woman who sees all the texts before they are delivered to their destination, in print or digital. Whether it’s a line or an A4 sheet. Not only to remove the spelling and language errors, but also to ensure that the correct words and terms are used. Each sentence is weighed on a gold platter.’ Wow, I thought, lucky ass, otherwise she would have quickly fallen for her new job.

We also used to know this function in our country on editorial boards. Such a person was called an auditor. All the copy passed his or her desk. Sometimes to the irritation of the journalist or editor involved. But the reviewer’s work was sacred. Just like that of the editor-in-chief who used to turn texts into something even better than the author intended. Both positions were scrapped in the 1990s. Too expensive. Journalists and editors had to do their best to deliver copy as error-free as possible. Unfortunately. It would save me a lot of irritation and columns. But I think the phenomenon of language police should be reintroduced, given the level of stories that appear on my screen every day. Especially now that storytelling is becoming increasingly important. Last week I read in AD that many companies and governments quickly switch to a better online presentation and do this with freelancers, for video and text as well as in (interactive) design. Due to the lockdown, organizations are forced to expand their online services for customers. For example, there was more demand for freelancers to write texts and produce podcasts, for example. Content producer is one of the most promising professions of the moment. You would not think if you read at the same time that the reading and writing skills of our youth are in bad shape.

In some situations, content producers do have to compete with the editorial robots that have appeared on various newsrooms over the past few years. NRC already wrote extensively about the editorial robots in 2019. ‘Making’ news is increasingly done with algorithms, including picking it up. The software of the Amsterdam fintech company Owlin ‘reads’ more than three million news sources in eleven languages ​​every day and brings them almost immediately filtered and translated to the screens of analysts and risk managers at, among others, ING, credit rating agency Fitch, pension fund PGGM and payment company Adyen. Not only business newspaper sites are scanned, but also local media and specialist blogs, plus corporate, regulatory and law enforcement websites. Natural language processing is used for this, software that interprets language.’

Villamedia wrote about robots six months ago: Brandpunt+ recently put a robot editor to work for the first time and had him search his archive for reports on poverty. While searching for keywords in descriptions yielded fourteen hits, +Eddie found 57 reports. Until September 17, Brandpunt published some of these gems on YouTube every week.

Instagram is getting a feature that should prevent users from viewing potentially offensive messages. This is done by filtering offensive words, phrases and emojis, Instagram wrote in a blog post last Wednesday. (Source: nu.nl).

Google is also increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to better serve us. Understanding human language is an important part of Google’s deployment of AI and ML. (Source: new black).

And then of course we have the phenomenon NLP which stands for natural language processing. NLP helps in text analysis, it is extraction of keywords and finding structures or patterns in unstructured text data. NLP is widely used in the digital world and this list is growing as more and more companies and industries use it and see its value. While human contact is important for more complex communication problems, NLP makes our lives easier by managing and automating smaller and, as technology advances, increasingly complex tasks. (Source: tableau.com).

It would be interesting if large media companies invest in a robot/app language police that assesses a text in a second for style and good Dutch. Small effort I would say. Feed the algorithm of the robot/app with beautiful well-written stories, and it filters out the mediocre parts, if necessary gives suggestions for improvement, as the reviewer used to do. I have pleasant memories of text revision. Bring on those robotic language police. I can not wait.

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