Tag Archives: writer

AI style guide that flags politically incorrect language and tone snatches $5M funding

Credit: Writer.

Some of the wording and language in the articles published on this site were originally penned differently by yours truly. Our editor will usually make suggestions or make corrections when I or some other ZME authors use archaic words or potentially offensive terms, besides the inevitable misspelled words or clumsy phrase. These tasks have now been augmented by a new service aptly called Writer, which recently received a $5 million funding during a seed round to scale up.

Because there’s an AI for everything now

You know those squiggly lines that underline misspelled words in word processors? Apps like Grammarly or Writer are like that — but on steroids. Such software employs sophisticated natural processing engines enabled by machine learning to process a sentence and make suggestions for improvements.

What makes Writer particularly appealing is that you can set brand guidelines so that the suggestions the software makes are in line with your company’s values. Writer also enables both people and companies to flag language that might not be inclusive — something that, in this day and age, can be very important, whether it’s for corporate communication, essay writer service, or informal emails.

This is less about being politically correct but more about being respectful by employing language that people from underrepresented communities prefer when referring to them.

Furthermore, inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. As the name suggests, it is all about bringing everyone into the group and excluding no one.

Some basic principles of inclusive language include:

  • Putting people first. It’s better if your communication centers around person-first constructions that put the person ahead of their characteristics, e.g., instead of “a blind man” or “a female engineer,” use “a man who is blind” or “a woman on our engineering team.” 
  • Avoiding idioms and jargon. Using specialized language, acronyms, and other ‘insider vocabulary’ can exclude people who are not familiar with such terms. Also, many idioms do not translate properly into other languages and may sow confusion.
  • Avoiding phrases that suggest victimhood when referring to people with disabilities. These include  “afflicted by,” “victim of,” “suffers from,” or “confined to a wheelchair”.

Here are some examples of inclusive versus less inclusive language that you might find helpful to integrate in your communication.

More inclusive: Folks, people, you all, y’all, teammates
Less inclusive: Guys (or women) when referring to people overall

More inclusive: Women
Less inclusive: Girls (when referring to adults)

More inclusive: Workforce, personnel, workers, team
Less inclusive: Manpower, man hours

More inclusive: Chairperson, chair, moderator, discussion leader
Less inclusive: Chairman, foreman

More inclusive: Spouses/partners
Less inclusive: Wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends

More inclusive: Parenting
Less inclusive: mothering, fathering

More inclusive: Typical
Less inclusive: Normal

If you find this daunting, Writer has up-to-date libraries of preferred phrases and wordings sourced from the disadvantaged or minority communities themselves. For instance, the software will automatically recommend capitalizing the “B” in Black, or changing elderly to seniors and homeless people to people experiencing homelessness.

Let’s face it, some phrases have become emotionally loaded in recent years, and it’s easy to slip up and use potentially offensive wording without realizing it.

Besides keeping a watchful eye on grammar and spelling and promoting inclusive language, Writer also flags your content if it’s too formal (or informal, depending on your settings), active voice, and “liveliness”, as well as other metrics that may be relevant to a company’s brand. Many of these suggestions would depend on your own style guide.

Having a keylogger running in the background might seem a bit worrisome, though. Speaking to Tech Crunch, Writer founder and CEO May Habib said that their software runs locally as a plug-in, integrating with either Word or Chrome.

The San Francisco startup was founded by Habib in early 2019, but has since rebranded and relaunched with a focus on diversity and inclusivity in August 2020 after receiving $5.2 million in seed financing.

“These places [Writer’s clients] really want to make sure they’re speaking to communities of color and communities of other minorities with the language that those communities themselves want to be used,” Habib told Bizjournals.

“So many companies now have made very broad claims that they want to be allies, but if their content doesn’t actually match those claims, then the brand really falls flat,” she added.

Writer costs $11/month per person for the basic version while the enterprise version, which offers additional features such as multiple style guides and plagiarism detection, is custom priced. For now, Writer is only available in English but its developers plan on using the $5 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures to expand and take on Spanish or Korean.

From paleontology to radioactivity: 5 Amazing Women Scientists

Some of the greatest discoveries and contributions to humanity’s knowledge and understanding have been made by women scientists. These were revolutionary female role models with passions and smarts who would prove that it did not have to be a man’s world. And they would prove much more than that.

Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter

Mary Anning – Paleontologist

Mary Anning (1799-1847) is best known as an early paleontologist, and a female paleontologist to boot, making her a very unique character in her century. The Anning family lived on the southern shores of England. Mary’s father, Richard, was known to collect fossils from time to time. He died in 1810, leaving behind only the skills of fossil hunting to his poor family.

About 1811, young Mary Anning at age twelve, came upon the fossilized remains of a prehistoric sea-dwelling creature later called an ichthyosaur. This was the very first time anyone had reported finding such a specimen; it was the first recorded ichthyosaur to have been unearthed! A bit later on in her career, Mary was also accredited with discovering the first specimen of what is now known as Plesiosaurus, another long since extinct sea animal. Paleontology owes this young lady a debt of gratitude.

Sonia Bleeker: Field Researcher and Author

Sonia Bleeker and Herbert Zim

Sonia Bleeker (1909-1971), born in Russia, performed graduate anthropology work at Columbia University, the college her future spouse Herbert S. Zim attended. In 1934, the year following her graduation from Hunter College, the couple were married. Starting in 1931, Sonia was an editor for Simon and Schuster for fifteen years. This woman was an amazing anthropologist (a person who studies cultures and societies). Her particular fascination was the study of native tribes living in the Americas as well as Africa. Her first book was published in 1950, entitled Indians of the Longhouse. Most of her books required research in the field which meant she spent a good deal of time on continents including South America, Europe, and Africa.

Sonia’s husband, Herbert Zim, was a writer and consultant on almost all of the nonfiction informative books in the Golden Guide series. In 1967, Sonia Bleeker was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Beloit College in Wisconsin. She passed away just four years later. Sonia and Herbert were a couple truly made for each other. Both were talented scientists and writers, and they traveled together frequently. It is unfortunate that this woman is probably the least renowned of all of the women mentioned in this article.

Maria Agnesi: Faith-Filled Woman of Many Sciences

Maria Agnesi

The earliest female scientist to be discussed here, Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799) was a bright (if not brilliant) child raised in a faithful Catholic family. By age five, the girl could speak clearly in both Italian and French, and she would go on to learn a handful of other languages. While still living at home, Maria served as an exemplar as well as a tutor for her younger siblings.

Apparently, at the age of nine, the girl gave a speech in Latin to some of her father’s visiting friends. It turned out to be a thesis arguing that women have the right to be educated, and she was right. In her day many women were able to be publicly involved in the fields of art, literature, and some of the sciences. Pietro, Maria’s father, had a collection of her essays published under the title Propositiones Philosophicae. The sciences that she touched upon in her papers included elasticity, gravitation, chemistry, botany, and zoology. Pope Benedict XIV made her a professor of mathematics, natural philosophy, and physics at Bologna University. Laura Maria Caterina Bassi was the first woman professor of a university, and Maria Agnesi had the honor of being the second.

Marie Curie: Scientist Who Studied Uranium and Paid for It

Marie Curie – Physicist

Born in Poland, Marie Skłodowska Curie (1867-1934) was a physicist along with her husband Pierre Curie. The pair of scientists worked closely together on numerous tests of various elements. They are responsible for discovering that a dark black and brown rock, the uranium ore pitchblende, gave off significantly more radioactivity than uranium in its pure form.

The Curies deduced pitchblende had to be made up of other substances as well, substances which were more radioactive than plain uranium. Following four years of work, in 1902 they had successfully isolated two entirely new elements: radium and polonium. The Curies did not know about many of the harmful effects of radioactivity. Pierre died in 1906. When Marie passed away almost three whole decades later, the cause of death was leukemia which had resulted from radiation exposure. Both Marie and her husband are remembered for their huge contributions to science, but they eventually paid the price of their fame.

Jane Goodall: Woman Among Apes

Dr. Jane Goodall

Perhaps the most famous primatologist (person who studies primates) and the most famous female scientist given in this list, Dr. Jane Goodall is last but not least of all of the scientists mentioned here. It is almost ironic that primatologist Goodall was born in 1934, the very same year that physicist Marie Curie died. Goodall is a living legend. For decades she has lived among apes, observing their behavior from a close perspective. Evidently, Goodall was inspired during her childhood by stories such as those of Tarzan and Doctor Dolittle. It is also interesting to note that the original 1949 film version of Mighty Joe Young (a tale about an ape which grows to extraordinary size and whose keeper is a kind-hearted young woman) was released when she was a teenager.

This also may have had some sort of influence. Interestingly enough, she never attended college for the scientific field in which she is now the expert. From her humble beginnings, she eventually achieved her dream of traveling to Africa and being able to study animals (especially chimps) in their natural environment. She found that primates were intelligent animals living in complex social clusters. Her findings finally saw the light of day in a film documentary produced by National Geographic in the 1960’s.

She does not like apes being depicted in fiction and pop culture. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute, and she serves as a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations. These five stunning examples of bold women scientists go to show that sex has nothing to do with the beauty of a mind. It also is certainly not a factor of what a person is capable of.