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Say it like you mean it

In a series of mishaps starting from demonetisation to COVID-19, the world was forced to do a makeover to digital. A lot of conversations, both informal and professional, are now increasingly typed out on some digital device. There are very few of us who are masters of the spoken and written word or conversational wizards all the time. If you have been misunderstood anytime over something that you typed out and sent, you can relate to this. More communications are expected to go digital. There is no looking back for digital, why should we?

What if there was a feature to add tone and context to what we want to say? We have filters and tones for different images. Instagram thrives on the façade. Language, on the contrary, has only been able to go till an autocorrect or autosuggestion, and perhaps the necessary translation. This would have been equivalent to correcting your acne and changing the background. There is a lot of untapped potential in language too. While Friends, the TV show, was intelligent to hint this when a certain recommendation was signed by a baby Kangaroo, with our current level of artificial intelligence, we might be able to do much more.

Think about it.

If you’re one of those people who spend five minutes writing an email and 15 minutes in analysing the language, tone, gist, grammar and other possible traits known only to you, this could come very handy. You might get occasional cautions on the lines of “Your email has the potential to confuse the recipients. Are you sure you want to send?” or “This email appears to be missing the point. Sure you want to send?” (most emails miss the point than an attachment, so sign me up!)

Furthermore, there could also be tones to choose ranging from “quiet desperation” or “purposeful point” to “sugarcoated unpleasantness”. These could even be customised by divisions in the company. “Emphasised pressure” could work with sales, “calculated diplomacy” would be useful to consulting, “synthesised empathy” could make HR’s job easy and “paramount urgency” may work across all divisions.

Just how tools like Grammarly make you sound smart by boosting your vocabulary, a tool like this could appear to make you emotionally intelligent and sensible.

Common sense made common!

This has a lot of potential beyond emails too. For a thesis submission, you might go for “data-based jargon”. While writing a CV, you might just consider applying “reasonable exaggeration” tone to your CV. When you’re ready to post a picture on social media and can’t find appropriate quotes, the recommendation system might have a “smart but cool” or “deep and intense” tones just for you. Young people in the dating pool might want to impress with relevant pick-up lines over texts. And over time, the algorithm learns your preferences too. If you wanted to profess your love and couldn’t find the words to do it, this might just come in handy as well, with the customisations and tone you wish.

There could be informal or fun categories in the tones, even themes from fiction and popular culture. If a firm considered this feature till this point, the marketing team at this point might swoop in and realise the potential for a paid Enterprise version and a freemium Personal version.

For bibliophiles and logophiles, the possibilities are exciting. Imagine the fun when you have tones from favourite themes, authors or universes, both fictional and non-fictional. You can add a next level twist by lending your favourite author’s voice to an utterly commonplace conversation. Using a Shakespearean tone which says “Bringeth home bread, mine beseech to thee!” might have the recipient scratching their head to what actually meant “Please bring home pizza”. Using a Harry Potter theme on “Please find attached the sales forecast for the next quarter” could get changed to “Please bear witness to the prophecy of the event of our prosperity.”

You may be sceptical that such a tool might bring a lot of side-effects. This is simply true with any technology. There is lot of fun and lot of use for language processing in various forms of communication. In image processing, the technology has progressed from simple image editing, Photoshop, filters, Gifs and image recognition to deepfakes. It’s time to pay attention to language and make communications less stressful, less misunderstood and possibly fun.

divyasaroja.nitw@gmail.com


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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 12:02:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/say-it-like-you-mean-it/article34858414.ece

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