A few years ago I noticed a linguistic habit of Twitter user Donald Trump, and decided to emulate it by writing an app that automatically adds insults before nouns — NastyWriter. But he’s not on Twitter any more, and Valentine’s Day is coming up, so it’s time to make things nicer instead.
My new iOS app, NiceWriter, automatically adds positive adjectives, highlighted in pink, before the nouns in any text entered. Most features are the same as in NastyWriter:
- You can use the contextual menu or the toolbar to change or remove any adjectives that don’t fit the context.
- You can share the sweetened text as an image similar to the one in this post.
- You can set up the ‘Give Me a Compliment’ Siri Shortcut to ask for a random compliment at any time, or create a shortcut to add compliments to text you’ve entered previously. You can even use the Niceify shortcut in the Shortcuts app to add compliments to text that comes from another Siri action.
- If you copy and paste text between NiceWriter and NastyWriter, the app you paste into will replace the automatically-generated adjectives with its own, and remember which nouns you removed the adjectives from.
The app is free to download, and will show ads unless you buy an in-app purchase to remove them. I’ve made NiceWriter available to run on M1 Macs as well, though I don’t have one to test it on, so I can’t guarantee it will work well.
In the process of creating NiceWriter, I made a few improvements to NastyWriter — notably adding input and output parameters to its Siri Shortcut so you can set up a workflow to nastify the results of other Siri Shortcuts, and then pass them on to other actions. I also added four new insults, and fixed a few bugs. All of these changes are in NastyWriter 2.1.
That’s all you really need to know, but for more details on how I chose the adjectives for NiceWriter and what I plan to do next, read on.
As I explained in my last post, for NastyWriter, I took insults almost exclusively from the Trump Twitter Archive, using a Mac app I wrote to find adjectives used before nouns. For NiceWriter, I started with adjectives used before nouns in romance novels and poetry books on Project Gutenberg, and continued with adjectives I thought of myself or found in thesauruses. Since I didn’t limit myself to a single source, NiceWriter 1.0 already has 332 positive adjectives, compared with NastyWriter 2.1’s 188 insults. If you know any others that you don’t think are in NiceWriter, let me know and I’ll add them. I think I have most of the more common words, but slang or more obscure words would be interesting, and there may be positive qualities I’ve not thought of at all.
I had a few rules, which I surely applied inconsistently, to decide which adjectives to include:
- I included many adjectives which mainly apply to people rather than objects, as I still find it amusing to have a cactus described as philanthropic, for instance.
- I left out some adjectives that could have negative connotations in some contexts (for instance, it’s usually a good thing for a person to be humble, but describing an object as humble can diminish it) though I was not too zealous with this rule, because words have so many meanings that there are usually going to be a few nouns they give a negative spin to. Soft potatoes, warm beer, sensational journalism, etc.
- I left out some adjectives which are only considered good by people aligned with certain groups, for instance ‘pious’ might be a compliment within a church group, but seen more negatively by someone outside the church.
- I left out adjectives primarily associated with physical appearance, such as ‘pretty’, ‘cute’, and ‘beautiful’, because I don’t want to give the impression that a pleasing physical appearance is an important quality to have. Even though ‘beautiful’ is used to describe nonphysical qualities, phrases such as ‘inner beauty’ reinforce the idea that physical beauty is what we should aspire to, and other qualities are only worthwhile in analogy to it. We have ‘inner beauty’ but not e.g. ‘outer kindness’, because beauty is overvalued, and I did not want NiceWriter to contribute to that, however subtly.
My next step will be an overhaul of both apps to use newer technology, both as a learning project and a way to perhaps solve a few issues with the user interface and replace them with new issues. More specifically, I’ll use SwiftUI, perhaps Combine, the new Natural Language API (as opposed to NSLinguisticTagger) and the new scene-based app life cycle. I might also add a widget, so the apps can be on your home screen wishing you an [adjective] day. Note that all of these changes will probably make the apps require iOS 13, whereas they currently run on iOS 11, so if you’re still using an iPhone 6 or older, you’ll have to stick with the current versions of NastyWriter and NiceWriter.
I’d like to make some of the capabilities of the apps (such as sharing as an image, and removing adjectives) more obvious, though I’m not sure how. Perhaps I’ll add a small ‘remove’ button on the corner of each adjective.
After that, if I have time, I’ll trawl arxiv.org and some Star Trek scripts for adjectives, and make ScienceWriter, for all your technobabble needs. As an experiment, I will probably make that one a paid app, with no ads. At some point I might make an overarching app to which you can add different themed sets of adjectives with in-app purchases, but I might not have time to for a while.
Of course, the main reason I have time to work on these at the moment is that I don’t currently have a full-time job — have a look at my LinkedIn profile and contact me if you have some potential work for me! I have, however, recently started some part-time work as a tech editor on iOS development tutorials on raywenderlich.com, so that’s pretty exciting.