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🅰️ Setence Blocks

Michael Dean
Michael Dean
2 min read

After completing a few Writing Studios this summer, I've had several students suggest the same thing to me. It was unexpected. Basically, I was breaking down the writing process in such a granular way, they told me that I should develop an AI-powered text editor that has my theories embedded in it. The idea of replacing the Writing Studio with an AI-power Michael Dean cracks me up. It is kind of amazing where AI text-generation at these days, and it's got me thinking what's possible on the editing frontier.

All this being said, I think AI is only half of the solution. What I think is lacking is our user-interface for writing. Google Docs is the standard and it works. But, we might all be under-estimating how the tools we use shape the works were create. I don't always compose in Miro, but when I do, it definitely affects the way ideas take form. I'm not advocating for a spatial or visual text-editor (though that could be neat). But I do think a re-imagined text-editor, informed by the creative process, could remove a lot of unnecessary friction.

Object Based

All text editors are letter-based. Imagine if words, sentences, chunks, paragraphs and sections have Object IDs.

Abstract Toggling

Any object can have an associated abstract. In documents, we often only write an abstract for our section (in the form of a title). But having abstracts per paragraph, or even per sentence, can really help understand the structure of our essay. You would have the ability to toggle abstracts (and even text) on/off as you're working. Imagine if you had an abstract per paragraph: You could toggle off all the text to view your "reverse outline."

Drag and Drop Arrangement

Since everything is an object, you could have the ability to drag and drop to re-arrange. It's a pain to highlight sentences within a paragraph and then neatly paste them somewhere else. Imagine filtering your 2,000 word essay down to a 20 line reverse outline. You can easily drag and drop your paragraph objects, and all the associated text moves with it.


Every object has memory. When you re-write sentences or paragraphs, you can also look back on past versions. In addition to a full-document version history (like in Google Docs), each object could have it's own memory.

Formatting Modes

A great way to understand rhythm is to view each sentence per line. You can "read the right edge" as you write, to get a real-time sense of your rhythm. Unfortunately, it's a lot of manual work to combine or separate each sentence. Since every sentence is an object, we can use formatting modes, to display our objects in different way. With a single click, we can toggle between "published mode," vs. "analysis mode" (line by line).

Highlight Layers

It's really helpful to use color to visualize what's happening in your essay. One approach is to use a color-coded CRIBS, where five colors represent the acronym (confusing, repetitive, interesting boring, surprising). I've used other models too, using colors to represent capitalized phrases, coined-terms mis-directions, rhymes, alliterations, etc. One of the problems with Google Docs is that when you highlight, it's permanently lodged there until you undo it. It would really useful to have a series of highlight layers (like in Photoshop) that you could toggle on and off. You could imagine a fusion of manual layers and automated layers (like how Hemingway highlights long sentences). What's annoying in Hemingway is that you can't turn these filters off.



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