IBM Watson's next trick: Helping you write better

Tone Analyzer can help tweak the attitude in that email before you hit 'send'

IBM's Watson Tone Analyzer.

IBM's Watson Tone Analyzer.

IBM's Watson has already proven its mettle in the kitchen and on game shows, but its latest skill set is one that could help us all: making sure our writing conveys what we want it to.

Now in experimental mode, Watson Tone Analyzer is a new service that can analyze text for the attitude and tone that underlie it. The tool could help anyone refine an email, marketing message, presentation or blog post before releasing it into the world, IBM said.

"To read a message and to judge the tone conveyed in the message comes naturally to humans," explained Rama Akkiraju, a distinguished engineer and master inventor for IBM Watson User Technologies, in a blog post announcing the project. "But, at times, the tone may be overlooked, undesired or not conveyed well by the author."

Tone Analyzer aims to help correct that problem by assessing writing on three primary dimensions. The first is emotional tone, where it focuses on cheerfulness, negative emotions and anger. Social tone is the second metric it captures by assessing openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Finally, writing tone is the third dimension it evaluates in order to provide feedback on how analytical, confident and tentative the writing is.

When it analyzes a passage of text, Tone Analyzer's results include an explanation of which words contributed to which tone; it also offers alternate word suggestions to refine the text and its tone accordingly.

Watson was originally developed by IBM Research to compete with human contestants on the Jeopardy game show using natural language processing and analytics. Since then, the company has been working to commercialize the cognitive computing technology.

Tone Analyzer is the latest addition to IBM's Watson Developer Cloud APIs and SDKs and is now free for English text input on Bluemix; a demo is available there as well.

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Katherine Noyes

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