A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Daniel Dennett's Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. I'd recommend it, though it's not the focus of this post.

Early on in the book, two of the "tools" established by Dennett are certain words that he claims are strongly indicative of weak points in arguments. Specifically, these words are "surely" (which he claims is indicative of the author pleading a point he or she is in fact not entirely sure of), and "rather", (which he claims is often used to conceal a false dichotomy). I believe these claims to have some weight to them, though they're also not the focus of this post.

"What is the focus of this post?" I hear no-one cry. Well, having established these two words early on in the book, whenever they subsequently appear, Dennett suffixes them with "(ding!)". Sometimes the word appears in one of his own arguments and sometimes in those he is critiquing, but the purpose is to effectively draw your attention to their use. So effective, in fact, that when I was reading an unrelated piece of text last week, I hit the word "surely" and ding!ed.

I'm not sure whether this would be so effective for everyone, but I have the opportunity here to train myself to notice specific word usage. I've installed a regex browser extension (this one, for Chrome, is my weapon of choice, but I'm sure suitable alternatives exist for Firefox), and set it to append the (ding!) to a set of words I want to notice. For the time being I'm working with "surely", which I'm finding to have quite a bit of mileage.

You should consider how hard this post is for me to proof-read while this regex rule is in place. If I make a follow-up post in six months listing all the words I've added, that's going to be even more fun.

EDIT: Surely enough, a (ding!) crept into the draft of this post, and I spent about ten minutes wondering what was wrong with my incredibly simple regex that was causing two (ding!)s to appear