Plustxt: Low-Cost App For Users to Communicate in Regional Languages

Plustxt: Low-Cost App For Users to Communicate in Regional Languages


Bangalore-based startup Plustxt has designed a messaging application that not only offers an alternative to standard text messaging, but also allows users to do so in regional language.

Pratyush Prasanna, co-founder of Plustxt Mobile Solutions, is of the view that conventional messaging will soon be redundant. “For the amount of data used for sending an sms, the charges are exorbitant,” says the 32-year-old IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Calcutta graduate who earlier worked with Microsoft, startup venture Gupshup and Xerox. “With increased penetration of smart phones and data there are other ways to communicate.”

In January, the company launched two apps on the Android platform: Plustxt, an English-language messaging app similar to the globally popular Whatsapp, and Plustxt India, which allows users to communicate in eight regional languages. Within months, the apps have recorded 60,000 downloads encouraging Prasanna and his team to work on versions for other platforms like Apple’s iOS and Nokia’s Symbian.

The regional language app, which the company is focusing on, allows users to combine English with a vernacular language. The user can type out with the regular mobile keyboard and the app transliterates the word to the chosen local language and English. The app is integrated with SMS so an app to app message will be sent over data, but a sms will be sent if the recipient has not downloaded the app. Read more in this report by Radhika P Nair.

Understanding THE Article

Understanding THE Article


Many of us get troubled when we have to use English as a means of communication ¾ in conversation and in writing. Quite often the confusion (more in writing than in speech) is how and when to use or not use the article ‘the’.

A travel website, for example, has displayed a highlighted note for its readers: Log your road travel experiences here. Be sure to include the interesting pictures as well. This is an example of how articles are wrongly used, even on websites that are otherwise well designed and look sleek.

Similarly, “Which is right answer?” “She is the French lady” “The guard failed to catch thief” ¾ these are a few examples of wrong placement/omission of the article ‘the’ which are often used – intentionally or unintentionally.

Arijit, a friend of mine who works as a technical editor in a multinational IT company, feels the problem occurs either because “people don’t know the difference between articles a, an, and the” or because “they are non-native speakers of English”.

Recounting his experience, he says: “People usually use the article ‘the’ with proper nouns, such as names of applications. For example, ‘use the Enterprise Manager’ (it should be ‘use Enterprise Manager’). Or they use it without introducing the thing they refer to. ‘The following scan methods can be used for IOTs that contain the large objects.’ In this sentence, we don’t need ‘the’ as it is a generic reference to large objects and not specific to any large objects that we already mentioned. Disgustingly, ‘He is playing the tennis’ is normal Indian usage.”

His views are shared by Deb, a friend who is a sub-editor for a national magazine. She says, “Many times I come across sentences such as ‘Apart from academic refinement initiatives, school has been organizing several cultural and sports activities.’ The omissions take place even when it is necessary to retain the article. And I think that’s because people haven’t been taught properly at the primary level and therefore they don’t know the correct use of articles.”

Do you also find the use of ‘the’ bewildering? Here are some tips to learn when to use the article.

RULES MADE SIMPLE

The easiest way to use ‘the’ is to remember to use it

  • When you know that the listener/reader knows or can guess what particular person/thing you are talking about. For example, The burger you ate was mine or Did you watch the match?
  • When you have already introduced the person/thing you are talking about. For example, Maya teaches two batches. One in the morning and the other in the evening.
  • When you are referring to specific rivers, oceans and seas and when the word river is omitted. For example: River Nile, the Brahmaputra, River Tapti, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific.
  • Before particular nouns which we know are only one of a kind. For example: the rain, the sun, the Earth, the Taj Mahal, the world, etc.
  • Before class nouns which show one thing as a representative of the class to which it belongs. For example, the fields, the sparrow, the last days of the spring.
  • When you are mentioning a particular person or thing which is the best or most famous. For example, Karim’s is the place to go for fresh kababs. I saw the Taj Mahal when I went to Agra this summer.
  • In place of possessive personal pronouns such as his, her, etc. For example, The eyes twinkled as the baby smiled.
  • When you want to emphasize a word almost equal to its descriptive adjective. For example, Here is the tower that shall remind coming generations of our sacrifice.

DO NOT USE ‘THE’

  • When you talk about things in general. For example, “The trees fell in the storm” mean only those trees fell to which you are referring to, whereas “trees fell in the storm” will mean many trees fell in the storm.
  • When you refer to a sport. For example, My daughter knows swimming not the swimming; Skating is expensive not the skating; cricket is his favourite sport not the cricket.
  • When you use uncountable nouns. For example, I will have coffee not the coffee; She needs information on global warming not the information.
  • Before names of countries and companies except where they indicate multiple areas or union, such as state(s), kingdom, republic, or union. For example, Infosys, Wipro, the India Today Group, Italy, Mexico, India, the UK, the US, and the Netherlands.

Hope these points help. If you have more examples to state or suggestions to use ‘the’ correctly, please share them by writing comments.

FOR MORE READING

Learn English

Lousy Writer

OWL

Sprucing up Language

Sprucing up Language


It is strange how fast things change. Technology is ever evolving and so is language ¾ the change has become constant. In my school days we used to be taught that English language evolved over many years but now there were certain standard forms of words, letter writing, and phrases used in “formal” conversations and writings and denoted the usage of “good quality” language.

Now that school of thought is history. Everything has changed from what I learnt in school and the way I edit/write today. The language style, spellings, punctuation uses, and many such things have changed from the way I understood them in my childhood and used to be grilled in by the teachers. And I am not in my 30s yet!

As an editor, therefore, it has become imperative for me to keep updated with the changes in English language. I have been reading a lot past few weeks about editing lessons and what some of the forums have to say on editing guidelines. I found some good links which I thought it best to share here.

In one of my regular visits to Poynter.org, website for journalists and editors, I happen to click on News University. And that opened a plethora of lessons on editing, writing and what not. A must see.

I registered and took a course on “Cleaning Your Copy”. The course teaches everything an editor needs to be skilled with: Grammar, Style, Punctuation, and Spellings. Each section is a pack of lessons. It also teaches you things like proper sentence construction, active/passive voice, modifiers, pronouns, etc. Moreover, the website offers tips on reporting, writing, management, and everything you can imagine related with journalism and media.

Obviously books are a big help when it comes to editing. Style manuals such as Chicago Manual of Style are followed by most (non-technical) publishing houses in India. But to test yourself or for a fast access to grammar lessons you can visit Protrainco.com. I found this website’s grammar archives very useful. You can get some very good language tips here.

Wanted to provide a Youtube.com video on books editing, but there’s nobody there giving tips on that one.

Here’s one from me: It is always good to keep grooming your language skills and the best way is to keep practicing (conversing) with people who speak the language better and more fluently than you do. And sign up with some good language forums. Hope this helps. I may suggest some such forums next time.

While I go back to reading some more grammar newsletters, enjoy life!

 

Useful Links

Mayfield Handboolk

Good Grammar, Good Style Archive at Protrainco.com

Apostrophe: The (’) Punctuation

Apostrophe: The (’) Punctuation


Putting an apostrophe, the standalone single quote punctuation (’), in the right place is a difficult and puzzling task when we write in English.

To many of us it is, I would say, as confusing as the comma.

But there are ways to master the art of placing the apostrophe correctly. Understanding and learning some basic rules of the confusing punctuation can help us reduce our errors faster. (Please note that the following information is based on my understanding and some extra reading, therefore, it is not a complete study on correct use of apostrophe.)

BASIC FUNCTION

Mainly, the apostrophe has two uses in English: to indicate possession/ownership and to show omission of words or numbers (also called contraction).

Apostrophe Showing Possession

Vivek’s bike
Maya’s father
Chandra’s pen
Its (see the explanation for it’s)
The examples show that the punctuation is placed with the possessor and not the object.

Apostrophe Showing Contraction

1990s     = ’90s
Can’t     = Cannot
Hadn’t   = Had not
Hasn’t   = Has not
I’m        = I am
It’ll        = It will (similarly, we’ll = we will)
It’s        = It is (Note: It’s is a short form for ‘it is’ whereas Its indicates possession. For example, It’s great that she finally got a job. The machine works on its own at the push of a button. Therefore, in case of it’s and its, we must identify the function of the apostrophe to place it accordingly)
I’ve       = I have
Let’s     = Let us
Mustn’t = Must not (similarly, shouldn’t = should not, couldn’t = could not)
She’s    = She is/has (similarly, he’s = he is/has)
Should’ve = Should have (similarly, could’ve = could have)
There’s = There is
We’re   = We are/were (similarly, they’re = they are/were)
Who’s   = Who is (Note: Who’s is a contraction of Who is whereas Whose is a possession. For example, Who’s in the other room? Whose desk is this?)
The examples show the contraction of words.

RULES OF POSSESSION-INDICATING APOSTROPHE

  1. A noun is a word that refers to a person, place or thing. A singular noun refers to one person, place or thing, for example: boy, desk, book, etc. To show possession to a singular noun, we mostly add apostrophe and s (’s) (as shown in examples above). Plural nouns (which refer to more than one person, place or thing) that do not end in (s) also follow the same rule. For example: The children’s park, the men’s room, the women’s club.
  2. Common nouns refer to general objects, a non-specific person, place or thing, for example: cars, winter, dog, chance, tables, etc. Both singular and plural common nouns that end in (s) can form the possessive by using only an apostrophe after the s. For example, tables’ legs, cars’ parking. The common nouns that do not end with s will use ’s, e.g., dog’s food, girl’s dress.
  3. Proper nouns (names of people, cities, countries, for example: Sagarika, India, Bangalore) can form the possessive either by using the ’s or simply adding the apostrophe () if the name ends in s. Now it is acceptable to use either form (James’s or James’). For example: Mr James’s car, The Bakers’ cookies.
  4. When you need to show two people owning/sharing the same thing, the apostrophe and s (’s) should be placed after the second person only. For example: Rohit and Veena’s trekking to the forest was exciting. Neha and Shalini’s friend has returned from the US.
  5. If two people do not share/own the same thing, the apostrophe and s (’s) should be used for both. For example: Neha’s mother and Shalini’s aunt are good friends.
  6. Indefinite pronouns are words which replace nouns without specifying which noun they replace, for example: both, few, most, none, some, everybody, nothing, etc. They form the possessive by using the apostrophe and s (’s). For example: everybody’s concern, a day’s work, a moment’s notice.
  7. Many name or terms are either possessive or descriptive. In such cases, we should use an apostrophe and s (’s) if the name is a singular/plural possessive noun or an *irregular plural noun. For example: Levi’s jeans, Westside Women’s Store, Blossoms’ kids wear. [*Most nouns are made plural by adding an s to the singular form. If the noun ends with an s, ch, sh, or x, an es is added to make the noun plural. Plural nouns that are not made plural in this way are irregular plural nouns. For example: men, women, city, etc.]

To further enhance your knowledge about the use of apostrophe, you can read more on the websites under My Pick.

My Pick

Apostrophe

Online Writing Lab

Time to Prune Our Vocabulary

Time to Prune Our Vocabulary


For a minute, just try and recollect when you heard proper, formal, nice English sentences in your conversation? I doubt it was recent. There is nothing like “proper” English these days. We hardly think about our usage of words or pick them consciously. Gone are the days when people used to pay attention to using strictly formal or proper English and grammar for writing letters and in official communication. Nowadays sms English is in and slang fill the mailbox.

 

Even when some of us do stick to speaking good English, we tend to get superfluous and use too many words in place of one. And that has a place in dictionary:

 

Tautology: a statement in which you say the same thing twice in different words, when this is unnecessary, for example ‘They spoke in turn, one after the other.’ 

Pleonasm: (technical) the use of more words than are necessary to express a meaning. For example, ‘see with your eyes’ is a pleonasm because the same meaning can be expressed using ‘see’.

 

We are so used to pleonasm that we don’t even realize using or listening to it. We often use extra vocabulary either to emphasize our point or to show good communication skills, whereas it reflects the opposite. 

Following are some common groups of words which can be replaced by a single word in our speech as well as writings.

 

A large proportion of

many

Absolutely essential 

essential

Added bonus

bonus

Advance warning 

warning

At this moment

now

Attach together

attach

By virtue of the fact that

because

Close proximity

close

Close scrutiny

scrutiny

Collaborate together

collaborate

Combine together

combine

Consensus of opinion

consensus

Exact replica

replica

Exactly the same

the same

Free gift

gift

Future plans

plans

In conjunction with

and

In order to

to

In the absence of

without

In the event that

if

In the field of biology

in biology

Minute detail

detail

Most unique

unique

New innovation

innovation

Oblong in shape

oblong

Patently obvious

obvious

Personal opinion

opinion

Placed under arrest

arrested

Prior experience

experience

Prior to

before

Razed to the ground

razed

Red in colour

red

Revert back

revert

Shorter in length

shorter

Subsequent to

after

Successful achievement

achievement

Sum total

sum

Surrounded on all sides

surrounded

Temporary reprieve

reprieve

Tiny speck 

speck

Unexpected surprise

surprise

Very urgent

urgent

Was of the opinion that

thought

With the exception of

except

 

If you wish, you can add your examples in comment.