Nonsense Placement Mandatory
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8.2.0 • Public • Published


📝 alex — Catch insensitive, inconsiderate writing.

Build Coverage First timers friendly

Whether your own or someone else’s writing, alex helps you find gender favoring, polarizing, race related, religion inconsiderate, or other unequal phrasing in text.

For example, when We’ve confirmed his identity is given, alex will warn you and suggest using their instead of his.

Give alex a spin on the Online demo ».


  • Helps to get better at considerate writing
  • Catches many possible offences
  • Suggests helpful alternatives
  • Reads plain text, HTML, and markdown as input
  • Stylish


Using npm (with Node.js):

$ npm install alex --global

Using yarn:

$ yarn global add alex

Or you can follow this step-by-step tutorial: Setting up alex in your project



alex checks things such as:

  • Gendered work-titles (if you write garbageman alex suggests garbage collector; if you write landlord alex suggests proprietor)
  • Gendered proverbs (if you write like a man alex suggests bravely; if you write ladylike alex suggests courteous)
  • Ableist language (if you write learning disabled alex suggests person with learning disabilities)
  • Condescending language (if you write obviously or everyone knows alex warns about it)
  • Intolerant phrasing (if you write master and slave alex suggests primary and replica)
  • Profanities (if you write butt 🍑 alex warns about it)

…and much more!

Note: alex assumes good intent: that you don’t mean to offend!

See retext-equality and retext-profanities for all rules.

alex ignores words meant literally, so “he”, He — ..., and the like are not warned about.


Ignoring files

The CLI searches for files with a markdown or text extension when given directories (so $ alex . will find and path/to/file.txt). To prevent files from being found, create an .alexignore file.


The CLI will sometimes search for files. To prevent files from being found, add a file named .alexignore in one of the directories above the current working directory (the place you run alex from). The format of these files is similar to .eslintignore (which in turn is similar to .gitignore files).

For example, when working in ~/path/to/place, the ignore file can be in to, place, or ~.

The ignore file for this project itself looks like this:

# `node_modules` is ignored by default.


Sometimes alex makes mistakes:

A message for this sentence will pop up.

  1:15-1:18  warning  `pop` may be insensitive, use `parent` instead  dad-mom  retext-equality
⚠ 1 warning

HTML comments in Markdown can be used to ignore them:

<!--alex ignore dad-mom-->
A message for this sentence will **not** pop up.

Yields: no issues found

ignore turns off messages for the thing after the comment (in this case, the paragraph). It’s also possible to turn off messages after a comment by using disable, and, turn those messages back on using enable:

<!--alex disable dad-mom-->
A message for this sentence will **not** pop up.
A message for this sentence will also **not** pop up.
Yet another sentence where a message will **not** pop up.
<!--alex enable dad-mom-->
A message for this sentence will pop up.

  9:15-9:18  warning  `pop` may be insensitive, use `parent` instead  dad-mom  retext-equality
⚠ 1 warning

Multiple messages can be controlled in one go:

<!--alex disable he-her his-hers dad-mom-->

…and all messages can be controlled by omitting all rule identifiers:

<!--alex ignore-->


You can control alex through .alexrc configuration files:

  "allow": ["boogeyman-boogeywoman"]

…you can use YAML if the file is named .alexrc.yml or .alexrc.yaml:

  - dad-mom

…you can also use JavaScript if the file is named .alexrc.js:

// But making it random like this is a bad idea!
exports.profanitySureness = Math.floor(Math.random() * 3)

…and finally it is possible to use an alex field in package.json:

  "alex": {
    "noBinary": true

The allow field should be an array of rules or undefined (the default is undefined). When provided, the rules specified are skipped and not reported.

The deny field should be an array of rules or undefined (the default is undefined). When provided, only the rules specified are reported.

You cannot use both allow and deny at the same time.

The noBinary field should be a boolean (the default is false). When turned on (true), pairs such as he and she and garbageman or garbagewoman are seen as errors. When turned off (false, the default), such pairs are okay.

The profanitySureness field is a number (the default is 0). We use cuss, which has a dictionary of words that have a rating between 0 and 2 of how likely it is that a word or phrase is a profanity (not how “bad” it is):

Rating Use as a profanity Use in clean text Example
2 likely unlikely asshat
1 maybe maybe addict
0 unlikely likely beaver

The profanitySureness field is the minimum rating (including) that you want to check for. If you set it to 1 (maybe) then it will warn for level 1 and 2 (likely) profanities, but not for level 0 (unlikely).


Let’s say looks as follows:

The boogeyman wrote all changes to the **master server**. Thus, the slaves
were read-only copies of master. But not to worry, he was a cripple.

Now, run alex on

$ alex

   1:5-1:14  warning  `boogeyman` may be insensitive, use `boogeymonster` instead                boogeyman-boogeywoman  retext-equality
  1:42-1:48  warning  `master` / `slaves` may be insensitive, use `primary` / `replica` instead  master-slave           retext-equality
  1:69-1:75  warning  Don’t use `slaves`, it’s profane                                           slaves                 retext-profanities
  2:52-2:54  warning  `he` may be insensitive, use `they`, `it` instead                          he-she                 retext-equality
  2:61-2:68  warning  `cripple` may be insensitive, use `person with a limp` instead             gimp                   retext-equality
⚠ 5 warnings

See $ alex --help for more information.

When no input files are given to alex, it searches for files in the current directory, doc, and docs. If --html is given, it searches for htm and html extensions. Otherwise, it searches for txt, text, md, mkd, mkdn, mkdown, ron, and markdown extensions.



$ npm install alex --save

alex is also available as an AMD, CommonJS, and globals module, uncompressed and compressed.

alex(value, config)

alex.markdown(value, config)

Check Markdown (ignoring syntax).

  • value (VFile or string) — Markdown document
  • config (Object, optional) — See the Configuration section

VFile. You are probably interested in its messages property, as shown in the example below, because it holds the possible violations.

alex('We’ve confirmed his identity.').messages


  [1:17-1:20: `his` may be insensitive, when referring to a person, use `their`, `theirs`, `them` instead] {
    message: '`his` may be insensitive, when referring to a ' +
      'person, use `their`, `theirs`, `them` instead',
    name: '1:17-1:20',
    reason: '`his` may be insensitive, when referring to a ' +
      'person, use `their`, `theirs`, `them` instead',
    line: 1,
    column: 17,
    location: { start: [Object], end: [Object] },
    source: 'retext-equality',
    ruleId: 'her-him',
    fatal: false,
    actual: 'his',
    expected: [ 'their', 'theirs', 'them' ]

alex.html(value, config)

Check HTML (ignoring syntax).

  • value (VFile or string) — HTML document
  • config (Object, optional) — See the Configuration section


alex.html('<p class="black">He walked to class.</p>').messages


  [1:18-1:20: `He` may be insensitive, use `They`, `It` instead] {
    message: '`He` may be insensitive, use `They`, `It` instead',
    name: '1:18-1:20',
    reason: '`He` may be insensitive, use `They`, `It` instead',
    line: 1,
    column: 18,
    location: { start: [Object], end: [Object] },
    source: 'retext-equality',
    ruleId: 'he-she',
    fatal: false,
    actual: 'He',
    expected: [ 'They', 'It' ]

alex.text(value, config)

Check plain text (as in, syntax is checked).

  • value (VFile or string) — Text document
  • config (Object, optional) — See the Configuration section


alex('The `boogeyman`.').messages // => []
alex.text('The `boogeyman`.').messages


  [1:6-1:15: `boogeyman` may be insensitive, use `boogeymonster` instead] {
    message: '`boogeyman` may be insensitive, use `boogeymonster` instead',
    name: '1:6-1:15',
    reason: '`boogeyman` may be insensitive, use `boogeymonster` instead',
    line: 1,
    column: 6,
    location: Position { start: [Object], end: [Object] },
    source: 'retext-equality',
    ruleId: 'boogeyman-boogeywoman',
    fatal: false,
    actual: 'boogeyman',
    expected: [ 'boogeymonster' ]


The recommended workflow is to add alex to package.json and to run it with your tests in Travis.

You can opt to ignore warnings through alexrc files and control comments.

A package.json file with npm scripts, and additionally using AVA for unit tests, could look like so:

  "scripts": {
    "test-api": "ava",
    "test-doc": "alex",
    "test": "npm run test-api && npm run test-doc"
  "devDependencies": {
    "alex": "^1.0.0",
    "ava": "^0.1.0"

If you’re using Travis for continuous integration, set up something like the following in your .travis.yml:

 - npm test
+- alex --diff

Make sure to still install alex though!

If the --diff flag is used, and Travis is detected, lines that are not changes in this push are ignored. Using this workflow, you can merge PRs if it has warnings, and then if someone edits an entirely different file, they won’t be bothered about existing warnings, only about the things they added!


This is stupid!

Not a question. And yeah, alex isn’t very smart. People are much better at this. But people make mistakes, and alex is there to help.

alex didn’t check “X”!

See on how to get “X” checked by alex.

Why is this named alex?

It’s a nice unisex name, it was free on npm, I like it! 😄


See in get-alex/.github for ways to get started. See for ways to get help.

This project has a Code of conduct. By interacting with this repository, organization, or community you agree to abide by its terms.

Origin story

Thanks to @iheanyi for raising the problem and @sindresorhus for inspiring me (@wooorm) to do something about it.

When alex launched, it got some traction on twitter and producthunt. Then there was a lot of press coverage.


Preliminary work for alex was done in 2015. The project was authored by @wooorm.

Lot’s of people helped since!


MIT © Titus Wormer


npm i alex

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