Controlled natural languages (CNL) have the benefits to combine the readability of natural languages, and the accuracy of formal languages. They have been used to help users express facts, rules or queries. While generally easy to read, CNLs remain difficult to write because of the constrained syntax. A common solution is a grammar-based auto-completion mechanism to suggest the next possible words in a sentence. However, this solution has two limitations: (a) partial sentences may have no semantics, which prevents giving intermediate results or feedback, and (b) the suggestion is often limited to adding words at the end of the sentence. We propose a more responsive and flexible CNL authoring by designing it as a sequence of sentence transformations. Responsiveness is obtained by having a complete, and hence interpretable, sentence at each time. Flexibility is obtained by allowing insertion and deletion on any part of the sentence. Technically, this is realized by working directly on the abstract syntax, rather than on the concrete syntax, and by using Huet's zippers to manage the focus on a query part, the equivalent of the text cursor of a word processor.
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