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Monday, October 11 2010

Being a fairly lazy person, I've always been a fan of Word's automatic spell-check. If I don't feel like looking up how to spell a word, I know that I can type in a close approximation and Word will draw a squiggly red line under the misspelling. When I ask, the software will offer alternates to choose from.

But while this is especially useful for a business paper or other formal document, the spell-check can be a distraction in the world of fiction, something I'm reminded of as I make the final changes to my manuscript. Take names. Word hates mine. Almost every name I've chosen for the book is underlined as a giant flaming mistake. This fix is easy, just click Ignore All, but it still takes time. As do Word's perceived grammar mistakes. Fragmented sentences run rampant throughout my book. It's part of the casual style. But, of course, Word doesn't know that. The software program must think I don't know how to write. So it helpfully puts a green line under every instance. Which makes me stop at each occurrence and question my phrasing. Was this fragment a stylistic choice or a mistake? Will it distract the reader? Should I rephrase it?

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was a stickler for grammar. I took great pride in knowing what a dangling participle is. But those days of widespread grammar knowledge are long gone. Now I'm lucky I know what a gerund is. And even that definition is becoming a bit hazy. Pretty soon, I won't remember how to form a simple sentence. And Word will still be there, making me second-guess my structure.

Which, in the end is a good thing. I might just learn something and save myself time in future writing. Or, give up altogether and blindly click "Change All" without verifying if Word knows what it's talking about. Who knows, those changes might make for an interesting book.

Posted by: Staci McLaughlin AT 04:30 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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