'Championship Writing' -- on Spell-checkers

'Championship Writing' -- on Spell-checkers
Source: pdclipart.org

When you use your computer's spell-checker or grammar-checker, Paula LaRocque advises in her book "Championship Writing," be careful.

"The grammar-checker's shortcomings recall the truism that to create artificial intelligence, it takes the real thing," writes LaRocque, assistant managing editor and writing coach at the Dallas Morning News (when she wrote this book at the turn of the millennium).

The chapter on spell-checkers is in this roundup of my ten favorites (of 50 chapters) because the errors can be funny ones.

(Wanting to laugh at grammar problems can help make them easier to find, as I know from long and silly experience. Sometimes I'm Serious about laughter.)

Here's LaRocque's first example:

"Original: 'Brevity and clarity are companions.'

"Grammar Checker: 'The word clarity does not agree with are. Consider is instead of are.' "

Of course, that's saying "Consider making it wrong!"

We don't consider such things here, so in the interest of brevity, I'll sign off.

For the next post, "Notes on Usage," come back next week or subscribe by clicking the button that decorates the top of this page.

Filed under: Sustaining Books, Writing


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  • Years ago Mike Royko ran the Gettysburg Address through the then-new grammar-checker. I don't recall exactly how it came out, but we can all imagine the result.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Thanks for a great memory! I think it started out by objecting to "Four score and seven" and suggesting "eighty-seven." Clunk!

  • The spell checker is a service, especially since I'm having problems finding the home row, so long as it is limited to the red squiggles. Autocorrect is the kind of problem you illustrate if one doesn't catch the popup that it did its thing. My experience is that the green squiggle grammar checker is 99% useless. Maybe it finds singular and plural discrepancies, but usually cannot figure out what the subject is, and hence is incorrect.

    And, of course, the spellchecker doesn't pick up stuff like "pubic contracts."

  • In reply to jack:

    Right on both counts, Jack. I hesitated to go into much detail about spelling errors, partly because they can be as embarrassing (and/or funny) as the one you mentioned last. "United/Untied" is a troublesome pair for me.

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