When I want to hear to my favorite tunes, I web jet to YouTube on the computer, or open Spotify or Amazon Music when going “mobile” (I don’t pay for music often because I’m a product of the Napster Revolution).
Several times during a listening session, without fail, I’m interrupted by these increasingly annoying Grammarly ads. If you haven’t had the pleasure … check them out. Their formula: A seemingly smart person acting like a total dope is tasked with forming a logical and coherent sentence for a dissertation, an email, best man’s speech, school essay, etc. Ya know, regular stuff any person could write in their daily lives. Insert Grammarly as their tool to help them craft the words.
My problem is not with the ads themselves, which are somewhat clever and cute given the product its trying to sell. My problem is with the product, which is described as a “writing enhancement software” (double ugh).
A Different World, but Not Everything
Oh, the glories of our on-demand culture. At any point in time, I can click on my phone, computer, tablet, or TV and watch shows, pay bills, chat with friends, order clothes from Uganda, send business or personal correspondence (electronic mail or e-mail), or watch “six packs of … soda, if I want” (if you don’t understand the loose use of this Tommy Boy reference, then I can’t help you).
Normally, I applaud lovely tools that Silicon Valley throws in our faces. But there’s something about creating an app-dependency for a basic human skill that I find egregious … for several reasons.
We’ve all trudged through “writer’s block” slogs before, wishing we had some rocket word boots to lift us free into creativity heaven. A messianic magical word that breaks the curse of this blockage, and opens the flood gates to a well-oiled writing machine on the keyboard, typewriter, or pen.
But, the cheap way out, a la “writing enhancement software,” isn’t a way to become a better writer. It’s a way to find dependence on a grammar/writing plug-in, and not give a damn about the rules, the why, and the how.
Usage of this program demonstrates a willing disregard for any care whatsoever to know and understand the constructs of our language. You’ve essentially given up and said, “well, Grammarly will fix it” or “I just need a little help.” Then LEARN. There are countless resources on writing for whatever type of communication you want to employ. Pick up Elements of Style by E.B. White, one of a few “bibles” on modern-day writing. It clearly demonstrates topics and usage tips, all which will make you a better writer.
Why have we decided to stop being students of this life, including oral and written communication? Related to the on-demand culture is its uglier cousin – social media language use. And I’m not f*cking talking about cursing. I’m talking about the LOLs, TTYLs, SMHs, IMOs, luvs, selfies, and countless misspells (shaking my head – like, always). We have stripped our language of its colorful valor, leaving it in total ruin as a shell of its former self.
Find your English teachers on Facebook and berate them with a litany of acronyms and idioms he/she won’t understand, while misusing the word “literally,” abusing the poor art of passive tense, overusing the word “like,” and conjugating your verbs incorrectly.
Age Old Wisdom (from a comedian & Jedi)
George Carlin had an impressionable notion from one of his routines, “The quality of our ideas are only as good as the quality of our language.”
And Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn offered this commentary to Jar Jar Binks (beloved character of the Star Wars franchise) in Star Wars, Episode I: A Phantom Menace, “The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.”
To that I’d say, creative, expressive, and innovative writing stems from mountains of hard work, constructed and climbed by greats of the penning craft. Simply writing “right” isn’t enough when communicating your ideas and opinions. Learning the craft goes beyond having words. An appropriate construction shows a painting, illustrating its depth, profundity, and merit. Shouldn’t that be the aim?
To further link the two quotations: what good is a groundbreaking or world-changing idea if we can’t share it with articulation and intelligence? Therefore, shouldn’t your knowledge and usage of the language in which you share ideas be as expert as the topic of that groundbreaking or world-changing idea?
Now, Grammarly is a clever idea, as I noted earlier. Seems like a useful tool that a lot of people use, right? I’m sure users describe it as a godsend when they were in a pinch. But what does the future of your writing look like if you use it as a crutch?
I know I’m asking people to work a little harder, but the harder you work at writing, the more naturally it becomes. The words flow, ideas spring forth like water from a geyser, and “writer’s block” becomes a euphemism for “laziness” because you’ve equipped yourself with a hammer to bash through the b.s.
One more quote because I love quotes. From Tom Hanks, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” Be great.
Write on, my friends. And please don’t use Grammarly unless you really, really have to.
DISCLAIMER: I’m sure there are grammatical mistakes in this blog. I’ll learn from them and become a better writer for it.