Tuesday, August 13, 2013

If I Took MS Word at Its Word...

One of my favorite YouTubers is blimeycow. Jordan and his family are witty, sarcastic, and touch upon so many of my own pet peeves. Spelling creativity on the Internet is one of his big ones—so much so, in fact, that he's dedicated more than one video to the enlightenment of the more 'improvisational spellers' out there. Here's one of my favorites:

MORE Spelling Tips for the Internet

I don't like reading Facebook posts or email from people who can't spell, who use only texting/Internet shorthand, or who can't string together a coherent sentence, for the sole reason that it's distracting and irritating. (OK, that's not a sole reason. Two reasons, then.) I'm not talking about the occasional typo; I'm referring to genuinely awful writing. I find myself wondering if they have any idea how it looks to others,especially when I'm reading things poorly written by homeschooling friends.

Think about it. When we tell people we homeschool, we're telling them a couple of things, whether we've said the words aloud or not. 1. We prefer to teach our children, because we don't think the government schools are going to teach them what we think is important; 2. We're capable of doing a better job of it on our own. The second item is shot down immediately when we can't even express ourselves in print.

Don't get me wrong: I know the value of a good teacher's edition as well as the next person, but in my heart, I feel we should make every effort to not look like a bunch of inarticulate homegrown hicks who never made it through primary school. It's hard enough to dispel the homeschool myths others believe; why hand people more ammo to use against us? Most people who read my written words will never get to know me well enough to discern whether I'm a brilliant science-minded person who has a tough time with spelling, or someone they should actively prevent from voting in the next election. (For the record, I am neither.)

But I digress...

I've been thinking lately that word processing programs may be a teeny tiny bit to blame for the steady decline of good grammar and correct spelling. After all, not everyone texts, so I can't blame phones. Not everyone uses Twitter, so I can't blame the "only 140 characters" rule. However, students everywhere use word processing programs to do their school writing. My children are no exception. Only one of them is a naturally good speller, so I've been able to closely monitor the lack of good advice provided by MS Word as they do their language arts assignments.

I have a confession to make that may surprise some of you: I don't like using spell-check. There are many "real" words that just happen to not be the "correct" words for what I'm trying to say, and spell-check will never catch that. I especially don't like using a grammar program. When I first started using MS Word, I thought it was pretty cool that it not only had a spell-check feature, but also a thesaurus and a grammar-check. Cool, yes, until I actually used it. *shaking my head sorrowfully* So, so, so not cool anymore.

I've come to the conclusion that MS Word's grammar "help" feature was created by someone who knows nothing about grammar and punctuation. In fact, the suggestions are so entirely wrong that I'm beginning to suspect someone out there is having a good laugh at how he or she pulled one over on "The Man" by programming in grammar suggestions/corrections that are the complete opposite of correct. Perhaps the higher-ups at Microsoft don't know any better, but I'll bet their administrative assistants do.

My best guess is the scenario in which the Head Honcho in Charge of Word Processing Programs (yes, yes, I'm sure there is someone out there with exactly that title) attends a diversity seminar and comes home all fired up about hiring a bunch of people from all over the world so he can show he's not a bigot. It just so happens that the person he hires to create MS Word's grammar portion of the program does not speak English as a first, second, or third language. "Not a problem," says Head Honcho. "We'll just have you read through social media sites and learn English by immersion. I'm a genius!"

I have thought this through, and am firmly convinced this is exactly what happened. Why else would Word suggest I change "I'm" to "I are"? Or "it's" to "its" when I'm clearly using a conjunction to say "it is"? Those examples are small potatoes compared to what I've run across while editing a book.

One of these days, I'm going to take every suggestion MS Word puts forth and see what I end up with. Perhaps the next Kindle #1 download?

1 comment:

  1. Great post and a brilliant take on the subject! You should email it to Microsoft :)


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