grammar check in Word

Over the weekend I tried running the grammar checker in Word against Obelus. It did not go well.

First, you need to know that I consider strictly following the “rules” of grammar to be optional for creative writers. I think narrative voice is far more important in fiction that proper grammar (as long as the reader can follow what’s going on, more or less). In fact, my casual attitude toward grammar is one of the reasons I quit teaching composition at the local community college. Further, one of my stylistic tendencies is the sentence fragment, which I think adds punch and mimics closely the workings inside a character’s or narrator’s mind. My fiction is filled with intentional grammar violations (and even spelling creativity), and never once has an editor asked me to correct these when accepting a story. Nor do I find “perfect” grammar is most of the fiction I read by others.

I consider myself more than adequately adept with the language and the standards of grammar. I used to know most of it by rote, and I’ve absorbed a lot of it by simply reading widely and deeply. But I don’t anguish about formal structuring or correctness. (The grammar checker would have cited that last sentence.) Thus I rarely see the need to use the grammar checker in Word, but over the weekend I gave it a go just to see what I might see.

I could only get through about a tenth of the novel before I gave it up. The narrator of Obelus is a playful scamp, and his (his?) voice matches this. The program was finding dozens of “violations” that needed my attention. In most cases, it had to do with the “improper” use of conjunctions, and I dismissed those readily. It did point out one subject/verb agreement problem that I fixed, but it identified an incorrect use of “it’s” saying it should be “its”, but in fact my use was not possessive but a contraction. So the grammar checker was legit wrong there.

I don’t foresee applying this tool to the rest of the novel. Maybe on some shorter works it might prove an occasional use, but with 101,000+ words to parse, I don’t intend to spend my time using it on Obelus.

Explore posts in the same categories: Rants and ruminations

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