I do a lot of writing, mostly in Microsoft Word—the software I love to hate. The built-in spell check can be helpful, catching typos for me as I write. (It can’t catch a “word-o,” however, which means that any remaining mistakes can be potentially pretty funny—or embarrassing.)
Then there’s the grammar checker. Who invented this thing? What were they thinking? I know English is a difficult language, but the checker doesn’t just stumble over exceptions to the rules. It mutilates perfectly acceptable prose.
For our mutual amusement, I’ve listed a dozen “suggestions” that Word thinks will make a more grammatically correct sentence. My original comes first, followed by their “correction(s),” with the changed text in bold.
First we notice some verb issues:
- “What will everyone be talking about?” was changed to “What will everyone are talking about?”
- “What will everyone be thinking?” was changed to “What will everyone are thinking?”
- “Turns out that wasn’t quite right.” was changed to “Turns out that weren’t quite right.” Or “A turn out that wasn’t quite right.“
Maybe the problem is with the quantity involved—confusing singular with plural.
- “I wish I had learned this lesson years ago.” was changed to “I wish I had learned these lesson years ago.” or “I wish I had learned this lesson year ago.”
- “The pastor got up, prayed that we would draw close to God and hear His voice, and the ushers passed the trays.” was changed to “The pastor got up, prayed that we would draw close to God and hears His voice, and the ushers passed the trays.” or perhaps you’d prefer “The pastors got up, prayed that we would draw close to God and hear His voice, and the ushers passed the trays.” Why does there need to be more than one pastor?
Granted, that’s a fairly complicated sentence, including three events. Simplifying it eliminated the confusion. Maybe the grammar checker just can’t handle sentences that are too long? But then, what’s the excuse regarding this shorter sentence?
- “I have a hard time grasping someone else’s understanding of God’s character.” was changed to “I have a hard time grasping someone else understands of God’s character.” I definitely have a hard time grasping that one!
I studied biology in school, not English. Still, I wasn’t aware that there was a problem with reflexive pronouns. Why does the language include words such as myself, himself, etc., if we’re not supposed to use them?
- “Jesus didn’t act on His own.” Word complains: “Reflexive Pronoun Use (consider revising).” I’m a bit befuddled. “His” is not a reflexive pronoun. Are they suggesting I add one? Would they prefer “Jesus didn’t act on himself.”? No, I didn’t think so.
Their grammar checker isn’t too good with common phraseology, either:
- “You could easily believe that it’s all our fault.” baecame “You could easily believe that it’s our entire fault.” They could have said “entirely our fault” but no, they had to make it awkward.
Then there are “corrections” that make no sense at all.
- “You can spend a lifetime learning all about God.” was changed to “You can spend lifetime learning all about God.” Yeah mon.
- “A Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead, while a Swainson’s Hawk perched atop a pole.” was changed to “A Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead, while a Swainson ’s hawk perched atop a pole.” Yes, it added a space before the apostrophe! Why? Even more confusing, now that I’ve accepted their suggestion, they’re telling me the space shouldn’t be there after all, and I should change it back!
It even has trouble with the same words that many others struggle with. No matter we’re becoming less literate!
- “What do you do when you wanted to hike but it’s 10 degrees outside?” was changed to “What do you do when you wanted to hike but its 10 degrees outside?” How is that possibly possessive?
- “I’d certainly recommend him as a speaker for any nature-related group, or even your HOA.” was changed to “I’d certainly recommend him as a speaker for any nature-related group, or even you’re HOA.”
The grammar checker often highlights an entire sentence, ruling it a mere fragment. Maybe they used a different definition of “sentence”? Do these look like fragments to you?
- “According to a government headline, ‘Fewer Americans Are Using Illegal Drugs.’”
- “After a few days of listening to him sawing and hammering, I was presented with a splendid chickadee box.”
- “Store extra sugar-water in the refrigerator.”
- “In an effort to improve my family’s health, I often sauté food in olive oil.”
- “Schedule in one-on-one time with God before adding anything else to the calendar.”
- “God looked at him and said, ‘No, no, no.’” For some reason, changing “God” to any other name convinces the checker that everything is fine.
- “Having a sense of humor helps tremendously.” Sure does, especially when writing in Word!