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Word Weirdness

Uther_Pendragon

Recently, while writing short pieces in MS Word, I've found that the soft-ware proofreader misses a lot of problems. When I've gone through what it finds the first time, I hit the gear wheel and choose "check document" for a recheck.

The last time, the software gave my first draft a clean bill of health. The second time through, it found 13 points to challenge. (And that story wasn't all THAT short.)

Replies:   REP  awnlee jawking  Gauthier
REP

@Uther_Pendragon

I've had a lot of problems with Word's grammar checker.

It suggests total inappropriate things. I went to the GC's configuration page and tried to configure it. Helped a little, but my choice is to use it or turn it off. Occasionally it will find mistakes so I use it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

It suggests total inappropriate things. I went to the GC's configuration page and tried to configure it. Helped a little, but my choice is to use it or turn it off. Occasionally it will find mistakes so I use it.

I typically leave my spellcheck on, but routinely turn the grammar checkers off entirely, as they produce too many misleading or flat-out incorrect suggestions.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but routinely turn the grammar checkers off entirely, as they produce too many misleading or flat-out incorrect suggestions.


But they do catch errors so why not keep it on and ignore the wrong ones? It's not like the entire screen is filled with squiggly lines. There really are just a few. You fix the real ones and ignore the others.

helmut_meukel

@Switch Blayde

But they do catch errors so why not keep it on and ignore the wrong ones?


Hmm, this works only for people who can distinguish between those. Others may trust some wrong suggestions – because they don't know better – and make their texts worse.

HM.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@helmut_meukel

Others may trust some wrong suggestions – because they don't know better – and make their texts worse.


Not to sound harsh, but those people need all the help they can get.

I get very few false positives (I think that's the term) with Word. And some of them repeatedly occur so they're obvious. But the ones it catches is worth it.

Replies:   REP  Crumbly Writer
REP

@Switch Blayde

What irritates me the most about Word's grammar suggestions is that they are supposed to be based on context. When I type a word like "their", Word suggests "there". If I accept its suggestion of "there", Word comes back and suggests that I use "their". Suggestions like that demonstrates that Word's suggestions are practically worthless.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@REP


demonstrates that Word's suggestions are practically worthless.


I just skimmed my WIP. Chapter 1 was clean.

In Chapter 2, I wrote as dialogue: "Elena! It's been ages. Of course I remember you." Word underlined "Of course". When I right-clicked it, it said I needed a comma. I guess I could put a comma there, but I don't want to.

The next one in Chapter 2 is also dialogue: "No. What's it have to do with you?" Word wants "have" to be "has." Word is wrong. If I change "what's" to "what does" then Word knows "have" is correct so Word must think "what's" is "what is". Word does have problems with contractions.

The next one is in the narrate: "Again she struggled to control it." Word wants a comma after "again". Grammatically, Word is probably right, but writing fiction isn't only about grammar. It's what sounds right to the author's ear and I'm a comma minimalist.

It didn't flag any other grammar errors until Chapter 17 (that's 15 out of 17 clean chapters). Again it was dialogue: "So you heard this is the hot spot in Cactus Point." And again it was a missing comma that I didn't want (after "so").

So in all that writing, it flagged 4 errors. 3 were missing commas that grammatically I could have put in. The other was a contraction that confused Word. I'm sure I had others flagged while writing that I fixed at the time.

The point is, Word makes mistakes, but that's not the norm. And when it catches an error, it's worth overlooking the mistakes.

Replies:   Gauthier  Crumbly Writer
Gauthier

@Switch Blayde

"No. What's it have to do with you?"


Ambiguous contractions are painful to decipher, especially for non native speakers.
You shouldn't've use that. I'm'a've a headache

Anne N. Mouse

I have no clue about grammar checkers (mine is so rudimentary that it can miss capital letters at the beginning of sentences if I'm not paying attention. Of course if I'm being nonstandard in my sentence structure and want to put in a punctuation mark that would (like say an exclamation point or question mark) normally result in the end of a sentence it will usually take a bit of working around to get it to not auto capitalize there... So, spell chequers, grammar checkers, and any other tools of those sorts are only as effective as the person using them. I use spell check when proofreading, though it doesn't catch everything by any means!

Switch Blayde

@Gauthier

painful to decipher, especially for non native speakers.


Duly noted. I made the change.

I originally kept it that way because it's dialogue and that's how (I believe) an American would speak.

Replies:   karactr
karactr

@Switch Blayde

I originally kept it that way because it's dialogue and that's how (I believe) an American would speak.


Oh God. If you try to write in dialectic, God bless your soul. I'm from the southern US and still have to interpret half of what I hear local people say half the time.

awnlee jawking

@Uther_Pendragon

The last time, the software gave my first draft a clean bill of health. The second time through, it found 13 points to challenge. (And that story wasn't all THAT short.)


Is it possible you had a section of text selected when you got the clean bill of health?

AJ

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@karactr


If you try to write in dialectic,


I don't consider contractions as dialect. I consider it less formal speech.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Uther_Pendragon

@awnlee jawking

Is it possible you had a section of text selected when you got the clean bill of health?


I can't imagine that it was. I got a clean bill of health and then immediately hit "check." So, I didn't unselect anything in between. Anyway, I've had something similar happen repeatedly. I can't have missed a selected section that often.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Uther_Pendragon

I don't let any machine autocorrect.
Even when Denny is editing me, he sends me suggestions rather than changing it.
The program is wrong about some things regularly, but I like it's challenging me to put a comma after "so" when it begins a sentence. Sometimes you should; sometimes you shouldn't; I almost never do; the program always does.

Gauthier

@Uther_Pendragon

The last time, the software gave my first draft a clean bill of health. The second time through, it found 13 points to challenge.

I've had that kind of behavior if I check "Detect language automatically" and I have multiple editing language available.

awnlee jawking

@Uther_Pendragon

I can't imagine that it was.


I had to ask. It's the sort of dumb thing I've done in the past :(

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

But they do catch errors so why not keep it on and ignore the wrong ones?

Why? It's all about the ratios. For the grammar checker, the vast majority are either legitimate, or ones I simply avoid due to the Style I follow. With the Grammar Checker, most often the advice is completely invalid. What's more is the annoyance factor, where it keeps highlighting the exact same invalid complaint, and there's no way to turn off the single most annoying complaint. I'm currently facing this with my Mac, which insists that it's utterly invalid to use "which" is ANY instance other than when it's separated by a preceding comma, whereas I use "which" to separate who/what I'm referring to (human, animal or inantimate object).

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

But the ones it catches is worth it.

are worth it - spell check should have caught it! 'D

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

If I change "what's" to "what does" then Word knows "have" is correct so Word must think "what's" is "what is". Word does have problems with contractions.

Uh, I hate to break it to you, but "what's" is not a valid contraction for "what has". There is no contraction for "what has", since it's so easy to misunderstand the usage. :(

P.S. It took me a while to learn that little grammar tidbit myself.

And again it was a missing comma that I didn't want (after "so").

Ha-ha. I've got the opposite problem, because it reflects how I speak, I tend to put commas after ever leading "So" (where the start sentences or fragment), so I need something to tell me (before it gets to my editors) which don't need a comma!

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
Crumbly Writer

@Gauthier

You shouldn't've use that. I'm'a've a headache

Speaking of headaches ... it should be "used that", you need a space between "I'm" and "a've", and final period after headache. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@karactr

Oh God. If you try to write in dialectic, God bless your soul. I'm from the southern US and still have to interpret half of what I hear local people say half the time.

There's a BIG difference between giving each character their own voice, and making the sentence's meaning clear. You shouldn't contract "it has" because it is not "it is". Clarity (for the most part) trumps authenticity.

Also, if one does include dialect, it's best to not overdo it and make your entire story utterly unreadable (case in point: the classic Ulysses, which is virtually unreadable, even by most literary experts).

Instead, use the full dialect for a paragraph or two, simply to establish how the person speaks, then ease off, relying on a few/handful of key phrases, which essentially remind readers that they're still speaking as they originally did.

If done properly, that usage keeps the character true to his background, while most readers won't even notice the transition from dialect to non-dialect. But then again, many disagree with my approach, so take the advice as you will. For me, I'd rather being able to understand a story than an author 'staying true' to the character for 387 pages!

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't consider contractions as dialect. I consider it less formal speech.

Precisely, since we authors deal in words, and they have tremendous impact, we need to focus on using the correct terms. Just as punctuation is different than grammar is different from spelling, contractions are separate from grammar are separate from pretentiousness.

Authors rarely decide on a case by case basis to contract one character's dialogue as opposed to everyone else's. Typically, they simply decide to write less formerly, and that will either apply to the entire story, or simply to the dialogue, while leaving the narative formal, since few think of God (from 3rd Omni) as speaking informally to anyone, which only paints him as a painful individual to deal with on a regular basis!).

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Uh, I hate to break it to you, but "what's" is not a valid contraction for "what has".


Wikipedia says differently.

And it's something that has been in common use for a very long time eg "What's that got to do with the price of tea?"

AJ

REP

@Crumbly Writer

but "what's" is not a valid contraction for "what has".


I disagree and so does the dictionary.

Definition of what's

2 : what has
//what's he done


https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/what's

Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

while leaving the narative formal, since few think of God (from 3rd Omni) as speaking informally to anyone, which only paints him as a painful individual to deal with on a regular basis!).


The auctorial "omniscient" is quite different from the theological "omniscient." We're authors; we should know when words have more than one meaning.

The auctorial omniscient just means that you know the thoughts of -- at least -- several characters.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

But the ones it catches is worth it.
are worth it - spell check should have caught it! 'D


I almost changed "is" to "are" when I posted that, but think "is" is correct. Just add the word "doing" to the sentence.

But the ones it catches is worth doing it.

Replies:   karactr
karactr

@Switch Blayde

??? The subject is plural (ones) but the verb is singular (is)?

This are why I ain't an author. LOL

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@karactr

The ones is not an instance of a mass noun phrase ;)

AJ

Replies:   karactr  Switch Blayde
karactr

@awnlee jawking

Again, this are why I ain't an author.

I need someone to explain this to me with words of short syllables.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@karactr


I need someone to explain this to me with words of short syllables.


Basically, a mass noun is where multiple objects or nouns are stuffed into a single noun. Some classic examples are:

There are thirty-two people in the crowd making thirty-people a plural entity, while the crowd is a single entity thus the crowd is noisy.

Bill and Joan are a lovely couple of two entities, while the couple is going out for dinner as a single entity.

There are many people on the college team is the multiple entities, but the single entity team is playing an old rival.

Most such are common and easy to spot, but some get a bit tricky as you can have a member of staff or many staff thus when you refer to the staff doing the work it can be singular or multiple people involved while the staff is a singular entity.

typo edit

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

The ones is not an instance of a mass noun


I think it is. It's an uncountable number of errors. A group of errors. That's why I gave it a singular verb.

Crumbly Writer

@Uther_Pendragon

The auctorial "omniscient" is quite different from the theological "omniscient." We're authors; we should know when words have more than one meaning.

That's assumed, but many don't think that way, and consider anything the narrator says to be completely impartial and utterly true, by dint of the term "omniscient' (we've had those arguments here far too often to list). The same is true of readers, who often conflate what happens in a particular book/character with the author (i.e. authors always write entirely about themselves).

Authors know the differences between terms and meaning, but they're also cognizant of the complications when others don't.

Crumbly Writer

@karactr

I need someone to explain this to me with words of short syllables.

YOU NO USE 'Ones is'! 'D

Using slightly more syllables: plural nouns require plural verbs, while singular nouns require singular verbs, except when you're dealing with the odd 'singular plural noun' (ex: 'they', 'crew', 'people', etc.), in which case you treat the 'singular plural noun' as a single entity (and use words like "is").

Replies:   Dominions Son
awnlee jawking

@karactr

I need someone to explain this to me with words of short syllables.


It was a lame joke. Obviously 'the ones' requires a plural verb, but I used an artificial context where 'the ones' could validly precede a singular verb. However I probably should have enclosed it in quotes :(

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I think it is. It's an uncountable number of errors. A group of errors. That's why I gave it a singular verb.

Following that logic, "the Heathers" is singular, as is "those morons", "the idiots" or "those two dickheads". I dare you to find a single use of "the Heathers is" in the entire "Heathers" movie!

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

I disagree. The number of words in your story is countable, and the number of errors can't be higher than the number of words. Therefore 'ones' must be countable and requires a plural verb.

AJ

helmut_meukel

@awnlee jawking

and the number of errors can't be higher than the number of words


But you can have mulltible errors in one word.
:)

HM.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@awnlee jawking


I disagree.


Maybe the problem is the poor wording of the original sentence. This was the entire post:

I get very few false positives (I think that's the term) with Word. And some of them repeatedly occur so they're obvious. But the ones it catches is worth it.


"the ones it catches" refers to the real errors.

"is worth it" refers to why it's worth using the grammar checker.

So to reword it so that it's not in "short-cut speak," it would be something like:

But for the ones it catches, it is worth using it.


"ones" being plural has nothing to do with the singular verb "is".

Replies:   karactr  Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

with the odd 'singular plural noun' (ex: 'they', 'crew', 'people', etc.), in which case you treat the 'singular plural noun'


I have to disagree on crew and people. They are singular, not plural. They refer to a group, but unless in an explicitly plural form (crews, groups) only one singular group is referenced

They is explicitly plural, it refers to multiple people, but not explicitly as a cohesive group.

Crew and people on the other hand are cohesive groups. in terms of grammatical number think of them like containers (for example a box) there may be many things in the box, but there is only one box.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
karactr

@Switch Blayde

But, in your example, you have changed the subject from the errors to the program. The program is singular and gets the singular verb. The errors are plural.

REP

@awnlee jawking

Therefore 'ones' must be countable and requires a plural verb.


It would depend on how you view 'ones'. If you interpret 'ones' to mean a single group of errors then it is singular. If you interpret 'ones' to mean the individual errors then it is plural.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@helmut_meukel

But you can have mulltible errors in one word.


Word's spellchecker can only flag a word once, no matter how many mistakes it contains.

But I thought the discussion was about grammar checking, where the granularity of the checks is not confined to single words.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@karactr

But, in your example, you have changed the subject from the errors to the program.


That's why I said it was poorly written. There was an implied subject. "Ones" was never the subject.

Replies:   karactr
karactr
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Poorly written or not, "ones" was the subject of that sentence. I may claim to not be an author (I'm really not), but I am educated in both general and technical writing. Hell, my school even coerced me to publish one of my papers, so I guess I can claim to be a published author. I just wrote it to finish a class in a program I dropped at the end of that semester and for whatever reason they were impressed. I just took it as how low the educational standards at the time had dropped, which is one of the reasons I left that program.

But none of that changes "ones" to a singular noun.

Actually, I imagine you are laughing your ass off at the depth of digression that your one statement has fomented.

ETA: At least I hope you are.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
awnlee jawking

@REP

Nouns which can represent both a collective and individuals use the same form for each eg crew, sheep, Manchester United.

Ones is the plural of one.

AJ

Replies:   karactr  Crumbly Writer
karactr

@awnlee jawking

I take exception AJ. A crew is singular to a ship. Multiple ships will have multiple crews.

Sheep, on the other hand, are just sheep. And Manchester United is...what?, a school district?

Okay, I may be an ignorant American, but I do know it is a soccer team. I can't help that you confuse it with football.

Switch Blayde

@karactr

Poorly written or not, "ones" was the subject of that sentence. I may claim to not be an author (I'm really not), but I am educated in both general and technical writing.


Then you're better at grammar than me ("I" actually). But I'll try to explain my reasoning. The original poorly written sentence was:

But the ones it catches is worth it.


If I were talking about the errors, then "ones" would be the subject and the verb would be plural. For example:

But the ones it catches are really bad errors.


But I wasn't talking about the errors so it wasn't the subject of the sentence. I was talking about the grammar checker which was the subject of the sentence (or it should have been if properly written). I was trying to say that the grammar checker catches enough errors to make it worth using even if you have to ignore the false-errors.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So to reword it so that it's not in "short-cut speak," it would be something like:

But for the ones it catches, it is worth using it.

"ones" being plural has nothing to do with the singular verb "is".

Getting pedantic, using "the ones" in your revised sentence is misplaced. Since it refers to a previously mentioned item, you'd use "But for those it catches ..." Since, in this one example, "the ones" is a substitute for "those" (an actual singular plural noun, it follows the rules for "those", rather than any rules for "ones". :(

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I have to disagree on crew and people. They are singular, not plural. They refer to a group, but unless in an explicitly plural form (crews, groups) only one singular group is referenced

Karactr asked for a 'clear' definition of the term 'singular plural verb', so yes, OBVIOUSLY the words are singular, despite their referring to specific groups. That's the definition of 'singular plural nouns'!

As for my inclusion of "they", that's entirely my fault. I'd intended to include "those" (as Switch used it in my previous post). But you're correct, "they" is a plural verb and obeys the normal rules for plural verbs.

Crumbly Writer

@karactr

But, in your example, you have changed the subject from the errors to the program. The program is singular and gets the singular verb. The errors are plural.

Now you see why the use of singular plural verbs is so problematic, as it's use varies entirely on which noun you pick to associate with it. It's also why it's problematic for new English users to figure out.

awnlee_jawking

@karactr

I take exception AJ. A crew is singular to a ship.


The crew is out on the town.
The crew are becoming more like family.

(Okay, the latter is a bit forced.)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Ones is the plural of one.

Now that is a clear, definitive statement. As a simple plural form, it is not a 'collective' noun.

Crumbly Writer

@karactr

take exception AJ. A crew is singular to a ship. Multiple ships will have multiple crews.

"My crew crew is the best crew of all the crewing crews in this entire crew competition!" he crowed. 'D

Replies:   richardshagrin
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee_jawking

The crew is out on the town.
The crew are becoming more like family.

(Okay, the latter is a bit forced.)

Not really, "crew" (like other collective nouns) varies depending on how it's used. If your usage refers to an entire, collective crew, then it takes the singular form. However, if it refers to only a segment of that collective (as in your second example), then you use the plural form as you're now referring to multiple members of the larger crew.

Again, collective nouns get murky quickly.

P.S. I've been writing a 3-volume space sage for some time, so I've become quite well versed in the proper usage of the term "crew" in a variety of situations, and I still trip over the term fairly regularly. :(

Replies:   Uther_Pendragon
Uther_Pendragon

@Crumbly Writer

Again, collective nouns get murky quickly.


An English jury have decided; an American jury has decided.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

"My crew crew is the best crew of all the crewing crews in this entire crew competition!" he crowed. 'D


Left out "crude".

awnlee jawking

@Uther_Pendragon

An English jury have decided; an American jury has decided.


American juries are uncountable? :)

AJ

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

American juries are uncountable?


What's countable have to do with it?

That family has been here every Monday.

The family is countable.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

It was another lame attempt at humour, hence the smiley.

But, thinking about it, would you use 'less' or 'fewer' with family

eg
Last Monday there was less family present.
or
Last Monday there was fewer family present.

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

American juries are uncountable?


No, they are containers. There may be 9 members in the jury, but the jury is a singular container. It acts in the court room as a singular entity.

Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

would you use 'less' or 'fewer' with family


Singular noun = less (less water).
Plural noun = fewer (fewer glasses of water).

So since "family" is singular, I guess "less family present," but "fewer family members present."

*shrugs

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

But, thinking about it, would you use 'less' or 'fewer' with family

eg
Last Monday there was less family present.
or
Last Monday there was fewer family present.

Even trickier, with "less" (countable elements) you'd use 'is', while with "fewer" (uncoutable), you'd use "fewer". How the heck does that relate to mass nouns being singular elements?

Last week there were fewer family, though still too many to count; yet today there's less, at only five.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So since "family" is singular, I guess "less family present," but "fewer family members present."

Hell, I say simplify and don't bother inviting them all, only spending time with those you're actively sleeping with, as it's harder cramming those you're 'getting it on with' into cramped containers!

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