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Information to help others become better readers, writers, designers, and illustrators
As an avid read and reviewer of numerous books, it pains me as both when I see inconsistencies and incongruity in stories.
For newer authors, all facts, timelines, as well as double-checking any real places should be for accuracy. Nothing will turn off a reader faster than reading about a character in the 1960s watching a program that wasn’t on-air until the 1970s.
If your story takes place in a town somewhere such as San Diego, CA as a television show did and someone that knows the town where they live, like San Pedro, CA close to three-hundred miles apart, and recognize buildings in San Pedro, you have a problem with reality and believability for your setting.
As Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Never trust spellcheckers and grammar checkers, spellcheckers only tell whether or not a word is spelled correctly, not if it’s the correct word in your manuscript. The same goes for grammar checkers, they do not deal well with creativity in writing.
“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you have something to say.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald. Be sure that you have what you want to say organized.
Real writing is rewriting and editing. Always have a second pair of eyes read your work, someone who will tell you the truth, not what they think you want to hear.
A critique, especially for the newer writer is less than no critique if there is no constructive feedback.
Robert J Medak Writing & More
It’s all Maria Mariana’s fault. She was one in a group of six linguists from Georgetown University who, back in the 70s, first developed an automated way to check spelling and grammar on word processing programs for IBM. Perhaps she meant well. Thought it would be a good thing to create this seductive monster that can batch-attack the often time-consuming and ponderous human task of checking one’s work for errors.
Backfire, Maria. Semi-total epic FAIL! Spell-check has made us lazy. It has lulled us into a false sense of security with its offers to change your grammar or correct that questionable word. We all have stories of spell-checking failure, some with embarrassing and humorous results. Here are a few more reasons you should never trust that pathetic plug-in with your important work.
1. Spell-checkers are notoriously obtuse.
Consider the following passage: “My physical therapist worked out a weight-bearing routine for me that stimulates my osteoblasts, which are the cells that build new bone.” The spelling and grammar checker in my version of Microsoft Word wants to replace “stimulate” for “stimulates.” It believes that the subject that is being stimulated is plural…actually, I have no idea what it believes. It’s just wrong.
2. Spell-checkers can’t parse your intentions.
Example dialogue: “Pete’s working again.” Spell-check suggestions for this alleged error in “subject-verb agreement” include “Pete’s is working” or “Pete’s was working.” The writer’s intention was to state that Pete is once again gainfully employed. But good old SC doesn’t know this, and assumes that something of Pete’s is now or formerly was functional.
3. Spell-checkers can’t find missing words.
“Ted raced the sink” has a rather different meaning than “Ted raced to the sink.” In a long document like a novel manuscript, particularly one you’ve been poring over draft after draft, your brain will supply the missing word. So, you may miss it in the proofreading and lead your readers to believe Ted has been imbibing and sincerely believes he and the sink are in competition.
4. Spell-checkers can auto-correct you into situations in which you do not want to be auto-corrected.
A former colleague, who normally relied upon his assistant to correct and send out his correspondence, decided to give her a break and take care of some of his own. In an e-mail that went out to the entire sales staff, he intended to ask for their opinions on a new sales program. He ended with, “I look forward to seeing your evaluation.” Only, because of his less-than-stellar keyboarding skills, his spell-check program decided he meant to type “ejaculation.” Yeah. It went out that way.
4. Spell-checkers won’t tell you if your formatting is inconsistent.
This is one reason why you should never abandon something as format-dependent as your press kit, resume, or book proposal solely to the eye-chips of your computer program. It won’t tell you that you’ve ended some bullet-text items with periods and left them off others. It won’t tell you a heading is in the wrong font or tabbed in too far. It’s CRUCIAL to swing these details by human eyeballs.
5. Spell-checkers don’t measure up to humans…at least not yet.
Flawed as we are, we’re still better than a machine at certain tasks, like knowing what we meant to say. Don’t have time to proofread or can’t tell if your participles are dangling or your infinitives are split? Hire a human.
Laurie Boris is the author of The Joke's on Me, from 4RV Publishing. She also blogs about writing, books, and the language of popular culture at http://laurieboris.com.