People of all ages are warned not to rely on spellcheck to proof their documents. As we’re all aware of, spellcheck doesn’t always distinguish correctly between heard or herd, or they’re and their, and sometimes it even incorrectly suggests changing it’s to its. We get it: spellcheck doesn’t always work.
But let’s not forget the other side of spellcheck—the grammar. (Is there such thing as grammarcheck? …Oh, probably not. My word processor just underlined the word. Think I should “add to dictionary”?)
Grammar proofing will pick things up like:
Fragments. These babies are vital in dialogue and interior monologue—in fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you have no fragments at all, you’re doing something wrong.
Order of words. Seventh graders won’t always speak in noun-verb-noun sentences, now, do they?
Improper grammar. Same as above. As well, when saying something like “I paused, then took a step back”, Word will insist on placing an “and” in front of the “then”. This has always bamboozled me. Anyone have an explanation?
Tense shifts. When your protagonist is thinking something, the tense is present. However, you may be writing in past. When the two tenses are cobbled together in one sentence, spellcheck throws a fit, as you can see from the image above.
Other languages. Word’s “detect language automatically” is a failure. My protagonist has a French background, and therefore French words are dropped here and there. And yet, simple things like oui (“yes”), non (“no”) and d’accord (“okay” or “I agree”) don’t get picked up. So either I live with the underlining, or manually highlight each word and change the designated language to French.
Now, to deal with these, you’ve got a few options.
Turn off grammar proofing. If you have Microsoft 2007 or later, you can go to File > Options > Proofing and deselect “Mark grammar errors as you type” and “Check grammar with spelling”. This will turn off any kind of grammar check.
If you don’t want to turn it off completely, choose Ignore rule. When mousing over a green-underlined word or phrase, right-click, choose “Grammar…” from the drop-down menu and click “Ignore rule”. This is especially handy for fragments.
Finally, you can Hide grammar errors in this document only. Again, under File > Options > Proofing, at the very bottom you’ll find this option, along with a choice to hide spelling errors.
The bottom line here is: sometimes grammar/spellcheck has no idea what it’s doing. It’s all about context, and only you can judge if that “improper grammar” sentence really is improper grammar—or if it’s just the way an eleven-year-old speaks.
You tell me: how much do you rely on spelling and grammar proofing?