I was wondering what your thoughts were on grammar software such as Pro Writing Aid or Grammarly. Some apps out there actually compare your work with other published work and give you really specific breakdowns of all the ways you are disappointing your high school English teacher. This can be insightful, but also come across as a somewhat cold approach to revision.
Are these kinds of programs helpful tools for upping one's game? Or are they just an expensive way to kill the voice of a manuscript? Do other woodland creatures reading here use them?
It is I, Otto, here to tell you in no uncertain terms that software is the best way to make sure your righting is correct. I, four example, am here to point out you're spelling mistakes.
Miss Reed has been known to sneer at my recommendations.
She is of course human and thus, fallible.
Spelling, grammar, all have rules to be followed.
And you will follow them.
Jeez Louise Otto, step away from the keyboard. The tattoo parlor called. They'd like to discuss something you approved...?
Ok, now that Otto is Stechschritting back to If You Think It, We Can Ink It LLC, let's get back to the topic at hand.
ANY automated check on creative work only knows rules. It doesn't know style. It sure as hell doesn't know pacing, or tension or wordplay. And it takes awhile to catch up to the zeitgeist.
It's a black and white choice for a book that is the full spectrum of color.
But, Godiva love us, if it can cure you of misusing Lie/Lay/laid I'll kiss the app my own damn self.
You need to know what the rules are but you also need to know when they break down.
Example: The rule for pronouns is the pronoun replaces a noun and generally the most immediate preceding noun.
But: Mortimer saw Wilberforce. He thought he was a bounder.
Following the rule, it's Wilberforce doing the thinking.
BUT as a reader you can intuit that it's what Mortimer is thinking of Wilberforce.
And rules of grammar are not carved in stone as much as Miss PruneSucker, my fourth grade Punctuation Puritan told us. T'was she who inculcated me with a loathing for using they as a singular. Regular readers will recognize my usage of s/he.
But times they are a changing, and folks who are updating their gender identity often want to avoid he or she and ask to be referred to as they.
That's what they, their, them means in a Twitter bio for example.
And before anyone gets up on their high horse about correctness, political or otherwise, I'd like to hark back to yesteryear when ladies had to fight to get their own name printed in the newspaper rather than be called an appendage of their husband: Mrs. Felix Buttonweezer.
And the battle for Ms, jeez Louise you'd have thought we'd asked the New York Times to split an infinitive on the front page.
The daily humiliation of calling Geraldine Ferraro Mrs Ferraro cause they refused to use Ms finally convinced the Times to get over themselves.
Usage changes first, and the rules catch up, but often software is only about rules.
I check Grammarly when I have a specific question about some tortured phrase I'm trying to sort out.
I do NOT run whole work through a Grammar checker BUT that's not to say if you doubt your skills it's not worth a try.
Let's hear from the writers in the comment column. What do you think?