By: Sorab Ghaswalla
I’ve been involved with content and writing for over 30 years now, plus have an English Literature degree to boot, so I dare call myself an authority on the English language. But I will be frank, I have two digital writing aids or assistants installed on my computer. One’s for grammar, the other’s for web content optimization. The former works more like a spellcheck, the latter is too new a tool for me to get all judgemental about it (more about this one later).
To be honest, I’d rather rely on my knowledge and grasp of the English language to get by. But I leave it to my reader’s wisdom to decide whether he/she must use such writing assistants or not. (For this newsletter, I shall limit myself to writing aids for the English language.)
Here’s the thing — English is a tricky language. There’s grammar — a set of rules to go by — and then, there’s style. In between are related issues like the tone, and the voice. Except for the set of writing rules (grammar), which in the English language is also flexible and contextual, the rest are intangibles.
Straight off, today’s digital tools help you to mostly to proof-read. In fact, many that claim to be grammar check tools are nothing but glorified spell-checkers. Why? These tools have not evolved yet to “understand” the complexities of the English language — meaning grammar, or the context of your content. Inevitably, “suggestions” are incorrect, not to context or missed altogether. That’s why most of these tools have an in-built option, “Ignore in this text” (or something to that effect), leaving the final call on the writer.
Grammar cannot be treated as stand-alone, which is what many of the digital tools do. It is grammar plus usage.
I am not even getting into the area of style. Two writers can say the same thing using two different styles, and using the same set of rules that govern the English language, yet, digital grammar check tools may fault only one of them.
One more thing — if you were to use such grammar tools, chances are high that your copy may end up being sterile. And, highly sanitized. And, boring to read. Get the point?
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