Two weeks ago I was doing the final read-through and final edit for Deception Bay. Part of that process is using WordPerfect’s Grammatik, which tells me what sins I’ve committed against proper usage, and the spell-check program, which can unerringly discover place and people names that it’s never heard of, but can’t tell me when I’ve typed the wrong word, as long as it’s spelled right. Or if I’ve left a word out.
The trouble with Grammatik is that it was not meant for fiction, but for commercial use, such as writing business letters and reports. It has conniptions over dialogue and incomplete sentences, and often offers ridiculous advice, such as telling me that a certain word is ‘not usually’ used as a modifier of the noun xxx, when I haven’t used either word as an adjective or as a noun. But it does tell me when I’ve left two spaces between words instead of one.
What amuses me about spell-check is its prudish attitude. I’m told that ‘hell’ and ‘bastard’ are offensive and should be replaced. It says ‘damn’ should be replaced by ‘terrible.’ And what really cracks me up, every time, is when I write something like, “He cocked his head to one side,” the spell-check screams at me that ‘cocked’ is very offensive and must on no account be used.
I like Raymond Chandler’s response to his publisher about a proof-reader.
“By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will remain split. And when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed and attentive.”