My Eternal Grammar Struggle Continues

When I last wrote about my struggle, I was overcoming the perils of the coma and the quotation mark. The problem is that every “reference” book seems to have a different opinion. I understand most of the logic behind placing a coma. The idea is to break things up and help the reader speak. Yet, when I correctly apply the rules, my sentences read like a person with rocks in their mouth.
Quotation marks are also tricky. Bob said in a deep voice, “Do this.” Or is it: “Do this,” said Bob in a deep voice. This second option reads like the lights are off, and somebody speaks in a monotone voice. When they stop talking, the lights turn on, and there is Bob. The reader’s brain puts it all together, and we learn Bob HAD a deep voice.
I have added a new wrinkle to the quotation mark saga, telepathic characters. I decided not to use quotation marks for thoughts but use the same rules. Bob thought to Jane, <Do this.> There are no formal rules about telepathic thoughts because there is no such thing. But what I have come up with works because it pulls the reader into a telepathic mind.
How about multiple exclamation points? One, two, or three?!!! There is no firm rule, but most agree that one is enough. And italics? Only for a book or movie title. Well, I have read many books that use them to show what a character is thinking. The use of italics becomes complicated with a telepath.
My overall grammar philosophy is to use punctuation like bullets in a six-shooter. Pick your targets carefully!!! Wait, that was wrong. Pick your targets carefully!
I have located an unlikely helper in my struggle, Grammarly. Why is it unlikely? I learned about this program from a television commercial. I never trust such miracle advertisements. However, the first pass of my first book identified over 1600 issues, and it took a week to go through each one.
The suggestions were excellent, and Grammarly pointed out obvious issues and beautiful improvements. The result tightened up my sentences and made them easier to read. In addition, it added hyphens, commas, and fixed correctly spelled words that were the wrong word (malapropism).
Was Grammarly worth purchasing? I think so. When you present a more robust document to an editor, they can better focus on their job rather than being the cleanup person. As a result, the edited document is more robust, and the resulting edits are more profound.
Will Grammarly ever replace editors? Absolutely not. AI will aid in editing but only address document mechanics. Using AI to address style, check facts, validate logic, and improve flow will be challenging. Here are two perfect examples. “Who dat over dere?” (Slang) “WWII ended on September 2, 1955.” An obvious fact error will lead to endless complaints about an otherwise impressive document.
Here are three perfectly valid sentences. “Bob walked out the door. Bob enjoyed being outside. Bob was now through the door.” Wow, that’s bad, but not incorrect. Even a so-so editor would catch such significant issues.
I have a unique history with the first commercially available grammar checker. In 1989, my father purchased a standalone DOS program that would take a word-processing document and check it for grammar. I cannot remember the exact name, but I think it was “Gram-check.” It would insert comments as follows. This is a big, big {missing comma} big problem. After the program run, the writer would review their document and search for the {} marks. I felt most of the comments were random, but I blindly accepted every comment.
That same year, I used this program for the final paper in my college psychology class. It was about the relationship between stress and humor. I did hours of research at the library, developed logical arguments, and presented my case. After submitting the rough draft, my professor pulled me aside and warned me she had “significant concerns over my grammar.” So, I used the grammar program, reviewed the document several times, and had a friend with excellent grammar skills edit it. My work impressed him, and he only made a few corrections. The result was a C because of my dismal grammar.
As I was writing this blog, I reviewed my psychology paper. It read alright, and nothing jumped out as dismal. When I ran my paper through Grammarly, the program found flaws. The items were not too severe, and the mistakes were not outrageous. However, for a college student paper, the grammar skill level looked at least average. (There is only one misspelling.) This review confirmed what I thought at the time I wrote the paper. My teacher was bat-crap crazy. However, I passed that class, and that was all that mattered.
I have included my psychology paper at the end of this blog. What do you think? Does the bad grammar pull the paper down to a C?
What does my future hold? I hope grammar checkers improve, and I will keep using a professional editor. The good news is that I am improving, but I have a long way to go. “Is it less or fewer?” To me, it will always be less because fewer sounds incorrect. I should work on that.

You’re the best -Bill
April 07, 2018 Wupdated April 15, 2023

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