Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Comma Mistake

I got into a tiff with my word processing program the other day. I've got a new laptop and it came with a lot of features I don't need, like its own opinions. I'm always willing to listen to another point of view for a while, but not if it's going to be yap yap yap all day long.

This is a Mac program, and it is constantly weighing in with what is wrong with my writing. But I'm comfortable in my native language. Why, I'd even say I am above average in it. In fact, it is very uncommon for me to wonder how to phrase something, or spell something, or punctuate something. I know some folks who are even more reliable than I am, but not really that many, if you don't mind my saying so.

Because I used to use Microsoft Word, I'm accustomed to having my prose light up here and there. It's Microsoft's way of saying "Really?" And I check it, and often as not I say Yes, really. I meant to say "recombobulated" or "flappety." And every now and then it catches a typo, for real. There's one word I'm always sticking an extra "m" in, the first time--it escapes me now, but there is one. So it's useful. As long as it doesn't go ahead and correct everything for me without checking in first, I'm okay with it.

The Mac program is willy-nilly retyping everything without permission. I know there's an off switch on that and I plan to flip it, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. And the other day, I typed the following sentence:

        "How wet is it?" we asked.

Stupid program kept capitalizing the "we." I'd fix it, and it would just retort with another capital letter. I'd smack it down, and it would pop right back up. And this went on enough times that a little zephyr of doubt floated into my brain. What if I had it wrong? What if the way I want to write that sentence was never right in the first place?  Just a couple years ago, I discovered I was supposed to capitalize quotations in the middle of a sentence, and that was news to me. So it can happen.

Worse, these hesitations happen more frequently now. It's an age thing. Words come up missing, and I find myself wondering about things I used to know for sure.  It's like being the youngest kid in the family and you say Remember when Uncle Buddy cooked the cow pie in a crust and tried to serve it to Mom, and your older sister says It was pond scum on pizza dough, we don't have an Uncle Buddy, and by the way you're adopted.  It's unsettling.

In this case I was certain my word program had gotten all flustered at my question mark. As far as it was concerned, the question mark meant we were now at the end of a sentence, and it was time to start a new one. With a capital letter. But it was being a real bitch about it. 23 out of every 24 hours I would be confident I was right, but this was that other hour--the dark hour in which I look up "oligarchy" for the thousandth time--and I thought, well, I'll just ask my Facebook friends. Two or three people I trust will confirm I'm right, if I am. It's not such a bad thing to be humble. It's not shameful to admit doubt.

That said, here's a really good cure for humility: go online for advice. Scores of friends weighed in. A thundering majority tried to correct something that wasn't wrong. I was supposed to put "i" before "e" except after Labor Day; I was warned to avoid relative clauses whilst Mercury was in retrograde. There was a fire sale somewhere on commas and people were offering them to me in buckets. "Stick a comma here," someone would say, and someone else would be equally enthusiastic about the comma but insist it go somewhere else. This went on for a while.

I love my friends. I do appreciate all the help. I'm keeping my original sentence as originally written, and--no offense?--I have a whole other idea where you can stick your comma.

34 comments:

  1. Your sentence is perfectly correct the way it is and your Mac program needs to learn that you're the boss here. I'll never have a Mac and here you've highlighted just one more reason why.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't regretted my Mac, but I'll have to delve into those settings. It takes me a long time to get around to things. In general.

      Delete
    2. If you figure out how much time you are spending fighting with the Mac, wouldn't it just be easier (and less frustrating) to fix the dang settings.

      Delete
  2. Murr, I've had a Mac for years, and when I updated ny operating system, I, too, was pissed off about autocorrect. It would sneakily change a word without telling me, changing the entire meaning of a sentence, sometimes turning it into nonsense. But! It can be turned off very easily. Click on Edit, then click on Spelling and Grammar. Uncheck the option for Correct Spelling Automatically. That's it. Now go forth and invent words without snide comments from your laptop!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ironically, my computer was completely silent about my typing in 'ny' instead of 'my'. But that's okay with me.

      Delete
    2. Oh you KNOW that's going to happen when you type a comment like that. It's a guarantee. I did adjust the settings a few days ago and it no longer corrects my spelling, but it still capitalizes inappropriately. Gives me something to feel superior to!

      Delete
  3. It's just Steve Jobs being an asshole from beyond the grave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "ASSHOLE FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE"
      I'm hearing it with the scary movie baritone announcer voice.

      Delete
  4. Sometimes I hit extra letters because my aim is not always great. It's not because I have big fingers, mind you, they are probably average. Since I am over ten years old they are larger than the President's, but nothing special. Spelling I do fairly well, but often question my own punctuation. Back talk from my computer is usually just annoying and I have been known to make threats against it's very life. I have yet to carry them out, but someday...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is an advantage to laptops and tablets. You can throw them a long way.

      Delete
  5. I am like Jono - and put it down to dsylexic fingers. I am also a woeful proof reader. Sometimes suggestions are very welcome. NOT the one the program made to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every now and then I get real balled up in a sentence with too many clauses and I really can't be sure of a correct pronoun. I usually rewrite the sentence.

      Delete
  6. Yep. I put up with that auto-correct nonsense for about 45 seconds, and turned it off years ago.....and haven't looked back. Let me know how you like your Mac. The few times I've used that operating system, I thought it was perfectly fine, but didn't see what all the hoopla about "Mac vs. PC" was all about.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had an iMac for nine years and love it. I had Microsoft Word for Mac put on it because that was what I was used to. I picked up this laptop to replace my fossil Dell in my writing room. The salesman said I could put in Word but now Microsoft charges me for it, and maybe I could try their program ("Pages"). And export to Word any time I want. It works fine. Probably PCs are just as good as Macs now, but when I switched I was really having trouble with the PC and I haven't looked back. Also? I never put any antivirus software on the thing.

      Delete
  7. There are things in this beast that I have never used.And things that I think I know how to use...and then, without telling me, things change other things.The cat turned off the whole shebang the other day and I couldn't turn it on again.(Apparently, you have to hold down the "on" switch for 15 or 20 seconds.)
    And I'm terrified of what might happen with all the computerised bits in a car...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't mind finding the "off" button. on the cat sometimes. And the car? I had a certified lemon of a Mitsubishi for way too many years and when they finally diagnosed it as having a "bad brain," they replaced it with YET ANOTHER ABBY NORMAL BRAIN. So yes. Be afraid.

      Delete
  8. Have always wondered, if you are not discombobulated, or recombobulated either, then are you combobulated, or just bobulated?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the way you think Susan!

      Delete
    2. Don't know why it stuck "delete" in there

      Delete
    3. It sticks "delete" after every comment just in case you sincerely regret it. I believe, to answer the first question, you are combobulated. Bobulated is a WHOLE other thing.

      Delete
  9. The little green squigglies alerting me to non-Microsoft-approved grammar and syntax were always the first thing I got rid of when we got an "upgrade" at the office. Yes, I know it's awkward. That how doctors talk. Just shut up, Word, and by the way, you can shove that talking paperclip where the sun don't shine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See, right there? I haven't had to see Mr. Clippie for a good long time. A vote for Mac right there.

      Delete
    2. Remember the Microsoft dog Rover who first appeared in Windows 3.1? He actually used to go hide behind MS Bob's couch when he couldn't be of any help. It was funny, at least the first time.

      Delete
    3. I had forgotten about Mr. Clippie, it's been so long since I used Microsoft. Man, he was annoying. Almost, but not quite as annoying as the frequent viruses it would pick up. I am very pleased with MAC, all in all. Would never want to go back to Windows.

      Delete
    4. All those things were fun, the first few times. Remember when we didn't know what to do with our computers except buy them cool screensavers? I still had that Dog on my antique Dell until a few months ago when I swapped it out for the new laptop. It was just a writing computer with no access to the internet but even so it was starting to bog down and threaten to crash with EVERYTHING I EVER WROTE on it, and that dog was probably too old to find anything again.

      Delete
  10. I think you use just enough commas. A pox on the little dickenses, anyway. Too, your word selections are great, recombobulated or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I do use fewer commas than many, but more than Brian Doyle, may he rest in peace.

      Delete
  11. Aaargh! I can't stand writing programs that change stuff! Or that even SUGGEST changes! I think they can be useful for folks who want help but to me those squiggles are like mosquitoes. I just wish I could smack 'em like I smack skeeters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps a fly strip hanging over the computer?

      Delete
    2. Even they can be turned off if you go to Edit, then Spelling and Grammar, and uncheck everything.

      Delete
    3. I did that, but it still capitalizes things without my permission.

      Delete
  12. I'm fine with Word's gentle suggestions on my PC -- even used some of them a few times but not so much that it gets a writing credit.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Microsoft Word has insisted for many years that it knows how to spell my last name....and it ain't the spelling I am accustomed to. It is a quirky little name from Norway that my husband shared with me and ,for the most part, I have enjoyed having it. My adorbs and savvy grandson eventually performed magic and talked MS into being reasonable. All those Rice Krispie bars and cans of ravioli have finally paid off!

    ReplyDelete