Many of the things I am writing in Scrivener are being submitted for publishing. To avoid embarassment, I like to make sure that I correctly use some of those commonly misused words (think accept/except as an example). The Chicago Manual of Style (Section 5.202) has an excellent list (and others are available as well). A useful feature would be to have a function go through and highlight all of those words that are listed so that an author can go through and make sure they are used properly (or if they are breaking a
rule, used in the manner the author intends).
I was thinking an Applescript might be able to do this as well, but did not see the ability (readily) to highlight a word that matches in a list.
I just have to weigh in on this one quick, because MS Word does something similar and it has misled millions of people who aren’t sure about their usage.
Because Word is programmed by people who don’t know the correct usage, it will flag there/their/they’re or it’s/its as though they are wrong, and it will without fail SUGGEST SUBSTITUTING THE INCORRECT WORD FOR THE CORRECT ONE. And people who don’t know better will do so.
If you do substitute as advised, in a few moments it will underline that word and suggest the previous one, making you feel that one of you is a moron (guess which one?).
I’m sure it is possible to program something that will consider the meaning and context of the sentence in determining what word is correct, but it hasn’t been done yet.
In the meantime, writers need to consult Strunk and White and learn the usages.
If I read captbrando correctly, it was a question merely about flagging potential trouble spots, not about trusting a program to identify the correct alternative. And most of us do, in the rush of inspiration or the push of deadlines, once in a while insert an unneeded apostrophe, or omit a needed one. I trust my own eyes to find them, but other writers might be willing to slog through a catalogue of the candidates, just to be sure.
sorrel is absolutely right about Word, that you follow any of its advice at your peril. One of our obligations as writers is to keep language vital and flexible and unpredictable, so that neither Word nor any other program will be able to select the “right” word for us.
The best proof-reader I ever met – back in the days when we pulled proofs off the lead in the print shop – was a man who read everything backwards. Literally. That made him look carefully at each word, without getting caught up in the flow of his own or someone else’s prose.
I realise that, but it’s a slippery slope - if you use a computer to spot ‘commonly misspelled words’, why not use it to suggest the ‘right’ word? And then you’re back at Word’s horrendous grammar checker again.
Sure, but (and as an old-school hot-metaller, you’ll already know this, but I present for the benefit of others… ) there’s a difference between the odd typo, like a misplaced apostrophe or whatever, and incorrect usage of words. Anyone can miss a simple typo, especially when they’ve been staring at the same copy all day, and editors know that. The right word, wrongly spelt is forgiven.
But incorrect usage - that is, the wrong word, rightly spelt - won’t be forgiven. And these errors jump off the page, because they’re so much more obvious when read in context than an incorrect apostrophe or missplaced letter.
Tough love: anyone who keeps using “except” instead of “accept”, or can’t figure out “their/they’re”, needs to sit down and start learning. Once you actually learn the correct usage of these ‘common error words’, you’ll never need a list. And editors will love you for it.
To rephrase, I am only looking for the ability to highlight those words so that I can go back through and make sure I am using them correctly. I would envision this feature using multiple grammar lists, or even custom ones. I agree that a correction is not desirable here, and I’ve seen MS Word do a poor job (at times) with corrections.
At a minimum, maybe this is a feature request to allow a text highlight to be performed via Applescript and I (or anyone) could extend Scrivener to do this.
Part of my motivation for this feature is to help me learn about the English language. I’m not technically a student (not enrolled in any university), but am always interested in improving my skills. Writing is one I am working on, and highlighting commonly misused (or out of style) words and phrases will help teach me what is correct and what is incorrect.
I suspect that that that you envisage — written deliberately 'cos any grammar/style checker would throw up its hands in horror, but it is totally natural English — would be more than could be done easily with Applescript and would require a considerable amount of work. And whose grammar(s)? Whose style book(s)?
I’m with Antony. I do use the spell-checker, but laboriously educate it in all the words and forms I know to be correct that it doesn’t recognise … but I abhor all grammar checkers. And it seems to me that style checkers are like these “professionally designed templates” … yes, if you like them, they look great, but in the end one takes one look at a document and says “Ah, such and such an application and such and such a template”! Everything begins to look the same.
I think you’re much better off with whatever book(s) … Strunk and White — never used any personally, but then I’m an old codger who was taught those things at school — or whatever. And read, read, read and learn from your mistakes. We learn from our mistakes, not our successes.
My 2 角’s worth.
PS By the way, the grammar checker in Leopard drives me mad … it’s just told me “it’s” in “you know that it’s time to do it” is ungrammatical. I hadn’t turned it off in Adium!
Well, one would hope that such a teacher would educate their kids about such words, but I see your point. And I do feel for those who may have had poor teachers. Certainly, I learnt most of what I know about grammar while at school, and from my own reading.
Which is the other solution, of course - many people widen their vocabulary, especially when young, by reading. I realise many teachers have difficulty persuading their students to read, particularly for leisure, but one would assume any aspiring writer would be diving into books at any given opportunity.
Yes, one would thing children would learn to read and write at school. Having worked at a college, however, I can tell you that it was not unusual for high school graduates to come in with subpar skills in English and math. In fact, the numbers were quite astonishing: more than 80% could not qualify for college level English, close to 90% could not qualify in math. In the end, it often comes down to doing for oneself.
On a side note: Even as a professional writer, my own household has not been immune. in this video game saturated world, tt was difficult to get my sons interested in reading for pleasure; it took a well-written vampire series to finally stir one son’s interest and, thankfully, he developed a reading habit that continues in other area. Hence the power we have as writers and storytellers–if we take the pains to learn our craft. No software program, not even the brilliant Scrivener, can take the place of building our own skills.
I heard/read an interview with the Doctoral students admissions tutor at one of the big London University colleges who said that some staggering number of candidates – well over 50% – went straight into the bin because of the exceedingly poor English in their application letters.
And as a former lecturer at another London university, in many cases, undergraduate command of English left much to be desired.
Ah … what it is to be an old curmudgeon … perhaps when I return to the UK, we should move to Tunbridge Wells, so I could honestly sign myself “Disgruntled of …”!
I am a young curmudgeon I think I have stumbled upon a solution to the reading problem.
[size=150]Unplug the TV![/size]
My poor kids watch NO TV. Neither do my wife or I. A typical novel makes that family round in about 5 days. As in we ALL read it. As an example of novel I would offer the current item that we are discussing Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. Wife read it for “appropriateness” (kids are 10 and 14) on Tues/Wed, daugh-ditor Weds/Thurs, son (the 10 year old) Thurs-Sat, and I received it Sat evening. We set time aside to discuss each book. Sounds great doesn’t it?
Here is the problem: their “peers” are now holding them back educationally (out side of the mathematics). Even worse, the disparity between written reports submitted by my kids and their “peers” has caused numerous accusations of “parental interference”. Part of the “proof” levied against my offspring is that they are “normal” and “involved” in class and, in the words of the high school councilor, not exhibiting the “kind of introverted behavior associated with children how spend excessive time reading.”
So as I see it the entire “education” system in the US is stacked against the folks who actually read UNTIL the university level. Let’s not even get into the whole “teaching from common experience” crap where TV and video games are the basis of the lessons. If I thought private schools would be any better I would go that way. To date all the schools we have looked at are not that much different.
For the record we watch movies and play a limited number of video games. The “no TV” mentality isn’t a control thing, as much as a “there are better things to do with your time” thing. Plus with all the decent shows getting released on DVD we can watch them on our schedule without needing to pay for cable.
Speaking of an indictment of society, a few weeks ago I accompanied a friend to the award ceremony of a local essay contest in which she had an entry. As minor local celebrity after minor local celebrity followed each other in speechifying and awarding, I noticed that not only do most people speak ungrammatically, but those under 30 have no grasp of idiom, rhythm, and pace in the language they have been speaking since birth. These American English speakers handled the language as though it were not their native one. I know many people don’t read any more, but they still go to the movies and talk with their friends, I thought.
I noticed the speaker quoting Dickens’ Tiny Tim, “God bless us every one.” Only he said it as, “God bless us everyone,” with the same intonation used in, “Everyone gets a prize.” But it’s not the same, not at all. The next speaker mentioned a prize awarded “post humusly.” Oh, stop me, please.
Here in Idaho we have the disappearing auxiliary verbs, as in, “The living room needs painted.”
Of course this pales next to the local newscaster who said the snow plows would tackle the artilleries first. God only knows when they got to the arterials.