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Why MS Word Spellcheck isn't a Replacement for a Good Dictionary.

(This has been cross-posted to [community profile] fanficrants. If you're seeing it twice, I do apologise).

As I'm no doubt certain long-term readers of my various journals are well aware, I tend to be a bit fussy about word usage. I'm a big fan of the correct word in the correct place, as well as being somewhat intolerant (pronounced "shriekingly furious") about the wrong word being used in the wrong place. Mucking up "definite" and "defiant" because you pronounce "definite" with an "a" and therefore spell it the same way will certaily raise my blood pressure. Ditto using the words "taunt", "taut" and "taught" interchangeably (they aren't interchangeable - they're different words with different meanings). Don't get me started about "lose" and "loose".

This is part of why I feel that a good sized dictionary (and by "good sized", I mean "hardcover, and heavy enough to kill small crawling things") is an essential part of any writer's toolkit.

No, MS Word Spellcheck and Grammar check is not a good substitute. Here's why:

list below the fold )

A good dictionary will give you all the information you need about the words you're using in your fiction writing. It's worth investing in one, and using it as a backup to the spellcheck program in your word processor of choice. Because here's another thing about dictionaries: they're generally created by a committee of people who are interested in words and who have spent their lives being fascinated by words and the way words are used. Dictionaries are created by professional linguists, as opposed to the professional computer programmers and professional managers who create spell-check functions for word processors. I'm more inclined to trust a dictionary to be correct on matters of word choice and usage than a spellcheck program - because a dictionary is more likely to have been edited by people who are interested in more than just the business end of town.

My personal preference is for the Concise Oxford Dictionary, because the bound copy I bought about five or so years back came with a version of the whole thing on disc, designed to be installed onto a computer. I use the PC version as a backup for the spellcheck programs of whichever word processing package I'm using at the time - if the spellchecker picks something out as a possible misspelling, I'll check it against the dictionary. Most of the time, the difference is between UK and US English - I'll be spelling things with the extra "u" or similar, while the word processor tends to have problems with anyone not using US English like they say they're using in their computer settings (I use Commonwealth spellings and US keyboard settings because I'm from Australia - we use dollars and cents here as our default currency, and MS Windows doesn't come with a language setting for "English: Australian"). Rather than getting into a lengthy argument with my word processor, I just double-check things against the dictionary, and spend a certain amount of time telling spellcheck that it's wrong.

[1] Oddly enough, there is an adjective meaning "made of or coloured silver" - it's "silvern". One for the poetically inclined in the FFVII fandom, and hopefully this will prevent me ever having to see "silveret(te)" again.

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Another Very General Fanfic Rant.

So, you write male-male slashfic or yaoi. You're in the middle of writing something hot and heavy in third person (either third-person omniscient or third-person limited). You're referring to each of the characters with the pronoun "he" or "his" or "him".

Do you see a potential problem here?

Somewhat lurid hint below fold )

Can we say "subject-object confusion", kiddies? I knew we could.

Again, character names are useful things. They can prevent your readers from having to be jolted out of the moment by mental images of anatomy which just does not work like that.

(This rant brought to you by entirely too many slashfics where it seems the only way to determine what is being done with which to whom by whom is by backing up and re-reading the paragraph, maybe about three or four times.)

PS: Same rule/problem applies for female-female slash or yuri, just different pronouns. Please, just use the character's names.
PPS: This goes double or treble when you're dealing with more than two characters of the same pronoun-using gender in the same sexual act.
PPPS: Yes, this does still apply when one of the participants has tentacles.
PPPPs: It's also nice to see character names in het, too, particularly when gender games are being played.

[1] Not an actual quote, just a sentence made up on the spot to demonstrate the problem. Now, tell me which one of the characters is moaning, and why?

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A Very Generalised Fanfiction Rant

Okay, this is very general, it isn't aimed at anyone in specific. This is just me getting something off my chest so I don't damn well explode.

Characters have names for a reason. Use them.

Seriously, if I see many more fics where the various characters are referred to by their height, their hair colour, their age, their gender or anything else other than their blinkin' names, I'm going to go potty.

This rant brought to you by far too many fanfics wherein Cloud Strife is described as "the blond(e)" and entirely too many where people try to coin new words to describe the hair colours of Sephiroth and Zack.

(also cross-posted in [community profile] fanficrants on Dreamwidth)

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