NVDT #100 – Writerly Concerns – Word Games

Words, as a topic, have cropped up a good deal lately. If I’m not arguing with ProWritingAid, I’m hunting through the Urban Dictionary or trying to figure out why three spellings of ‘chauffeur’ all seem to be correct as none of the three variations generate a red bad spelling squiggle.

I don’t really argue with PWA. Arguing with software is a waste of time and downright stupid. I will eyeball the running report in the sidebar and go “Oh yeah?”. The latest was dealing with a split infinitive. Their suggestion was “Never! You’ll look like the world’s biggest dumb ass if you don’t rewrite it!” It wasn’t in dialog, so I had to check it out. However, it was a character summarizing the contents of a letter. What I wanted required the adverb between the to, and the verb, or it didn’t “read” correctly. I recalled Elmore Leonard’s wisdom–“I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”–and I split the damn infinitive. After all that, I remembered the most famous infinitive split ever, “To boldly go…”. Boldly to go, to go boldly. Nah. Split that fucker, and carry on.

Here’s another one (unless you read YA fantasy or are under, say, 30). Voidless. Contextually, it described someone’s sleep. I thought, WTF? Voidless? Void is nothing. The suffix -less implies without. Sleepless. No sleep. Weightless. No weight. My logic said “Don’t use this word in Scrabble”. The logic voice also said voidless would mean without void (nothing), so whoever it was had sleep without void. Troubled, bothered, disrupted sleep. Hell no. It means less than void. Like nothingness compounded. Don’t believe me? Here’s the Urban Dictionary definition, complete with original poor grammar.

adj. A noun and or verb that is simultaneously negative and void being that it is lesser than nothingness.
The examples that were given are classic “let’s make up a word because we have no vocabulary” because in each example given, the word devoid (without) would have sufficed. Except this one–This week’s writing assignment-fix this-  The voidless tone of the mans voice confirmed that he was both shaken and enraged by his current situation.

But wait-there’s more. I mentioned the word chauffeur. Depending on what software is checking, it can have 2xf,  1xf, fer, fuer, feur. Huh? Forget that. What about (on my computer) three different variations on combos like window sill, door post, air conditioning or conditioner, hand brake. I don’t recall which is which, but in those and many other instances they can be split as above, combined or “didn’t you mean to hyphenate?”. And not remembering which I believed last time means I have to pick one to proof my documents.

Grammar is a form of retentive insanity and I’m glad I don’t understand it. I’m curious if there’s a free standing grammar checker. I just got the choices to combine or hyphenate both free standing and grammar-checker. I’m going to leave them as a literary middle finger. I’d like a grammar engine that pushes all the others aside and takes over. Or maybe, since I haven’t paid for it in a couple of years, I should uninstall Grammarly so I’ll only have to watch PWA, Microsoft and Scrivener duke it out.

Published by

Phil Huston


13 thoughts on “NVDT #100 – Writerly Concerns – Word Games”

  1. I truly enjoy these glimpses into your writing rightly-ness. It was really hard not to call it a neurotic process, which I try not to use to describe anything other than my own behaviors. Why don’t people like being called neurotic? Outside of NYC, it seems to be such a pejorative word.
    Anywho and FWIW, I tried to guess the correct definition/context of “voidless” as I was reading, pretty much assuming “devoid” would suffice in most cases. I ended up guessing it would be something clinical, like a “voidless sleep” meant not waking up to pee. Remember those nights? Me, neither. But, yeah, I’ve been told to “void” my bladder by medical personnel before, so that’s where my context cues originated. Obviously, my guess was wrong…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your’s and mine both. “Lesser than void”? I’m not too retentive, I just have various “suggesters” depending on where I’m writing. I notice it most when I sketch in Word, dump it in Scrivener and over to WP and door post becomes doorpost until the next one suggests door-post and the next back to the original door post. In a way it’s reminiscent of creating content for $ when the art director runs you around in circles for two weeks until the last-minute and ends up using what you brought in first.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The gap between the spoken and written word continues to widen. I wonder why that is. Is it due to more information being communicated through writing?
    Shofur, that’s the way it should be spelt, if all one had to do was speak it.
    Then I think of all the fucked up features of the English language. For instance: all these homonyms, are they there to induce enhanced meaning purely through different spellings?
    I’m bored with these boards, bitched the carpenter.
    Write the right way first and ewe won’t have two edit ever again. Read, it hurts to read. Spoken, flows without paws.

    I suspect this divergence will only grow. Emoji-speak to pollute our already tainted communication stew. Esperanto’esque blending across languages. See? Si’? Sea? “C”?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t need a grammar checker, I just wait ten years before looking it over again and all becomes painfully clear.

    Wouldn’t “voidless” be the lack of a void, meaning there isn’t a void…? Why try and make a word seem fancier when you’re really just making it redundant?

    What interests me are the subtleties in the way we pronounce homophones. Like how “hairy” sounds different than “Harry.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That subtlety is exactly what’s wrong (so far) with text to speech. Pronunciation doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s contextual. “You” is another one we shift around. We modulate the tonality/timbre of expression based on context. On the input, or listening side, the interpretation is dependent on those subtleties which is why the best use of speech technology at this point is for the speech impaired or training videos.


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