Arguing With Word

As previously stated, I’m working on a novella. The rough draft is finished, but it’s very rough, and a thorough rewrite is proceeding. Said rewrite is going a little slower than I’d like, but for the most part there’s good reason. Aside from the usual typos and word choice snafus and missing words that either have to be ruthlessly exterminated or added back, depending, there’s also a great deal of mythological minutiae that has to be accurately rendered. Including reasonable extrapolation of what might happen when two very different mythological cosmos collide. Additional research was required. Also not inconsiderable fallout from the fact that the story started as one thing and grew into something very different. Can you say continuity error? I knew you could.

I was more or less prepared for all of that. One thing I was not prepared for was wasting twenty minutes of rewrite time arguing with Word over the correct usage of “who” and “whom.” As the rewrite sometimes required, I wrote a new sentence. Word insisted that the sentence was grammatically incorrect. Loath as I am to question a computer’s accuracy, I disagreed. Word insisted I change it. I pushed the little button that supposedly explains why Word wants me to edit my lovely prose on the fly. Word said I was using “whom” as the subject of a clause. I said I wasn’t, I was clearly using “whom” as the object of the prepositional phrase beginning with “with.”

All the while this was going on, I was reminded of how ridiculous the whole thing was by remembering an old George Carlin routine about having an argument with his breakfast cereal. In my defense, I note that at least Word has a rudimentary AI working, which elevates it, in this context, above the level of breakfast cereal, if only barely.

Still, pretty ridiculous.

To cut to the chase, I looked up the grammatical rules online. Remember, I’m from the generation where we still had to break down and diagram a sentence into its component parts, identifying those parts. Doesn’t mean I remember all the rules. But I have a decent ear for the language and was still sure I was right, and told Word to stop arguing with me. This afternoon I related the incident to First Reader, who agreed that I was correct but in addition was able to cite the rule, in the process explaining how Word got confused. “Whom” was part of a short prepositional phrase, which Word mistook for a clause, which demands a subject, which in turn would have called for the nominative, not the objective case. An easy enough mistake for either a human or an algorithm to make.

Regardless, I was right. I hereby claim victory in the Battle of Whom. Which, I reiterate, took twenty minutes of rewrite time when I already should have been in bed two hours before.

It’s amazing I get any work done at all.

2 thoughts on “Arguing With Word

  1. As an old who/whom antagonist myself, I sympathize. Though in my house, it was my daughter who was crowned Grammar Queen of the Universe, and at a very young age!

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