1. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Spell checker makin’ me mad

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by DragonGrim, Sep 11, 2009.

    It’s saying my sentence is bad. It happens once and awhile and I don’t see nothin wrong. This is a direct paste:

    He felt a sting as an arrowhead grazed his arm and then stuck into a man standing behind him at a swivel cannon.

    It underlines “at a,” saying it doesn’t agree with the noun.
     
  2. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hate grammar checks on word programs. They suck. That said, I can kind of understand this one. The sentence made me stumble for a second and I thought it would be a little more clear if it was written "He felt a sting as an arrowhead grazed his arm and then stuck into a man standing at a swivel cannon behind him."
     
  3. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    It didn't change anything. Even if i take it out.
     
  4. K~la
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    K~la Senior Member

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    I know how you feel. Many times technology isn't better than basic human knowledge.
     
  5. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Microsoft Word likes the sentence just the way it is...at least, my version of Microsoft Word with my settings.

    Charlie
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You must understand that parsing human grammar is non-deterministic. That means a program cannot in all cases determine whether a sentence is grammatically correct or not. It is also impossible for a human analyst to parse all possible sentences for grammatical correctness also.

    There is enough aqmbiguity in word semantics and even what part of speech a word is in a particular context to make te problem open-ended.

    Human languages fall into a category known as context sensitive grammars. In the general case, such grammars are not always parsable to one parse tree.

    Sorry to get so technical, but it may set your expectations to a more reasonable level for grammar checking tools. They can assist you, but they are inherently limited and fallible.
     
  7. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I don’t expect too much. I know you can’t rely on a spell check to solve your problems. But they usually don’t pick out a problem that doesn’t exist.

    I think it is the word cannon. Earlier, a replaced the word with banana, and the underline went away. I think it is thinking of cannon as cannon law.

    Charlie: I have 2007, probably older
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That would be canon law, actually. Different spelling. However, adjacent spaces in the middle of a sentence might be flagged as a minor grammar error.
     
  9. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Don't forget to change it back.

    He felt a sting as an arrowhead grazed his arm and then stuck into a man standing at a swivel banana behind him.

    Swivel banana? That would make for a very interesting story. :D :p

    I'm using Microsoft Word 2000. Cog might be onto something with the spaces. Something simple like that can drive a person crazy.

    Then again, I've found that software sometimes acts unexpectedly. If you know your sentence is right, you don't want to waste too much time with it.

    Charlie
     
  10. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    :DI don't know. I think i like swivel banana. It might change the whole tone of the book
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it might have been due to the lack of a comma separating the adverbial clause, 'at a swivel cannon'... and/or the computer may be telling you that 'behind him' and 'at' seem contradictory...
     
  12. shawsend
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    shawsend Active Member

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    Isn't "at a swivel cannon" a bit awkward? It seems to be using swivel cannon as a place and not a thing that it really is. Is the phrase not a euphemism?

    How about:

    He felt a sting as an arrowhead grazed his arm and struck a man standing near a swivel cannon behind him.
     
  13. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    So is the man behind him, or the swivel cannon?

    Ambiguous.

    Charlie
     
  14. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I think "at" is appropriate.

    A swivel cannon, or say a machine gun on a tripod in modern times, is a position that a soldier takes. One would not be positioned near a machine gun, but could be positioned at a machine gun.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I think Maia is on the right track here.

    Remember that grammar is a complex thing and is filled with little idiosyncrasies and things which are not intuitive. No grammar checker is going to be 100% capable of tracking all the vagaries of the English language. It may simply have gotten confused the the 'behind him' and the 'at' used together in this context.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in which case, isn't 'standing' superfluous?
     
  17. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    That’s a good question, but I don’t think so because you could lay prone at a machinegun if it were low to the ground. Now the swivel cannon on an old ship was mounted high enough to fire over the gunwale, so the information could be useful to the reader for visualization reasons.
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    All right, my mind is made up.

    Stick with the banana.

    :p
     
  19. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    A sting burned his arm as an arrowhead grazed it and then pierced a man standing behind him, mounting a swivel cannon.

    This solves the problem, but then it underlines a swivel because it's stupid. Even if you put, who was mounting a swivel cannon.
     
  20. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    The problem is that the correct name for the cannon is swivel gun. Change that. You'll probably then need to explain what a swivel gun is.

    Also, instead of the word "at", I think "manning" or "operating" might work better.
     
  21. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Actually, I accomplished explaining what the gun is by calling it a cannon. The reason it is called a swivel gun is at sea all cannons are referred to as “guns.” But the narrative is through the eyes of a landsman, and even if it wasn’t, using the term “cannon” out of dialogue is fine.

    Sometimes all you need is a preposition. I would use either of those terms in a different situation, but here I thought, since the battle raged all around, that it was a given that the crew manned their stations rather than anything else – such as cleaning the gun or whatever.
     
  22. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    MY problem with the sentence is that him feeling a sting in his arm because of the arrow grazing him is not related to the arrow piercing a man behind him, so the sentence reads long and a bit awkward.

    I would separate it, like this, perhaps:

     
  23. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that's not bad. I'll think about it
     

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