Pesky Trolls Return

Backseat Drivers are Powerless.

Vintage Baseball
Nate as the Kid

Words have power.

We need to ensure they have power.

Basic sentence structure places the subject first, in the driver’s seat.

As with every rule in English, exceptions exist where the subject leaves the driver’s seat.

FOUR exceptions immediately come to mind:

  • Modifiers
  • Questions
  • Expletives there and here
  • Passive voice


Adjectives.  Adverbs.  Don’t forget the prepositional phrases (Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house).

And also the verbal phrases, including the verbal participle (taking a backseat) . . . . Jogging slowly through the fog, Marianne saw looming ahead a lurid object.


In most questions the verb is in two parts, surrounding the subject . . . . Will Marianne turn back or continue her morning jog?

With these modifiers and questions, the subject remains in the driver’s seat.  They are all examples of what the Grammar World calls “ACTIVE VOICE”.  Yes, I intended to shout.

Those of us who desire interesting and tightened writing focus our sentences with the active voice.

But what if I want to take the power away from my subject?

Ah. . . .

You want to drive from the backseat?

Sometimes that’s helpful.

Sometimes it’s crucial.

Such as when the vial troll has seized your heroine Marianne from the jogging path, and you need to reassure the reader—in a sneaky manner—that she is still powerful.

Take power from the troll!

But you have to wait for next week to discover how.

Whereby a Fly Inserts Itself into your Expensive Dinner

They’re, Their, There, my Dear

Very few computer software programs can tell us the difference among there, their, and they’re.

When such simple errors occur, many judge the writer as uneducated or careless.  We would rather not communicate either of those judgments.

Know what each means and what each is intended to replace, and then each is easier to remember.


They’re.  That little apostrophe means something is left out–the letter A and the space separating the two words “they are”.

It’s the same as “can’t” for “cannot”.

And “won’t” for “will not”.

In what we’re writing, if we can break the word into “they are”, then “they’re is the choice you make.”


Their.  Many of us default to this possessive pronoun via the process of elimination.

It seems simple enough:  “their” is a possessive pronoun.

“Their emails”

“Their knotty problems”

“The knotty problems are theirs, not mine, thank the good Lord.”

Basically, that is all we must remember.  However, it can be difficult when we are writing on the fly.


There.  It shows placement.  Its friend is “here”.  “Here” is even part of “there”. 😉

“That file is here” >> “That file is there.”

“There” can be a lazy placeholder:  Waiter, there is a fly in my soup.

Take it out >> Waiter, a fly is in my soup.

Ah, now we see something we didn’t anticipate.  Removing “there” causes both subject and verb to become more emphatic (stressed >> important!).  Using “there” removes emphasis from “fly” and “is” . . . which are the two things causing your current unhappiness with your restaurant meal.

Grammar Checker: Vial Trolls, Take That!

Grammar Monster!

You have to be smarter than your computer.  The grammar checker, that is.  You have to be smarter than word processing software.

Read any text of any length, and you will find an error.  No one is Diva of the Universe (although some days I think I can come close).  Errors happen.

As writers, however, we know that any error can throw the reader out of the story.  That’s the LAST thing we want to happen.

The villain walks in and threatens the heroine.  She calls him a “vial, contemptible troll.”

Vial?  Vile is the intended word.  That writer lost all credibility with one word.

That writer may be guilty of over-dependence on the spelling and grammar checker in the software.

MS Word and all other entities built off the same model, whether open shareware or something else, have become very sophisticated.  However—and remember this point ~

The computer is still NOT intelligent.

Anyone who contends with intuitive texting, having words changed completely, will agree with that point.  Computer programmers will input all sorts of code to handle specific grammar problems.

The “machine” can peg off on items that give expected problems, but the software doesn’t “know”; it’s just hitting a predetermined code for a grammar problem.

We do not help ourselves when we depend upon non-intelligent software to find mistakes for us.  We still need to do the “grunt” work:  print it out and read it, word for word.  We won’t catch every mistake.  We should catch enough.

Alfred Smedburg’s 1912 “Bland tomtar och troll”

“But my grammar is weak!” you cry.

Ah, I can help you.

We don’t want to communicate that we don’t care about our work.  We want the reader to think we carefully chose every word.  We should carefully choose every word.

For help, I give you this Blog:  Grammar Monster.  Tidbits of information about the ins and outs of those tricky grammar, usage, and mechanics rules that trip us up . . . especially that computer software.

And over at Writers Ink Books is a whole series of blogs with more tidbits about the craft of writing, from basic sentences to story craft and on to developing characters and images, and a few rules that even experienced writers don’t break . . . like Rule #1: Never lie to the reader.  Try

Do you want to check that I’m right?  Here’s a sample lesson from my days of teaching–you know, when I had to prove to the students early in the year that I knew what I was talking about.

Computer grammer checkers


Grammar Checker: Use It, Don’t Abuse It

While you can enlist the power of the Grammar Checker, you really shouldn’t depend on the Grammar Checker alone.

First, let’s think about writing.

We have different “styles” of writing, just as we have different “styles” of talking.  With friends we can be casual and a little careless with our conversation, utilizing slang and short-cut speech.  With bosses in the workplace, people tend to be more careful about their speech and are even more careful when dealing with clients and customers.  In formal situations–marriages and speeches at conferences/seminars and the like–our speech tends to be extremely formal.

Our day-to-day writing is the same way.  We have text messages and notes to friends, emails in the work setting, and project analyses with a visual presentation and an additional pamphlet/brochure for those who attended the meeting.

A text message is “tossed off”, requiring little thought.  Emails can be tossed off, but most people consider what they need to say and the best way to say it.  People also use better grammar when writing emails and other business communication.  Presentations, however, require carefully thought-out information, highly organized and edited both for content and grammar.

The intuitive grammar checker with our text messages often causes more hilarity and miscommunication than we want–actual proof that grammar is important.

Most emails might have a few errors but not in the crucial comments, which are carefully worded.  Emails can be used in a court of law, and most business people are aware of the necessity of saying exactly what is meant, no more and no less.

Project analyses and presentations will be viewed and judged critically by others–especially customers who keep businesses in business.  These “public” communications will be proofed for mistakes.  The credibility of the business and its employees are judged in a myriad of ways.  If a business puts out a slipshod presentation, most people will believe that the business’ product will be equally slipshod.

As I noted in the introduction to the Grammar Monster blogs, back in August, the English language has too many fluid factors for complete coding of a software program.  While an app’s grammar checker might be sufficient for an email or a draft, the final presentation needs “eyes-on” by the members of the team.  Grammar checkers can’t catch everything.

As proof, on October 31 is a lesson that I used to give to my students:  a paragraph into which I inserted errors that the software’s grammar checker will not spot.  While it finds many errors, it doesn’t find them all.

Check it for yourself.  Type the paragraph below, the one under the heading ‘Grammar Checkers’, into your own word processing software.  Fix all of the errors that you find.  See how your software works for checking errors.  In any MS Word program, you will find the grammar checker under the Review Tab, called “Spelling and Grammar” with a check mark.

Notice that the grammar checker built into this website software found only two errors, with one repeated.

You have an additional week to enlist additional “eyes on”, if you so desire.

At the end of this week, after you have fixed the errors you found and run the grammar checker,  download the document in the Oct. 31 blog.  That document, on its last page, will exhibit what the software “caught” as well as what it missed.

Have fun!

Grammar Checkers

Computer grammer checkers has one fault: they doesn’t decide on the write answer for you.  Designed to identify a potential problem, a writer mistakenly believes that they can depend upon the computer software to spot all their errors.  When running the grammer checker, it is up to the writer to except or reject the programs’ suggestions.  They are often many errors witch the program don’t find.  Being that sometimes your in such a hurry to finish.  If a writer ain’t careful or through, you may miss several misteaks.  To defeat this built-in problem, each writer must became aware of there owing errors and he/she must learn to avoid them.  When submitting essays for evaluation, a writer must remember that content and organization or not the basis only for grading.  Him having correct grammar, mechanics, and usage are of sometimes even grater impotence.