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E.C.McMullen Jr.
E.C.McMullen Jr.

E.C.McMullen Jr.
E.C.McMullen Jr.

E.C.McMullen Jr.
E.C.McMullen Jr.
E.C.McMullen Jr. Report by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Copyright 2003 by E.C.McMullen Jr. for feoamante.com

It's Albert Einstien's Birthday today so let's do something smart!

Going over some stories I wrote and printed out back in the days of DOS and Windows 3.11 (when I would write with Notepad and WordPerfect), I am rather amazed at my superior grammar - then. What happened to me? Did I get lazy? Well, in a way, yes.

Before the Internet was what it is today, I wrote and sent letters (what we now call SnailMail) to friends around the world. I wrote so many every week that I started putting stories in there. My stories gradually got so good that my friends wrote me back, insisting that I try and get published. The first story I ever sent out, RATTLESNAKE TIE, was wrote in Notepad and picked up by Easyrider Magazine on the first try. They thought it was "too strong" for their readers and published it in their sister magazine, Biker.

Heady with success, and now wanting to appear professional, I got Microsoft Word and started writing like mad. The new program instantly flagged nearly every sentence and every third or fourth word I wrote and I, believing that the program was written by experts who knew of what they spoke, wrote, and coded, corrected myself - even when it seemed preposterous.

They were experts. The program was created by millionaires and billionaires. They knew more than me and I certainly didn't want to come across as an illiterate, backwoods boob!

I couldn't sell another story for the next 5 years.

Eventually, a writer friend started pointing out my grammatical and spelling errors and every time he did I would say to myself "I know that!"

I did, Microsoft didn't.

Now I not only write like a boob, I talk like one. To cure this, I've stopped relying on Word to do anything other than write. Certainly never to correct me as I relearn everything I used to know and discarded. Word, for all of its bells and whistles, is really pretty useless and only excels at its most basic function, putting what I type on the screen.

Is this a slam on Microsoft? Yes, but they are not solely to blame. I got lazy. I put my trust in others in the easiest way possible, instead of verifying my sources by going to a simple source. A book at my feet or within arm's length on the shelf. It was so easy to rely on Word, and since that was the standard...

I was just told over the weekend that Law firms still rely on Wordperfect, as difficult as it can be (it's quite easy actually, unless you have difficulty learning anything and were weaned on a competing program), because it is ACCURATE.

But is it accurate enough?

Questionable, as enough television interviews with enough lawyers have convinced me that they speak like dolts. Gone are the ancient days when a lawyer was also considered a great orator.

If I want to be a writer and sell and make my living doing this, I need to be sure.

So now I buy actual books.

No, I mean real books.

No, I mean the kind of books that are printed.

On paper, yes.

Yes, like CD read-me manuals except on paper.

Yes, like when you print something out of your printer on paper - those kind of books.

Now that we are on the same page: I buy books like Dictionaries, Thesaurus and, to rebuild the original knowledge, a Merriam-Webster Vocabulary Builder.

I got lazy thanks to the benighted illiteracy of Microsoft Word. Read this article on cnn.com and the next time some editor snidely asks you to "USS" ("Use the Spellchecker, Stupid") reply in your best smarmy tone "I used my dictionary, and that IS how the word is spelled."

And while we're at it: You think it's easy to write a spell checking program for the English language? Check out ENGLISH IS TOUGH STUFF.


This was first posted on MARCH 14 , 2003


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