Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Word Gets In the Way

I have this recurring nightmare that one day I might get ensnared in a Microsoft Word loop and never extricate myself from it. It seems that every so often the Word spellchecker advises a change, which I dutifully make, and then it tells me to change it back again. And when I do that, there’s that red squiggly line once more, directing me to change it to what it was previously…and so on and so forth. This ping-pong could, in fact, go on forever. I could sit at my computer and make these changes indefinitely.

Really, Word is rather insidious as it goes about its business, often recommending changes that are just plain wrong. But what concerns me most of all is how this software program gets under one’s skin and plays mind games. Word has the uncanny knack of creating doubt. It has the power to make you believe that what you absolutely know to be true—a correct spelling for instance—maybe isn’t true after all.

I got caught in a particular loop yesterday when Word informed me that “store owner” was one word. While I was almost certain it was two words, I nonetheless bowed to the change pending further investigation on my part. But then Word told me that “storeowner” was wrong and that it was indeed two words. FreeDictionary.com actually supplies a definition for “storeowner” as one word, but the consensus spelling is two words. Word is confused and so am I.

For some reason, all of this reminded me of a disturbing episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, where this thoroughly rotten soul, being hunted down for his crimes against humanity, wished to be absorbed into a particular painting—a resplendent portrait of sheer bliss and absolute serenity. It was a Mr. Limpet sort of thing, but with a really creepy edge. And, yes, the man got sucked into a painting all right, but not the idyllic one he had desired. Instead, he became part of a painting that portrayed horrible suffering, which is where he would now be confined in perpetuity.

I’d hate to be caught in a loop and forevermore be compelled to change “store owner” to “storeowner” and then back to “store owner.” Perhaps I should just fast-forward myself out of these snafus when they occur, but Word tells me on one page of a manuscript that “fast-forward” is indeed hyphenated, but leaves another “fast forward” uncorrected without the hyphen. Insidious indeed.

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