Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Friend or Foe

I was watching some kids build sand castles together on the beach over the weekend, and I got all nostalgic about how nice it was being a kid when friendships were so simple. I started thinking back to my childhood friendships, and I realized something: the course of true friendship never did run smooth. I specifically remember talking shit behind a friend’s back as early as the third grade.

One woman who has had a particularly difficult time maintaining friendships is Paris Hilton. She has feuded with Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, and most famously, Nicole Richie.

I am actually surprised that Paris has experienced so much friend drama because she is the only person I have heard of who has a system in place to test whether or not potential friends have her best interest at heart. Here’s what she does:

"I have this great test to see if a girl's a real friend. When we're shopping I'll pick out an outfit that I know looks hot and one that is awful. If my friend says the bad one looks good, I know she's not a good friend."

Now that I think about it, I can see how this backfired; there is one major flaw in her logic. This is what she thinks is hot:

I’m afraid she may have mistakenly written off a lot of potential friends who did, in fact, have her best interest at heart by suggesting that she perhaps choose a dress that's not held together by safety pins or that perchance she try a thinner belt or that she may want to seriously consider an accessories reduction.

The moral of the story: unless you have a pretty strong grasp of the subject at hand, you may not know whether the advice you are receiving is valid or not.

This is the problem I have with Microsoft Word’s Grammar Checker and other grammar checking software. Much of the advice they give is misleading or confusing if you don’t already have a fairly sophisticated understanding of grammar.

Blindly trusting Grammar Checker can be dangerous because sometimes it actually gives the wrong advice, or it recommends a sentence that is technically correct but doesn’t quite capture the tone of the writing. And recently, one of my colleagues and I trialed this new grammar software called Grammarly.com. Like Grammar Checker, some of its suggestions were also flat out incorrect, and because its explanations require its users to have a fairly sophisticated understanding of grammar concepts and jargon, I'm not sure it will be helpful to those who aren't grammar savvy.

Do you agree? Are the existing grammar checkers too sophisticated for grammar neophytes? Or am I just talking shit again?


Duncan D. Horne said...

Yes I agree. The grammar checkers are a waste of time and I always have red squiggles under my words even when I know they are perfectly correct. This is particularly annoying when I'm typing poetry, which of course, is a little more flexible in the grammar corner!

Duncan In Kuantan

Kelly said...

Grammar checker and spell checker need to be double checked. It's good to notice some mistakes, but others are overlooked!
And Paris. I just can't stand her!

Rachael said...

Yes! I worked hard to convince my students that they were actually smarter than the computer, because they could understand nuance, whereas the computer just recognizes clumps of letters. And why does Microsoft have such an aversion to passive voice??

Dylan Fitzgerald said...


I have been known to speak aloud to grammar checker on occasion. As in, "Actually, that subject-verb agreement is JUST FINE, thanks."

notesfromnadir said...

That grammar checker can be very helpful at times. Other times it scolds me for no discernible reason!

I forgot about that Paris & Nicole show--yes, I really did watch it! :)

the late phoenix said...

well, if YOU became the human computer behind Grammar Checker, i could trust again

paris taught me two things: wal-mart sells walls, and the "that's hott" scourge that now plagues our tongues

Carolyn Abiad said...

Grammar checker only catches an odd thing once in a while and fails miserably with my real problems. Huh! Real problems. As if grammar checker has a remedy for those...

Stephanie Faris said...

The way she determines a "true friend" is just as shallow as the rest of her life. THAT is her problem. If you don't even know what a real friend is (and, no, it's not just to tell you whether you look hot or not), how can you be a real friend yourself?

Jeffrey Beesler said...

I have this test to determine whether or not I can trust grammar check. It's the word "it's". If grammar check tells me that I shouldn't use the apostrophe when it's clear as a cleaned window that I mean the contraction, then it's not a good friend to me.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think I was trying to type a comment but I'm told many of the comments disappeared yesterday? So I'll try again. My comment was that when Paris bases her friendship decisions on something so shallow, she probably ends up with friendships that are shallow in themselves. She has no idea what a true friend is.

Jaya J said...

i hate that Paris Hilton show ! urgggh.
you're right about spell checks. my spelling is going down the drain now :p

Glynis said...

Grammar checkers have had me pulling my hair out! I am weak in the grammar area, but even I could see the errors some of the software products produced.

Ellinor Forje said...

I usually run words or sentence on google. Your header is soo cute btw! Thanks for the sharing the write up and drop by me too, soon.


Theresa Milstein said...

I remember hearing Paris's method of determining true friends. In fact, she had a whole TV show to find a BFF with just such a test. Her "bad" outfit looks just like her "good" outfits here.

Word grammar check leaves a lot to be desired. You're not talking shit.

And you can trust me. I'm a real friend.