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May 27 2015

Pronoun Experiment Part 1: The Base Story

I am going to be doing a series of articles on the English Language studying the pronouns from a transgender perspective. For those of you who do not know, I have a pumped up version of Microsoft Word that helps me write in a way that is easier to read. When I write first drafts they are laden with contractions and other things which MS Word would not usually care. Contractions are very difficult to read however so they are not acceptable in formal writing. (Tangent: I wonder if all my blog posts could, or should, be a book someday…) Therefore, I turned up what MS Word cared about, so that I could take those things out of my writing. MS Word has improved my writing 110%; and is a large portion of why this blog is readable today. I have learned a lot from Spelling and Grammar Check… More than I learned from most of my Grammar Teachers in Grade School.

I am going to be using spelling and grammar check from Microsoft Word as examples of certain things in these posts. For those that wish to power up your MS Word like I have there are a series of settings to do that. If you want, your writing to sound completely desensitized like a research paper check all the boxes. However, in my case since it is a little less formal, in one important way, I left one box unchecked… You can find these options in MS Word 2013 under File -> Options -> Proofing Tab -> then there is a settings button… You can search where to find this button in other versions online.

Settings Button

Here are my spelling and Grammar Check Settings (multiple screen shots thrown together kind of poorly…):


SGC Head SGC Require SGC Style 1SGC Grammar SGC Style 2

One of my friends has a Master’s Degree in English. I do not know what he ever expected to do with that… He works in technology right now… He taught college for a while. I asked him to write me a little story about a couple that go out for lunch. When I received the story, I said to myself, “this is perfect!” Microsoft Word said, “Oh, no it isn’t.”

Please, read, the base story:

Pat and Sam could not decide what to do for lunch. She wanted to grab some take out, maybe Chinese, but he wanted to sit down for a nice dinner. It had been a while since they had a nice night out together. They settled on trying out the new Thai place by their house, Arun’s. They took Pat’s car downtown and she found a parking spot right by Arun’s. The hostess sat them in the corner, and turned on a small electric faux candle on their table.

“Romantic” Pat said rolling her eyes

“Hey, those double A’s work hard. I bet they are paid minimum wage”

Pat laughed at Sam’s quick reply. She looked around. The place was made to look a lot nicer than it was. She thought back, what was in this building before? A coffee shop? Some bakery where you designed your own cakes? She could not remember. Goosebumps started to work their way up her arms. It was freezing in this corner. She had forgotten her sweater even though Sam had reminded her to bring it. She always forgot. Pat suggested that Sam loan her his hoodie.

“No way. You are going to get peanut sauce all over it,” He joked.

“You are the clumsy one. Last time we had Asian food, I think you almost stabbed our waiter with the chopsticks.” She said back.

“I don’t see how you are supposed to get the noodles into your mouth with two sticks”

“You are supposed to slurp it. Slurping is good in Asian culture. It shows that you are enjoying the food.

“Oh so you would be a queen of culture in Thailand, I see.”

“Shut up”

“You shut up”

After this exchange, Sam begrudgingly took off his hoodie and passed it over the table.

“You see without that electric candle, we may have burnt down Chicago. Again.” He said

“Oh we started the fire last time?” Pat chided

“Mostly you,” He said, “I think you left oven on”

“Are you calling me a Cow?” She jokingly asked…

Pat then shut up. He did not want to risk hurting her feelings. He started flipping through the menu. Pad Kee Mao, Pad See Ew, something called Thai Spicy… He did not know what any of that meant. The waiter interrupted his thoughts asking what they would have.

Sam ordered a salad and Pad Kee Mao, while Pat said he wanted to try the “Thai Spicy.” The waiter just raised his eyebrows at this and then left.

That is the base story. Did you find the eight grammar errors that Microsoft Word found? Three of them, of two different types, are in the first paragraph even! The first one is relatively straight forward….

Arun's

The second one is just plain funny.Gender Specific Language

MS Word throwing a yellow flag for gender specific language is somewhat funny to me… In a way, that is the point. “Consider the suggestion that includes both men and women.” Host includes both men and women? That’s kind of interesting to me. I, personally, would much rather be a hostess than a host.

The next one happens in paragraph four and is something that I am flagged for all the time. It is one of my most common grammar errors. “I am flagged” from the previous sentence is a prime example of… passive voice.

Passive Voice

The final type of error committed in this story starts in paragraph four as well and happens four times before the end of the story. I make this error commonly as well. When I get emotional, I find that too many periods or question marks find their way into my writing…

Fragment

These errors will remain in the story. I feel that they add purpose and flair to some of the stuff I intend to do.

Also did you see the word queen in paragraph nine? Pay attention to that word; I’m going to have some fun with it later…

The goal of this story, and this experiment, is simple, to rewrite it in various ways. Right now, this story has various pronouns that stand in place of the proper name of a person. Those pronouns are usually taking the form of a “he” or “she” depending on the person’s gender. Can we make it so that the story is equally readable but does not have the gender reliance of these pronouns?

I have also posted a static page to keep track of the project as it goes on. I have disabled comments for this post as there is a private feedback form on the master page. Which you can find here.

 

About the author

Josie

I’ve never been good at writing about myself. I’ve never been good at ‘talking up my strengths’ but at least I should try…

I am a 30 year old (gasp), woman. To me, it is just that simple. My life is slowly coming together into a form where I can be proud to call it my life.

Who am I? I’m a strong, loving woman that was assigned male at birth and is finally correcting that egregious error by biology. For most women if they have an urge like wearing a sundress, they just do it. For my first 29 years on this planet, that wasn’t a possibility.

I write to heal, then publish to inform. I hope my journey can make the journeys of people that come after me just a little less painful.

I also have a ‘day job’ as a Data Center Technician. I do an incredibly physical job lifting fixing and moving servers. I daily, walk into and then maintain ‘the cloud.’ Servers are still quite a bit larger and heavier than your desktop at home. So much so that I am the only woman on my team of 20 and one of 5 in the entire building of about 75. Technology is without a doubt a male dominated industry. Which makes me quite sad.

I wish I could better express who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve done justice to my history, my life, and my story, but for now, this will have to do. To me the most beautiful thing in the world is understanding and empathy. If we can have only one thing for each other person on this planet, I choose empathy.