I am, stubbornly, a believer in my own writing. It’s full of violations of basic grammar and other rules, but it’s mine and I like it, so I’m going to keep doing it. That’s not to say I can’t write in other styles when the project requires it, just that when taken off someone else’s leash I’m going to give the reins over to what sounds right to me, which is a rough equivalent of what it sounds like in my head.
So I reacted…poorly…when I saw headlines yesterday like the following: Google Docs to Use AI To Fix Grammar
As I said on Twitter, oh piss all the way off.
This sounds like a good idea, which is why it likely received approval from Google’s product managers. Who wouldn’t like a little help in becoming a better writer? Why risk sending that freelance piece to your editor with a few errors when Google’s helpful AI – or the systems powering Grammarly and other software – can point them out and fix them for you? Sounds great, right?
Except that it’s yet another example of technology whose ultimate goal is to homogenize us all.
What you call “grammatical errors” I call “writing style.” That’s not just applied to my own work, either, it’s to everyone else’s as well. The line between “error” and “personality” is sparingly thin to the point it’s non-existent.
That’s not to say that many people couldn’t be better writers. Writing well is a skill often identified as the most crucial to success in the professional world. Even if you don’t make a living publishing your writing in some manner, you’re still responsible for emails, reports, status updates and other communications that involve the coherent assembly of words.
It’s those people this is likely aimed at. The help it provides them, though, is proportional to the damage it will do to anyone who has cultivated and created their own writing style and voice. It will be one more tool that either needs to be turned off or ignored, lest it dilute what should be unique. Mediocre perfection is vastly inferior to sloppy genius.
I use Grammarly and often take suggestions from it as well as whatever has been underlined in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, but I ignore those suggestions just as frequently. You can’t tell me how to write, technology, and I will hang on to my dangling modifiers, odd non-sequiturs, questionable word choice and other quirks like they’re the last sentence-ending prepositional phrases on Earth
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.