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Another Thing Spell-check Doesn’t Know

By Theda C. Snyder

Grammarians have long noted errors in Microsoft’s Spelling & Grammar checker. For example, the programmers seem to have overlooked the concept that an adverb can modify the following adjective. Not every such word order requires a hyphen. Now I am finally fed up with spell-check’s inability to recognize an indirect object.

You Can Choose to Be Wordy

Follow this train of thought. Intransitive verbs don’t take objects, as in: Martha laughed. Transitive verbs act on direct objects, as in: Martha told jokes. Indirect objects receive direct objects: Martha told me jokes.

In more complex sentences, spell-check doesn’t know the difference between a direct and indirect object; it flags the indirect object as a possible grammar error and suggests adding a comma to treat it as a direct object.

A simple example of a sentence with an indirect object could be:

He gave me it.

Or you could add to your word count by using a prepositional phrase:

He gave it to me.

“Me” becomes the object of the preposition “to.” This construction has the benefit of fooling the checker, but who’s in charge of writing this sentence anyway — you or the computer?

By changing the word order, you also change the sentence’s emphasis. “He gave Dorothy the broomstick” emphasizes that it was Dorothy who got the broomstick, not the scarecrow, tinman or lion. “He gave the broomstick to Dorothy” calls greater attention to the broomstick as opposed to the pail of water.

An Example IRL

Today I wrote:

Some attorneys may refer you business based on seeing you speak at a conference.

MS Word flags the first “you” as a possible grammar error and suggests adding a comma after the “you,” which makes no sense at all. This “you” is the indirect object in the sentence, “you” being the person receiving the direct object, the business. (The second “you” is the subject of an objective clause, but let’s not go there today.)

This example spotlights the danger in simply accepting any of Word’s spelling and grammar suggestions. Instead, avoid errors in your writing by sticking with the terse, perfectly correct version of your sentence with an indirect object.

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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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