March 06, 2008

Some egg preceded every chicken

I just noticed (I was forced by a joint project to spend some time messing with the vile Microsoft Word) that if you type this:

Every chicken must logically have been preceded by an egg out of which it developed.

Microsoft Word's grammar checker will (if you have foolishly left it switched on) underline the sentence with a wavy green line, and if you run a Spelling and Grammar check to see why, it will recommend that you change this sentence (it's a passive, you see, and all passives are bad juju) to the following:

An egg out of which it developed must logically have preceded every chicken.

It will also recommend changing Every incarcerated prisoner in California is housed by some penal institution, which is true, to the "corrected" version Some penal institution houses every incarcerated prisoner in California, which is false.

Language Log's free online grammar-checking service hereby recommends that you do not follow Word's advice on such matters.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at March 6, 2008 07:20 AM