For a long time, I managed to ignore Microsoft Word’s grammar check, but recently it’s been catching my eye, and I wish it wouldn’t because it’s bloody horrible! I thought about collecting all instances of its bad grammar advice, but that would be too depressing, so I’ll limit myself to two. In both cases, the problem is not that it’s wrong, but that it makes the rule wider and more absolute than it should be.
The first was a sentence like ‘Take care of yourself’ – by any standards perfect English. Nope. A reflexive pronoun must have an antecedent noun phrase or pronoun. This may be true for statements, but it isn’t for imperatives, in which the subject ‘you’ is usually omitted. It did accept ‘You take care of yourself‘ but is that a statement or an imperative?
The second was a sentence like ‘Don’t you want to learn English?’ – again by any standards perfect English (though in general I have a personal preference against negative questions). Again, nope. To be fair, it says that contractions are less formal rather than non-grammatical. Firstly, how does it know what level of formality I’m/I am writing? (PS I was, in fact, writing role-play dialogues, deliberately in standard spoken English.) Secondly, that may be true for statements, but isn’t/is not for questions, especially negative questions. We certainly don’t/do not say or write ‘Do not you want to learn English?’ and almost certainly don’t/do not say or write ‘Do you not want to learn English?’.
First thing tomorrow, I’m going to find out how to turn it off.