“four character reference letters”

A document referred to someone providing

four character reference letters

Microsoft Word’s grammar checker suggested changing that to

four-character references letters

Chengyu are traditional Chinese idiomatic expressions, most of which consist of four hanzi characters. A four-character reference letter might read:

To whom it may concern,
Fred is crouching tiger, hidden dragon
Yours sincerely,
A Manager 


3 thoughts on ““four character reference letters”

  1. Microsoft Office’s grammar checker is definitely not ready for prime time.

    At my last job, I frequently composed emails to my group that instructed them on the need to login with an administrative account in order to perform some task. Our administrative accounts ended in the letter A, so we referred to them as our A accounts. But every time I wrote that you must login with your A account, MS changed it to “you’re a account.” (As if “account” was a euphemism for “asshole”?) If I put quotes around the A, writing that you must use your “A” account, that prevented the problem. Odd that merely capitalizing A didn’t help.

    Their spelling checker was also a nuisance for me as a choral director. If I programmed Purcell’s “Rejoice in the Lord alway”, MS invariably changed the last word to “always.”


    • My current editing tasks don’t actually involve correcting spelling or grammar, so it would make sense if I turned it off. I really don’t know how these work, so I shouldn’t throw stones. Somehow, they have to program a grammar checker to recognise that ‘four(-)character idioms’ are different from ‘four character references’. (More facetiously, that ‘four armed men’ are not ‘four-armed men’.)
      I have always (<haha) been puzzled by 'alway'. Surely it was always (I've got to stop doing this) 'all + ways' and not 'all + way'.


  2. I always (alway?) have the spelling and grammar checkers turned off. It’s the autocorrector that is at fault. That can be controlled if you go deeper into the options, but i never bothered to do that.

    Btw, for some reason you’re the only site that is accepting my comments. I sent three comments to Language Log over the past few weeks and none of them have showed up. I doubt they are being removed for content, considering some of the ones that do make it into the blog.


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