The G Files

The G Files Part 6: Editorial archaeology

“Editorial archaeology” is my term for trying to reconstruct what a writer originally wrote before it was mangled by grammar-checking software, using my knowledge of how the software works. It’a a bit like historical linguists reconstructing unattested earlier word forms from current word forms, based on their knowledge of how languages typically change.

One excerpt from a document I edited said “The heady eighties and nineties saw corporations gave little consideration to IT.” I think the author probably originally wrote “The heady eighties and nineties saw corporations give little consideration to IT” and the grammar-checking software changed “give” to “gave” because it incorrectly parsed “The heady eighties and nineties saw corporations” as a noun phrase (what, don’t you remember those heady chainsaw magnates of the eighties and nineties?)

Another client’s document said, nonsensically, “Instead of a study being driven by theories of patterns of meanings, develop and evolve as the study progresses.” I’m guessing he originally wrote something like “Instead of a study being driven by theories patterns of meanings develop and evolve” (which is almost fine, except that it would be clearer with a comma after “theories”), and a grammar-checking tool added an “of” and a comma in the wrong place and turned it into nonsense. So I changed it to “Instead of a study being driven by theories, patterns of meaning develop and evolve as the study progresses.”

Another document said “Social constructivist values and beliefs and values of the individual participants and acknowledge that participants’ subjective experiences are shaped by context.
I think either the first or the third “and” was added incorrectly, but I’m not sure which. Either the author meant to say that social constructivism values (respects, honours) the beliefs and values of the participants, and also acknowledges that they are shaped by context, or he was saying something about social constructivist values (noun) and the beliefs and values of the participants – perhaps that they (both SC values and participants’ values) acknowledge that experiences are shaped by context. I thought probably not the latter, as that seems quite a high-level academic concept to attribute to the participants’ own beliefs.

Another document mentioned “sophisticated approaches to bulk the conversion of paper documents“. I expect it was originally correctly “bulk conversion” (adjective noun) and the software misparsed “to bulk” as a verb.

Finally, I expect “He goes onto highlight” was originally written correctly as “he goes on to highlight” and the software changed it, incorrectly over-generalising a rule that “on to” should be “onto”.

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