Rendered Fat Content


Lewis Wickes Hine: Powerhouse Mechanic (1921)

" … a rather bleak and lonely job …"

I have a confession to make. I sincerely hope that this one will prove to be good for my soul, as I'm reliably informed that confessions tend to be good for the confessor's soul. As with all confessions, this one might involve the disclosure of some sin I've committed or, if not precisely, a sin, some shortcoming. One confesses, I guess, in the sincere hope that one might gain forgiveness, at least from themself and, perhaps, from others. Atonement might or might not be indicated in this situation. I risk ruining my reputation, though, so listen generously, please, understanding that I'm just flesh, more than capable of falling short of any ideal.

I started using AI this week in the form of an Artificially Intelligent copyediting engine.
I think of it as a spell checker because it also checks spelling, grammar, and syntax. It merely makes suggestions from which I, as the user, can choose. So far, I'm agreeing with the AI helper about half the time, perhaps a little more. It's certainly not perfect. For example, it seems to favor split infinitives and suggests far more 'is' than I consider appropriate. But, even with its flaws, I find its suggestions helpful. I know this machine's working because it pisses me off, indicating that I'm likely learning something.

Don't worry; I have no plans to employ AI to generate content, the great and grave fear everybody has lately expressed. I can't find the point of artificially generating my content because writing's what I do. It's not an annoying also-ran in my portfolio. But writing might be pretty much all I do, so using AI to generate my content would leave me idle, with nothing with which to amuse and frustrate myself, though I suppose that using AI to generate content could prove more frustrating than generating it the old-fashioned way. But, you know how I get around machinery.

The AI grammar checker enables me to copyedit much faster than my usual red pen method. The AI engine highlights a potential problem, like when a sentence could be stronger, and suggests some rephrasing. I remain free to accept or reject each suggestion, and the engine seems to hold no grudges. It might even be learning from my selections. It doesn't seem to mind my religiously observed Oxford commas. However, it doesn't understand that I never use 'is' when any alternative seems viable and viable options always appear. It encourages me with flattery, saying I'm editing more quickly and in higher volumes than most users. It thinks my writing's pretty good, too, compared to others'.

I never learned my grammar. I mean that I never could remember the rules. I have always relied upon a kind of intuition instead, a felt sense that resulted in my own quirky style, which might be an alternative way of saying that I have always written wrong. Any competent copyeditor can see my shortcomings. I suspect that even most of the incompetent ones could, too. I find this grammar engine a helpful tool but hardly omniscient. It remembers all the rules, or I suspect that it must. How else could it find sixty suggestions to make in four paragraphs of my writing? It feels daunting to face that count when I invoke the damned thing, but I put my head down and persevere through the insult. The results speak for themselves, and I'm enjoying the company in what had almost always been a rather bleak and lonely copyediting job.

There! Now you know this truth about me.


Reliant Upon Something Other Than Myself
I have recently been breaking some formerly hard and fast rules. Last week, I needed some paper lawn waste bags but could not find them in my usual retailers. The Muse found online evidence of a supply at the local Walmart, a store I had not, for philosophical reasons, set foot inside in more than fifteen years. I drove the back way there, hoping nobody who knew me and my convictions would spot me. I entered the garden supply section, where I could argue I didn't actually enter the body of the beast, and asked a sales clerk where she hid the paper garden waste bags. She had been unaware her store stocked such things. We found them together, and I left without incident. I was not spotted, and nobody would have been any wiser except I found it necessary to confess. My new Ā-EYE grammar checker assistant violated another of my hard and fast self-reliance rules. I sometimes feel happier being reliant upon something other than myself, and I suspect that I could become even happier if I were to find myself short a few more hard and fast rules. Publishing sometimes seems a disassembly process writ rather large.

Thank you for following along!

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©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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