Grammar Rant: Microsoft Word and Dogs

Chalk it up to being only four days away from the deadline for the 7th edition of my 1,000-page book, The Dog Lover's Companion to...

Maria Goodavage  |  Oct 14th 2010


Does this dog look like a "that" to you?

Chalk it up to being only four days away from the deadline for the 7th edition of my 1,000-page book, The Dog Lover’s Companion to California, but I’m a little annoyed with Microsoft Word.

You see, Microsoft Word doesn’t see dogs as — at the risk of sounding highly anthropomorphic — people. It appears that Word sees dogs as things, at least on many years of ever-updated versions of Word for Mac. But as we know, things don’t give you the big begging eyes when you’re eating that last bite of birthday cake. And things don’t listen to your troubles, or chew windowsills, or stay at your side through thick and thin.

For years now, I have been deeply immersed in the world of writing about dogs. But I don’t like to write “dogs that…” Dogs deserve a “who,” not a “that.” A dog is not an inanimate object (Jake’s current napping at my feet for three hours notwithstanding). You would say “refrigerators that…” but not “husbands that…” (unless your husband has been napping at your feet for three hours).

So here I am, riveted to my computer 15 hours a day for weeks trying to keep up with the ever-expanding dog-friendly world of California. I am writing about everything Jake and I have learned from our travels around the Golden State in the last couple of years, and describing all the great new places dogs are allowed. And every time I type “dogs who…” the misdogthropic Word grammar fairy underlines “who” in a rather finger-wagging and unappealing shade of green. And I have to re-read it to see what my mistake was. Of course, there is no mistake on my end. Dogs will never be “that” in my book. Literally.

The only mistake is that Microsoft has not yet recognized what smart businesses all over the world have realized for the last decade or two: Dogs have become an integral part of our families. They are no longer relegated to the stereotypical role of property kept in the backyard to protect the house and get an occasional bone for good behavior. Dogs may be shorter and hairier and have less seemly ways of greeting each other than humans who warrant “who” in the Microsoft rule book, but they are not objects any more.

Microsoft, it’s time to take recognize dogs for who they are. As for cats, that one’s up to you.

(Note: I know there’s probably a way to customize my dictionary to prevent this, but one shouldn’t have to dabble with the settings to turn dogs from objects to companions. Plus I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )