I recently finished Lethal Prey, the latest edition in my Jonathan Grave thriller series (July, 2022), and as a subscriber to Microsoft Office 365, I noticed a function for the first time during my first-round edit of the manuscript. If you click on the Review button, and then on the Editor button, you can open up a world of useful editing functions. I am the king of typos, so it’s wonderful to be able to search by spelling errors, those underlined-in-red words that I never see because I watch my hands when I type.
You can also search by grammatical errors, and by “clarity” errors. It’s a pretty useful function, and it gives you the opportunity to add words like “gotta” and “friggin'” into the dictionary so the program learns.
This time around, though, I noticed a new function. I can search for “inclusivity errors.” This is, after all, 2021, which looks more and more like George Orwell’s version of 1984.
By way of background, I recently dealt with a Facebook PM exchange wherein a distressed reader complained that I had not included trigger warnings in by latest book. When I told her that the title Stealth Attack, combined with a cover image of a bullet and gobs of barbed wire, should have carried that water, she maintained that such was not enough.
Perhaps the gods are telling me that the time to retire is approaching.
Anyway, back to inclusivity. Here are the suggested changes, presented in the order they appear in my manuscript:
Cocky should be overconfident. I confess this one made me laugh. It had never occurred to me that the root of “cocky” was actually a root . . . Okay, did you hear the filters fall into place? My wife isn’t sitting next to me, but if she were, I’d have just been pinched.
Countrymen is bad. Compatriots is better.
Gunmen really should be shooters. Is this really a point of friction?
Alderman is exclusionary. It should be council member. Except, you know, the character is an alderman.
Middlemen is a triggering word, apparently. I should go with intermediaries or go-betweens. But for the fact that this particular bit occurs in dialogue, I don’t have a lot of argument with it. I’m just not sure it’s worth a highlight.
Manned. Well, crap. I have sinned. Staffed is the Microsoft-approved alternative. “Staff the ramparts, humans!”
Man of the house should be head of the household.
You guys should be shortened to you. But for the fact that the “you guys” are both guys, this might have some merit.
In a description of a topographical map in which I describe contour lines as indicating elevations and tiny dots indicating manmade structures, Microsoft cautions me to choose between manufactured or synthetic as the better alternative.
Bottom line: I didn’t make any of these changes. That said, I’ve mentioned before that I spend a fair amount of time mentoring new writers on Facebook’s Fiction Writing group, and people are taking this stuff seriously. “People with prostates” and “people with ovaries” are a growing trend to describe what we used to call men and women.
Here’s my question to the TKZ family who is no doubt terrified to go on the record for an issue like this: Is all of this a passing fad, or is it going to stick?