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Writing Books/"Non-standard question"


Hello April.

I consider myself as having a good command of English--which is why I pay scant attention to Microsoft Word's often ludicrous attempts to correct my grammar.  Still, since nobody's perfek, I keep the spelling and grammar-checker activated.

That said, Word routinely throws up at me, one particular items that, quite frankly, has me banjaxed. I refer you the following sentence.

"What, however, if you already know that explanation?"

Being but one among so many others, Microsoft Word considers that a "Non-standard question."

What on God's earth is a "non-standard question?

Dan O'Hanlon

Hi, Dan!

I'm not April, but I just started as an expert in this category and see that your question hasn't been answered.

I tried to duplicate your situation in my version of Word, but couldn't get it to tell me it was a "non-standard question." What I got (and it's true) is that this is a sentence fragment, rather than a full sentence. There's no subject, because the subject (a question) is unstated. Also, "however" is a synonym of "if." To make a proper sentence that Word would be happy with, you'd have to write it as:

"But what if you already know the explanation to that question?"

Unfortunately, people speak in sentence fragments all the time, and Word doesn't have a fiction editor to check dialogue. More's the pity. (Yikes! Another sentence fragment! LOL!)

You can do one of two things to make this not happen again. You can either 1) turn off Grammar check, which you've already said you'd rather not do; or 2) You can change the rules Word uses to check grammar. To do this, click "Options" on the Tools menu, click the "Spelling & Grammar" tab, and then click "Settings." Then select the grammar and style options you want. At least, it's a start.

Good luck, and if you have any other questions, feel free to write a follow-up and I'll do my best to answer it.  Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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