Author Topic: The most common mistakes of craft, or "Come on, folks, this is your profession!"  (Read 3486 times)

David VanDyke

There was a pretty lively thread on The Other Place about this. As we can't import whole threads from there, let's recreate it.

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Unless prohibited by forum policy, this specifically includes posts, not just books. That's where the "Come on folks, this is your profession!" comes in.

Share your pet peeves about any writing you see!

Some of mine:

Confusion of its and it's. Its is possessive. It's is a contraction of it is. "It's always happy to eat its food."

Occasionally I see even other possessive pronouns acquire an apostrophe. (incorrectly): Their's, her's, etc.


Similarly, any use of apostrophes when trying to create a plural. Except in specific cases, plurals never take apostrophes. Not even for names, or for words ending in vowels, which seem to be where the biggest confusion comes in.

Plurals: How many emojis are in this sentence? Let's have dinner at the Murphys.

Possessives: That emoji's color is too bright. Joe Murphy's dog is is annoying.


Comprise or compose: Compose means to make up. Comprise means to contain. The most common error with these words I see is to write "comprised of." Substitute "contain" and you get "contained of," which makes the error quite clear.


Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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Max

There was a pretty lively thread on The Other Place about this. As we can't import whole threads from there, let's recreate it.

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Unless prohibited by forum policy, this specifically includes posts, not just books. That's where the "Come on folks, this is your profession!" comes in.

Share your pet peeves about any writing you see!

Some of mine:

Confusion of its and it's. Its is possessive. It's is a contraction of it is. "It's always happy to eat its food."

Occasionally I see even other possessive pronouns acquire an apostrophe. (incorrectly): Their's, her's, etc.


Similarly, any use of apostrophes when trying to create a plural. Except in specific cases, plurals never take apostrophes. Not even for names, or for words ending in vowels, which seem to be where the biggest confusion comes in.

Plurals: How many emojis are in this sentence? Let's have dinner at the Murphys.

Possessives: That emoji's color is too bright. Joe Murphy's dog is is annoying.


Comprise or compose: Compose means to make up. Comprise means to contain. The most common error with these words I see is to write "comprised of." Substitute "contain" and you get "contained of," which makes the error quite clear.

So question.

If you say, Let's have dinner at the Murphys, aren't you really saying at their home? Home being implied, I think? So would it be Murphys's? Murphy's? Mur—oh, the heck with it, you know what I mean. lol

I mean it's different than saying Let's have dinner with the Murphys.

I remember hearing a conversation about this long, long ago.
 

Ginny

I don't have to look all that far for errors of craft. (the calls usually come from inside the house on that one)  :afro:

gerund

Been using and abusing those. I had to google it. Had no idea what the heck that was.

 

Solitary Dan

When writers say that forum posts, tweets, eMail and other online communications "don't count" in terms of properly using the English language, I cry foul.  There's no argument that there is a difference between formal and informal use of language.  A forum post, for example, may be less formal.  I mean, I probably wouldn't toss out an emoticon of an animated banana riding a green llama in a novel.

 :banana-riding-llama-smiley-em

Okay, maybe I would if I could but most writers wouldn't.

But there's a difference between formal vs. informal use and not using the language properly at all.  i mene if u start riting stuph in fourahm posts lyke u just dont kare dat's not gonna leeve a good impreshun wid potenshal reeders, u no wut i mene?  n arguin its just a fourahm post aint gonna kut it.  prubublee.

Practice makes perfect or at least better and every communication outlet is an opportunity for practice.  Plus you have a tendency to absorb what you read, so if you're reading badly written forum posts by other writers, that may affect your own writing.  So, really, people who write poorly in forum posts are hurting others as much as they are hurting themselves.*

I should probably write this stuff anonymously.   :hug:

Anyway, that's my opinion and I reserve the right to change it when convenient for me.   :icon_think:




*As an example, I apparently misuse the heck out of commas so by reading this post, I have just subtly made your own command of commas slightly less correct.  Also, I have overused the word just and that's gonna hurt you too.  And I double-space between periods and start sentences with prepositions and make frequent use of run-on sentences, so you are now a worse writer than when you started reading this post.  All your readers are belonging to me now.  You're welcome.
     
 
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guest390

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If I had to narrow it to one: Thinking an editor isn't a necessary part of the process. Writers who have the "it's good enough" attitude set indie back. Since the first wave of indies  - 2010-2012 - until this day we've struggled to be taken seriously. And we've made a lot of headway. For years we've done our best to produce books that are comparable in quality to what the Big 5 produces. It's why we get pissy when we see people shoving an unedited, unproof read, mess onto the market. Particularly now that there are so many wonderful, and affordable, resources available. There's really no excuse for it.
 
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David VanDyke


So question.

If you say, Let's have dinner at the Murphys, aren't you really saying at their home? Home being implied, I think? So would it be Murphys's? Murphy's? Mur—oh, the heck with it, you know what I mean. lol

I mean it's different than saying Let's have dinner with the Murphys.

I remember hearing a conversation about this long, long ago.

Possessives of plurals that become plurals with S take only an apostrophe.

Possessives of plurals where the singular already ends in an S take an apostrophe-S.

If the family name is Murphy, and they are the Murphys (plural), then it's the Murphys' house.

If the family name is, say, Robbins, then it's the Robbins's house.

http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/english-grammar-rules-for-possessive-plurals.html

That one's pretty esoteric, and doesn't bother me terribly, personally. It's the really common, obvious ones that get my eyerolls going.

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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elleoco

Well, since there's an invitation....

My pet peeve in homophones, since I have a horse background, is rein vs. reign. The entire world, indie and traditional, has great difficulty with those two for some reason. Sometimes it's correct in one place and wrong in the next within the same book.

As to editing, I remember the days when Amanda Hocking posted that she had had her books edited as often as three times, and readers still complained that they needed editing. To be fair, I think in those days some readers just slapped "needs editing" in any review of an indie book, with or without grounds. A real problem for indies was, and I think remains, that if you don't knows this stuff yourself, you can't judge an editing job.

From my own reading, I believe editing is still a problem, not that authors aren't sending books to editors, but in results. When I try new-to-me indie authors, I often find a book that has few or no technical problems of the typo/homophone/possessive sort. It sure looks as if it's had editing, and definitely has had proofreading, but still lacks something. What if an editor does a careful job on a work that is just not that well written to start with?

I've been reading some of Janice Hardy's articles on her Fiction University blog about more nuanced things such as rhythm of language, and trying to up my own game, which isn't that easy since there seems to be a fine line between learning such things and throwing up one's hands.

Max


Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
 

Shoe

So what are the most common errors of craft you see?

Include basics such as punctuation, grammar and word use, all the way up to plotting, use of tropes, cliches and other such issues.

Years ago, the Paris Review featured final drafts from great authors once their editors brought out their red pens. The grammatical errors, misspellings, etc., were abundant. We're talking seas of red ink on final drafts by Hemingway, Henry Miller, Steinbeck, even Nabokov.

This points to the essential need for good editing, even for iconic authors. But what else does it point to?

Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

LD

A real problem for indies was, and I think remains, that if you don't knows this stuff yourself, you can't judge an editing job.

From my own reading, I believe editing is still a problem, not that authors aren't sending books to editors, but in results. When I try new-to-me indie authors, I often find a book that has few or no technical problems of the typo/homophone/possessive sort. It sure looks as if it's had editing, and definitely has had proofreading, but still lacks something. What if an editor does a careful job on a work that is just not that well written to start with?


This.  I know an "editor" who says the one thing she knows is grammar. Yet the majority of her posts have errors in them.  Of course, these are Facebook posts and maybe she would argue that she doesn't edit those posts, but I would think as an editor it would be second nature to you to know the rules without needing to correct them to begin with.  These are not spelling errors or typos, but grammatical errors, like the "would of" and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.  Then she always has people commenting on her posts, singing her praises. 
« Last Edit: September 24, 2018, 01:40:25 PM by LD »
 
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Crystal

TBH, my posts are often full of errors because I write them on my phone. A lot of this stuff is auto-correct/predict related.
 

PJ Post

The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time, now, when we want to have dinner at the Murphy's, we have to ask which half.
 

LD

TBH, my posts are often full of errors because I write them on my phone. A lot of this stuff is auto-correct/predict related.
But wouldn't you (general, of course), as an editor, want to fix it?  Not only because it doesn't put you in a good light, but  because it would bug you?
 

elleoco

The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time, now, when we want to have dinner at the Murphy's, we have to ask which half.


I hope that was supposed to be a challenge.



The Murphys didn't make it out of the inter-dimensional transport in time. [Comma-splice was here.] Now, [I'd leave out the comma after "now," but that's not wrong, just style.] when we want to have dinner at the Murphys', [Needs plural possessive, not singular.] we have to ask which half.


Dennis Chekalov

Some authors just don't underdstand how the society works. And they don't want to understand. That's why some imaginary worlds are shallow and unconvincing. Think about The Phanthom Menace. The world, where people like Jar Jar Binks become senators... Oh.
 
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David VanDyke



Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.


Depends on how you view that polish. Would those iconic authors have made it if their stuff had been released with all those problems?


Are you (general) impressed by a classic car that's not been restored well?


Is a pretty girl nearly as pretty with no deodorant and bad makeup?


Does the lack of editing ruin an otherwise good story? It does for me.


***


Another pet peeve:


Echoes. Reusing the same significant work in the same paragraph, sometimes several times, sometimes throughout a book. Characters nod hundreds of times, or they always "look" a certain way, over and over and over.

« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 01:19:35 AM by David VanDyke »
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

David VanDyke

[size=78%]  I know an "editor" who says the one thing she knows is grammar. Yet the majority of her posts have errors in them.  Of course, these are Facebook posts and maybe she would argue that she doesn't edit those posts, but I would think as an editor it would be second nature to you to know the rules without needing to correct them to begin with.  These are not spelling errors or typos, but grammatical errors, like the "would of" and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.  Then she always has people commenting on her posts, singing her praises. [/size]


The blind leading the blind--and the related Dunning-Kruger syndrome, which means someone is so inept, they can't actually tell how inept they are.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Dennis Chekalov

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?
 

RCoots



My pet peeve in homophones, since I have a horse background, is rein vs. reign. The entire world, indie and traditional, has great difficulty with those two for some reason. Sometimes it's correct in one place and wrong in the next within the same book.



THIS.  So much this. I've also got a horse background and every time i see this i imagine the character as a horse.


Another thing that bugs me is voice. Quite often, I'll pick up a book and every single character has the same voice. Stilted, no contractions, no verbal tics (either in dialogue or as they narrate) to make me go "OH, this is Character A speaking." And quite often, they all use the same vocabulary. I drop a fifty cent word without thinking about it in conversation, half the room has to stop and figure out what I meant. (This has actually happened. It's a bit awkward)
 

LD


Perfect grammar and spelling matter less than the quality of the prose beyond the essential mechanics.
I'd have to disagree with this.  It's not likely to be PERFECT, but those guys had editors go over their work too before it was released, which shows it IS important.  It's not like their books were printed as is and they were still a huge hit.
 

Lysmata Debelius

When a writer doesn't differentiate between the narrator's voice, and a character's way of talking. You know, when a character describes something, but they suddenly start talking like a written description. You know :


Susan turned to Mary. "What did you do last night ?"
"I was walking home," said Mary, "with the snow crunching crisply under my boot-heels and the wind tugging my hair away from my face..."
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy and Science Fiction


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Llano

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?

Apparently our education system sucks.

Before the Internet few people wrote things that other people could see. As long as they could speak somewhat properly they could be completely illiterate and nobody would notice. Now everybody writes and shows it to the world, and the level of semi-literacy is shocking. In the past people were embarrassed when called out on their grammar and spelling. Now they get defensive, even aggressive, insisting it doesn't matter because everybody knows what they mean.

I see they're/their/there and its/it's misused so often that I now have to stop and think myself before writing. For those who don't know the proper usage, or are unsure, this avalanche of misuse will eventually win out and we'll all be illiterate.
 

DrewMcGunn



Apparently our education system sucks.

Before the Internet few people wrote things that other people could see. As long as they could speak somewhat properly they could be completely illiterate and nobody would notice. Now everybody writes and shows it to the world, and the level of semi-literacy is shocking. In the past people were embarrassed when called out on their grammar and spelling. Now they get defensive, even aggressive, insisting it doesn't matter because everybody knows what they mean.

I see they're/their/there and its/it's misused so often that I now have to stop and think myself before writing. For those who don't know the proper usage, or are unsure, this avalanche of misuse will eventually win out and we'll all be illiterate.

Hey, I'm not illiterate... I know who my parents are.  :Grin:

Drew McGunn
 

guest390

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A trend I'm seeing in the comments are grammar issues that an editor would catch. I know there have been heated arguments about the need for editing. And I guess you can tell which side I'm on. But here's the thing...Early in my career I struggled to find a decent editor; not an uncommon problem in 2011. I was getting dozens of reviews complaining about it. It hurt my rankings and the overall standing of my work. When I found a good editor (two in fact) those complaints all but ceased. Instead of being judged for the quality of the grammar, I was judged by the quality of the work.
Another thing writers can do is look into a developmental editor. I know indies are wary of this, but I'll make my case, nonetheless. With my most recent book (not to be released until 2020), I worked with a completely new process. I've been an indie for seven years and have total control over content. My editors chime in, but not often. With Tor, I was in a position where I had to listen. I could argue my perspective on the matter. And I could fight it if I was determined enough. But in the end, I was wrong nearly every time. How do I know this? Beta readers. The reaction was consistent. After making the suggested revisions, the book was at a whole new level. One of the readers has read almost everything I've put out. He said what started as a good book turned into the best work I've produced to date.
Much of what indies stumble through can be fixed with a sound editing process. It's so important to understand your own limitations. I, for example, do not have a background in English. So for me, editing is crucial. Also, I tend to write flat secondary characters. Through the editing and beta reading process, I've greatly improved on this. I have "writing ticks" that are hard for me to catch. It's when you over use words like very, every, or whatever little thing you do that you don't notice. Even repetition of phrases throughout a manuscript can be removed through editing. For example: if you have a character "blink hard" or "flick his wrist" a bunch of times.
Anyway, a good book is certainly about the story. But if you can't get past the lack of editing, readers will never know how good it is. They'll get frustrated and stop reading.
 
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David VanDyke


Another thing that bugs me is voice. Quite often, I'll pick up a book and every single character has the same voice. Stilted, no contractions, no verbal tics (either in dialogue or as they narrate) to make me go "OH, this is Character A speaking." And quite often, they all use the same vocabulary. I drop a fifty cent word without thinking about it in conversation, half the room has to stop and figure out what I meant. (This has actually happened. It's a bit awkward)


Good one. I remember a book I read where every character said "explicate" for "explain." It would have worked for one professorial character, but not everyone. It just ended up being annoying.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Shoe




Depends on how you view that polish. Would those iconic authors have made it if their stuff had been released with all those problems?



My point was, a fine spit and polish doesn't mean the writing will be any good. Of course, every book should be well edited.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

Wifey

How about stories told in first person where the MC is too self-aware of their physical tics?
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

David VanDyke

In Commonwealth English, "ly" adverbs used in phrasal adjectives take hyphens.

A commonly-held belief. A badly-formed sentence.

In American English, they do not.


A commonly held belief. A badly formed sentence.


Similarly, in CE, periods (full stops) and commas go outside the quotes.

The man said, "I need a drink".

In AE, they always go inside.

The man said, "I need a drink."

The key is to stick with one--Commonwealth or American. Don't mix and match.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 06:33:19 AM by David VanDyke »
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Al Stevens

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Endless descriptions of places that seem to want me to know the author has been somewhere. I'm reading a book now where the MC walks from street A to intersection B where business C is located, across the D bridge that crosses river E and into his office building F. The whole thing could've been, simply, "He walked to work."
Genres: mystery, music, programming, science fiction, historical fiction


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Al Stevens is a retired author of computer programming books. For fifteen years he was a senior contributing editor and columnist for Dr. Dobb’s Journal, a leading magazine for computer programmers. Al lives with his wife Judy and a menagerie of cats on Florida’s Space Coast where he writes by day and plays piano, string bass, and saxophone by night.
 

David VanDyke

Endless descriptions of places that seem to want me to know the author has been somewhere. I'm reading a book now where the MC walks from street A to intersection B where business C is located, across the D bridge that crosses river E and into his office building F. The whole thing could've been, simply, "He walked to work."


Yeah, that's a good one.


I think newish authors are often afraid not to account for all the time in the story. If I get a chance to tell them, I tell them to think of it like something on the screen--most of the time, they cut from scene to scene with even less explanation a book has, and people follow along just fine.
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Al Stevens

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Voice is a problem for me. If there are two detectives for example in the same office, partners, working the same cases, I tend to make them talk alike. I've tried to correct that by infusing each one with different traits. One is soft-spoken and deferential, the other aggressive, and so on. And I work to show those differences in their speech rather than simply tell the reader about them.


A trick I worked out--or read about, I forget--is to assign to each character a person I know in real life. I write dialogue with the assigned acquaintances in mind. How would George say that? How would Emily answer? I think of the real people's voices and expressions. I don't know how well it works, but it's got to be better than nothing.
Genres: mystery, music, programming, science fiction, historical fiction


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Al Stevens is a retired author of computer programming books. For fifteen years he was a senior contributing editor and columnist for Dr. Dobb’s Journal, a leading magazine for computer programmers. Al lives with his wife Judy and a menagerie of cats on Florida’s Space Coast where he writes by day and plays piano, string bass, and saxophone by night.
 

Alice Sabo

I have "writing ticks" that are hard for me to catch. It's when you over use words like very, every, or whatever little thing you do that you don't notice. Even repetition of phrases throughout a manuscript can be removed through editing. For example: if you have a character "blink hard" or "flick his wrist" a bunch of times.


I've noticed that, too. There is always a word or phrase that I overuse. In one book it was "For a moment". When I realized what it is, I do a Find and Replace in all caps. Then I can go back and tweak each sentence. In my current WIP, I seem to be using underbrush an awful lot. Weird.
Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Mystery and Space Opera Genre Hopper
 

Dennis Chekalov

1. Genres. Mixing genres is great if done right. Alas, some (many) novice authors just don't know what exactly they want to write.
2. Killing one of the main characters in the second part of the story just for EMOSHUNS. Such a cliche.
3. No proper midpoint.
4. Empty scenes which have no purpose at all.
5. Main characters are brainless idiots who ruin everything (and still count as heroes).
 

Jeff Tanyard

David's post is spot on, but I wanted to expound a little on this:


Similarly, in CE, periods (full stops) and commas go outside the quotes.

The man said, "I need a drink".

In AE, they always go inside.

The man said, "I need a drink."


The "commas and periods always go inside quotation marks" rule only applies to commas and periods.  Question marks, on the other hand, follow the logic of the sentence.  They can go either inside or outside the quotation marks.
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WHDean


You see a lot written about the types of editing--copyediting, line editing, developmental editing, etc.--but not much about different kinds of editor. In my experience, the editor's background is more indicative of what you'll get than the "editing function" they claim to perform. Bear in mind that I'm offering my four kinds of editor as food for thought--they're just generalizations from my experience:


1. Amateur editors are avid readers with an interest in fixing all the mistakes they see (or think they see) in the books they read. They're probably fine with proofreading for typos, but they rarely know much of anything about grammar, usage, or style beyond what they've picked up from Google searches. KB seems to have a surplus of these editors, probably because they come cheap.


2. The-best-writer-in-the-room-at-the-time editors happened to be there at start-up and got assigned the task of editing and hiring editors. You'd be surprised how many firms, institutions, and even presses employ such people. It's one of the reasons that "editor at such-and-such press" means nothing to me; they're often no better than amateurs.


3. Trained copy editors have a technical writing or copyediting diploma. They're usually much more knowledgeable than the first two about the conventions you find in the Chicago Manual of Style and the handbooks. But the only style they seem to know is the stripped-down plain style familiar to any reader of newspapers, magazines, and the big writers in the popular genres. Their weakness, in my experience, is over-editing. When someone complains about an editor sucking the life out of something--assuming there was life there to suck out--or complains that all the characters sound the same, they probably had a copyeditor. Making everything align with the generic pattern, after all, is what they're trained to do.


4. I call the fourth group MFA editors, not because very many have MFAs, but because they all come from an academic background in the humanities. Where copyeditors focus on conventions, MFA editors focus on style. They'll be weaker on handbook conventions, but they'll have a better understanding of your voice and what you're trying to achieve. Of course, you have to know what you're trying to achieve to get the most from an MFA editor.


My 2 cents.
 
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David VanDyke

Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

idontknowyet

Quote
and its/it's mentioned above, or they're/there/their.


Really? I'm Russian, I've studied German (not English) in school and in college, and I still know the difference.
How is it possible that a native speaker doesn't?



I don't think its lack of knowledge. It's more of a lack of patience or thought about it. If I'm writing fast or something not important like a post, I don't stop to think about which its im using. Nor do I usually bother going back to correct it when I notice it's wrong. Writers and storytellers might be two different things. I will never be known for my amazing grammar and I probably wont be known for my storytelling, but I don't think those two skills are necessarily tied together.
 

WHDean

Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.


The incentives are hard to get around, no doubt. One suggestion--which is only liable to work in specific cases--is to say something like the following to the editor:


Look, I know you make your beans by making changes, and you don't want to come off as useless by not changing anything. So here's what you can do: Use the comment function. Leave me a suggestion when you think you have one and your rationale for it. I'd prefer that to a bunch of unnecessary synonymous substitutions.


I expect this might help in cases where you think you need to take the pressure off. And what you get might be more useful.


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   
 

guest390

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Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.


The incentives are hard to get around, no doubt. One suggestion--which is only liable to work in specific cases--is to say something like the following to the editor:


Look, I know you make your beans by making changes, and you don't want to come off as useless by not changing anything. So here's what you can do: Use the comment function. Leave me a suggestion when you think you have one and your rationale for it. I'd prefer that to a bunch of unnecessary synonymous substitutions.


I expect this might help in cases where you think you need to take the pressure off. And what you get might be more useful.


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   
Through the editing process, you should have the option to accept of reject the changes. This is true in indie or traditional publishing. The edits are done in MS Word, so you should be able to see the changes and read the notes while reviewing the manuscript. Punctuation are typically those you accept most, assuming you have a quality editor.
Where it gets subjective is mostly during developmental and copy editing. But it's also where a writer's ego can get in the way. Be careful not to dismiss a suggestion or criticism out of hand. If you find yourself disagreeing, move on and give it time. Think on it a while. It's crucial to remember that you are close to your story. You might not have the best perspective to make certain judgments.
 

RCoots


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   

I did this after my copy editor gave me back my sample edit. Let her know that yes, my sentences are choppy. Yes, I know she could put 'and' or 'but' in front of alot of them. But please don't do it unless it's really a clarity issue. And it seems to have gone great. (Also helped that instead of dumbing down my language choices from an older more formal word to something that did NOT fit the character, she went "Hey, I learned a new word!")
 
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Vijaya

I still have to double-check lie/lay when I use it. Esp. in the past tense.



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Solitary Dan

Similarly, in CE, periods (full stops) and commas go outside the quotes.

The man said, "I need a drink".

In AE, they always go inside.

The man said, "I need a drink."

The key is to stick with one--Commonwealth or American. Don't mix and match.

This was easier when I wrote everything by hand.  Periods in or out?  Can't remember?  Easy solution: Put the period right below the closing quotation mark.  BAM!  Out?  In?  Could go either way.  Let the editor sort it out.

:wink: <--- OMG.  The wink emoji is GONE!  Noooo!  I can't go back to ;) after being spoiled by all these yellow smilies!  Nooooooo!
     
 

WHDean

On another matter, I've noticed an epidemic of comma splices. It seems to be a social contagion.



 

LD

I still have to double-check lie/lay when I use it. Esp. in the past tense.
I still cannot figure out how to know when to use which.  I've looked at explanations, but they all confuse me.  I need an easy way to remember the rules, some type of "hack."
 

Jeff Tanyard

On another matter, I've noticed an epidemic of comma splices. It seems to be a social contagion.


The comma has become something of an all-purpose punctuation mark on social media.   :icon_cry:
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WHDean

On another matter, I've noticed an epidemic of comma splices. It seems to be a social contagion.


The comma has become something of an all-purpose punctuation mark on social media.   :icon_cry:


That seems to be where it's spreading from. Either that or I can't help blaming antisocial media...for everything! :evil2:





 

Cathleen

On comma splices, the one thing I can't wrap my head around is this: even among people who understand what they are (a disappointingly small percentage), there seems to be a feeling that they're okay used in dialogue. I've heard this is because trade editors frown on semicolons inside of quotes, not because someone's mangling punctuation to give a feeling of dialect.

This has never made sense to me. A semicolon is a useful little thing, good for more than just emoticons. ;)

Sure, we shouldn't overuse them, but simply turning a blind eye to the exact same sentence construction punctuated incorrectly with a comma splice seems like a nonsensical fix. Sentences can be broken, em dashes can be used, FANBOYS conjunctions added--there are a number of potential fixes that don't involve incorrect punctuation.

Everyone makes mistakes, but committing them deliberately doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
 
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elleoco

On comma splices, the one thing I can't wrap my head around is this: even among people who understand what they are (a disappointingly small percentage), there seems to be a feeling that they're okay used in dialogue. I've heard this is because trade editors frown on semicolons inside of quotes, not because someone's mangling punctuation to give a feeling of dialect.

This has never made sense to me. A semicolon is a useful little thing, good for more than just emoticons.
I never heard that about dialog, but I agree. There are times when I want two sentences closely associated so much that a comma splice is tempting, but IMO if it's that tempting the thing to do is use a semi, and I do. I see an occasional semi in pretty much every one of my favorite traditionally published author's books, which gives me a strong belief that the no-semi rule is another one of those things like no adverbs that went from the good advice of "don't over use" to the rule of "don't ever use" and ought to be recognized for the exaggeration it is.

Gaylord Fancypants

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In romance, paying way too much attention to "realism". A lot of people try to come up with realistic plots, like I was telling an aspiring-author friend about one of my current projects, and she said "but it's not realistic that a straight professional wrestler would publicly declare his love for a man, while in the ring and on national TV", and I'm like that's the whole goddamn point! Of course it's not realistic. Real romance is usually boring, slow, irrelevant to anyone besides the people involved, and about ugly people. No one wants to read a book about that. Go big or go home.
 
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Becca Mills

Dangling modifiers. I see them all the time. Total pet peeve.
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WHDean

On comma splices, the one thing I can't wrap my head around is this: even among people who understand what they are (a disappointingly small percentage), there seems to be a feeling that they're okay used in dialogue. I've heard this is because trade editors frown on semicolons inside of quotes, not because someone's mangling punctuation to give a feeling of dialect.

This has never made sense to me. A semicolon is a useful little thing, good for more than just emoticons. ;)

Sure, we shouldn't overuse them, but simply turning a blind eye to the exact same sentence construction punctuated incorrectly with a comma splice seems like a nonsensical fix. Sentences can be broken, em dashes can be used, FANBOYS conjunctions added--there are a number of potential fixes that don't involve incorrect punctuation.

Everyone makes mistakes, but committing them deliberately doesn't seem like a good idea to me.


I wonder whether people are going for that aloof, ironic character you see everywhere. It sometimes sound more like the character is discombobulated or stoned:


Quote
I've been thinking a lot lately, a lot of stuff is swirling around my head, need to quit the meth maybe, did a seagull just sh*t on my head?


 
 

sassybeewriter

I don't have to look all that far for errors of craft. (the calls usually come from inside the house on that one)  :afro:

gerund

Been using and abusing those. I had to google it. Had no idea what the heck that was.

I also... abuse gerunds. And I am ashamed.
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David VanDyke

I never mind if someone's doing outside the box something for effect. But when they do it all the time, with no clue that it's outside the box, then it's not originality or art--it's incompetence.

You have to know the rules to be able to break the rules well.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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Ace Fletcher

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Another common error is using then instead of than.
I changed my password to 'incorrect'. That way when I forget, it always reminds me, "your password is incorrect".
 
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Becca Mills

Another common error is using then instead of than.

Yeah, I see that one pop up a few times a year.

The more unusual homophones can be a problem too. Grizzly/grisly, reins/reigns, metal/mettle, bait/bate, block/bloc, pedal/peddle ... English has so many of the danged things.
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Becca Mills

Oh, here's a big pet peeve: the displacement of "me."

"Myself" crops up in all kinds of spots where "me" is actually what's needed: He handed the gun to myself; Contact Sally or myself if you have questions. It's as though "me" doesn't sound important/formal enough, and "myself" sweeps in, in all its fancy, two-syllable glory.

In other spots, "me" gets displaced by "I": She gave the cat to Jane and I; The teacher waved at John and I. Some years ago I knew someone so absolutely committed to using "and I" instead of "and me/my" that she'd give "I" the trappings of a possessive: Bob and I's car; in Bob and I's opinion.

Actually, I've heard "myself" displacing "I" too: Frank and myself were driving south.

It's like "myself" is the most desirable pronoun, "I" is second best, and "me" is starting to sound wrong. But actually, "myself" is rarely needed. It's just for reflexiveness or emphasis: I scratched myself; I paid for this car myself.

I generally think we should accept language change, but I admit this particular group of shifts bugs me. It seems so stuffy.
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Lysmata Debelius

Becca, is that a form of hyper correction? People trying to avoid the "x and me" vs "x and I" thing?
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Morgan Worth

Good observations, WHDean. Especially about 3, though that can apply to all of them.

The thing is, if you pay an editor to edit, they will edit, just like if you pay an investigator to investigate, they will find something wrong with whomever they're investigating. That becomes their purpose in life. You can see this by the fact (there have been tests) where an MS is given to an editor, then the changed MS is later given back the the exact same editor--and they will recommend changing things back the way they were.

Really good editors know when to leave well enough alone--and they're smart to do so. It makes for a lot less work for everyone.


The incentives are hard to get around, no doubt. One suggestion--which is only liable to work in specific cases--is to say something like the following to the editor:


Look, I know you make your beans by making changes, and you don't want to come off as useless by not changing anything. So here's what you can do: Use the comment function. Leave me a suggestion when you think you have one and your rationale for it. I'd prefer that to a bunch of unnecessary synonymous substitutions.


I expect this might help in cases where you think you need to take the pressure off. And what you get might be more useful.


Another thing: I've always thought working out a "style statement" (or whatever you want to call it) about what you're trying to do, along with some writers you're emulating, is a good idea. Having a benchmark like that orients the editor toward a goal, instead of having him or her focused on "fixing mistakes." The side benefit of this is that you weed out the people whose aim was to mold you in their style.   
Through the editing process, you should have the option to accept of reject the changes. This is true in indie or traditional publishing. The edits are done in MS Word, so you should be able to see the changes and read the notes while reviewing the manuscript. Punctuation are typically those you accept most, assuming you have a quality editor.
Where it gets subjective is mostly during developmental and copy editing. But it's also where a writer's ego can get in the way. Be careful not to dismiss a suggestion or criticism out of hand. If you find yourself disagreeing, move on and give it time. Think on it a while. It's crucial to remember that you are close to your story. You might not have the best perspective to make certain judgments.

This. The standard is to use the "Track Changes" feature, giving the author the opportunity to accept or reject changes.
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Becca Mills

Becca, is that a form of hyper correction? People trying to avoid the "x and me" vs "x and I" thing?

Yeah, I think it is. Seems like it to me, anyway.
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Morgan Worth

Another common error is using then instead of than.

This one makes me die a little inside.

My peeve is from my substitute-teaching days. Teachers would leave notes instructing me to "take role."
I'm a beta reader for many genres. I especially love a good cozy mystery!
 

elleoco

"Myself" crops up in all kinds of spots where "me" is actually what's needed:
* * *
In other spots, "me" gets displaced by "I":

Oh, yeah, there does seem to be some sort of modern anti-me trend, and it grates.

I think something similar is the constant use of "upon" when a plain "on" would do. "It grates upon me," vs. "It grates on me."

Becca Mills

Oh, yeah, there does seem to be some sort of modern anti-me trend, and it grates.

I think something similar is the constant use of "upon" when a plain "on" would do. "It grates upon me," vs. "It grates on me."

Heh. I have a feeling I'll start noticing this everywhere, now that you've pointed it out!
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Felix R. Savage

The one thing I wish every indie would learn is that copyediting and developmental editing are NOT the same thing, and both are necessary ... I guess unless you've been doing this for years, and don't try new stuff. I'm on book #50 and I still rely on a dev editor. Far too many people think editing = copyediting. Result is an awful lot of nicely shined turds. Perfect grammar won't fix a story that needs work on the structural level.
 
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Ginny

I have dyslexia too, which is not helpful. Spellcheck doesn't know what the hell I'm trying to type 80% of the time. *sigh*

I would listen to audio tapes of children's books when I was a kid, all the basic fairy tales. I do believe that enhanced my imagination. When I write now, I see the story like a movie in my head.

Words that sound the same, but are spelled differently kill me.  :HB
 
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David VanDyke

The one thing I wish every indie would learn is that copyediting and developmental editing are NOT the same thing, and both are necessary ... I guess unless you've been doing this for years, and don't try new stuff. I'm on book #50 and I still rely on a dev editor. Far too many people think editing = copyediting. Result is an awful lot of nicely shined turds. Perfect grammar won't fix a story that needs work on the structural level.

I'd say that's true 90% of the time.

However, I've also the the flip side occasionally: the deveditor desperately wanting to shoehorn a story into the Hero's Journey, or the Thee Act Play, or some other standard story structure, when it's not needed, and doing so takes away from the interesting quirkiness or would make the story bland and over-familiar.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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JRTomlin

Abusing gerunds causes hair to grow on your palms. Just sayin'.  :writethink:
 

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Rose Andrews

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The one thing I wish every indie would learn is that copyediting and developmental editing are NOT the same thing, and both are necessary ... I guess unless you've been doing this for years, and don't try new stuff. I'm on book #50 and I still rely on a dev editor. Far too many people think editing = copyediting. Result is an awful lot of nicely shined turds. Perfect grammar won't fix a story that needs work on the structural level.
This is why it's important to study story structure but not everyone needs a developmental editor for every book, or maybe for none of our books. It really depends on the author and where they are in their craft. While I do agree that knowing the difference between editors is a good idea, putting it out there that at book 50 you are still using a developmental editor isn't necessarily a healthy way of getting the point across imho. Years ago, I hired a developmental editor for one of my books and although she helped me immensely, it was a one time deal for me. At some point I had to figure out how to write a book by learning story structure. We're all different.
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Lysmata Debelius

How about this one?
Relying too much on plot twists and surprise. It depends on the genre, of course, but often it's more fun to read a story where you are allowed to feel clever because you picked up the clues to the things the characters haven't figured out yet. Then when the Big Reveal comes, you can say "I knew it!"

Plot twists, when badly done, can leave you feeling that you've been manipulated or tricked, and can leave a bad taste. When done well, they can be awesome but so few writers get it right. "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters is a fantastic example of a twisty plot done right.
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RCoots

How about this one?
Relying too much on plot twists and surprise. It depends on the genre, of course, but often it's more fun to read a story where you are allowed to feel clever because you picked up the clues to the things the characters haven't figured out yet. Then when the Big Reveal comes, you can say "I knew it!"

Plot twists, when badly done, can leave you feeling that you've been manipulated or tricked, and can leave a bad taste. When done well, they can be awesome but so few writers get it right. "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters is a fantastic example of a twisty plot done right.

Yes to the feeling of bad plot twists making you feel tricked. No (for me) to dribbling clues enough to bring on the 'i knew it'. Personal preference here, but if I'm in ten percent (or however many) and I can already tell what the ending will be, I tend to finish out of obligation more than anything else. And if it does indeed turn out the way I expected, I sigh and stick i in the 'not really worth it' pile.

Entertain me please, well enough that I forget to pull apart clues and plot structure and just go with the flow.
 

PJ Post

Back on the editor thing; in their need to fix it, I think it's important they don't edit your voice out of the book. Our voice, or character voice, is one of the few things we have going for us.

I write in first present, so I use comma splices all the time, because that's how people think, in bits and streams and fragments. Writers often forget that when they're writing first present, the prose is unvarnished and immediate character development. Conforming the whole lot to CMoS would...well...pretty much suck. This is why getting the right editor is so important, otherwise they end up doing more harm than good.

Also also, punctuation was originally intended as a shorthand, like music notation, to let the orator know how to read the text aloud. This is how I use it. If I want the reader to pause and reflect, they're getting a comma, regardless of grammar rules suggestions. Not to be snarky, but my books are not junior high English papers. Fortunately, I don't have to make a marketing department happy either.  Grin

I think one of the major stumbling blocks for writers is trying to conform to this notion of what a story is and how it should be written. As a rule, I think writing advice is pretty much horsesh*t. There's an exception to everything, really good ones too. This desire to follow the rules shows up most frequently as stilted prose, lacking rhythm and personality. There's nothing wrong with it, grammatically speaking, it's just boring to read. It's okay to take risks. I think that's how we find our voice. Besides, we can always fix it in the edit/rewrite...or not?

For example, one of my characters always mixes up number agreement when using contractions. 'There are' is always reduced to 'there's'. It's grammatically wrong, but people say it all of the time, so it feels authentic.  One of the best ways to differentiate characters is to have them break the rules in their own special way, especially if there's a reason for it. (There should definitely be a reason for it.) Loosen the tie and let your characters breathe, er...dance.   :dance:
 
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David VanDyke

Abusing gerunds causes hair to grow on your palms. Just sayin'.  :writethink:

I tried so hard to make up a clever wordplay with this, but failed utterly.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Jeff Tanyard

Abusing gerunds causes hair to grow on your palms. Just sayin'.  :writethink:

I tried so hard to make up a clever wordplay with this, but failed utterly.


Wordplaying is almost as hard as gerunding.   :cool:
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David VanDyke

The pet peeve that's bugging me lately are all the weakening qualifiers, especially "kind of" when used to mean "approximately."

"That monster was kind of the biggest I've ever seen." Contradict much?
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Rob Martin

My biggest pet peeve lately is when someone tries to write dialogue with an accent. I just finished a book where the Hero was a Yank (from the American Northeast) in the South. Everyone was written with a Southern drawl. I didn't mind that too much. Some authors have done it quite well, however this one didn't. Consistency is key. If you're going to use an accent in the dialogue, use it consistently. If you can't, use grammatically correct spelling and tag is an accent. It's the difference between:

"Y'all goin' out 'night?" He asked.

vs.

"You going out tonight?" He asked with a Southern drawl so thick it could attract flies.
I write because I want to, not because of the woman standing over my shoulder holding a particularly pointy object. Right, dear?
 

David VanDyke

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Jeff Tanyard

"Y'all goin' out 'night?" He asked.


I've never heard anyone drop the first syllable of "tonight" altogether.   :Hqn66ku:  I agree that writing dialect like that is inadvisable, but it's especially inadvisable if it comes across to native speakers as erroneous.


Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.


That's actually the norm in this region.  If you used "were" in those instances around here, it would seem odd.   :shrug

I think the Bandit said it best at 2:12 of this video:


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elleoco

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

The judge of a writing contest once told me subjunctive was passé and I should stop using it. That was years ago, but being pigheaded, I ignored her advice. I'm now having trouble with the modern simplified possessives but am trying to convince myself to go along there. The whole idea of dumbing down instead of educating up offends me.

Rose Andrews

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Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.
Totally guilty here. I do "It was as if..." a lot.  :icon_redface:
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Vijaya

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

 The whole idea of dumbing down instead of educating up offends me.

I just keep singing If I were a Rich Man.

Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces, primarily for children
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Becca Mills

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.
Totally guilty here. I do "It was as if..." a lot.  :icon_redface:

I think "It was as if ..." is correct. I certainly could be wrong, but it sounds right to my ear.
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Jeff Tanyard

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

 The whole idea of dumbing down instead of educating up offends me.

I just keep singing If I were a Rich Man.


 :icon_lol2: grint
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David VanDyke

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.
Totally guilty here. I do "It was as if..." a lot.  :icon_redface:

I think "It was as if ..." is correct. I certainly could be wrong, but it sounds right to my ear.

You happen to be correct in that case, but there are other subjunctive constructions where "were" is correct.

I was noting that, in this book series (18 books!) every single subjunctive used "was," and never "were," even when "were" was correct and "was" was incorrect.

By analogy, it's as if the author never conjugated a verb, but said, "they was" as well as "she was," all the time and every time.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Becca Mills

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.
Totally guilty here. I do "It was as if..." a lot.  :icon_redface:

I think "It was as if ..." is correct. I certainly could be wrong, but it sounds right to my ear.

You happen to be correct in that case, but there are other subjunctive constructions where "were" is correct.

I was noting that, in this book series (18 books!) every single subjunctive used "was," and never "were," even when "were" was correct and "was" was incorrect.

By analogy, it's as if the author never conjugated a verb, but said, "they was" as well as "she was," all the time and every time.

No, you're definitely right that the subjunctive takes "were." That's my understanding anyway. I would be annoyed if it were (ahem) missing, with exceptions for dialogue. Trying to figure out why Rose's example doesn't ... maybe it's not actually subjunctive, despite the presence of "if." Maybe it's actually something more like a simile.
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JRTomlin

Current book series apparently has simply done away with "were" for subjunctives.

Every "if" is followed by "was." As in, "If I was a ballon," or "If she was here." I want to read the books, but it's like trying to eat apples and finding worms.
That brings out my inner pedant soooo much.  :HB
 

munboy

Naming a body part that is already implied by the action or naming of a part of the body part.

"She shrugged her shoulders."
Ok, but what else would she shrug? (Not to be confused with "She shrugged A shoulder" which is a subtly different action and is acceptable (in my mind, anyways))

"He had a tattoo on the palm of his hand."
Really? I thought it was on palm of his knee.

I'm doing some deep edits/rewrites on a mess of a manuscript for a publisher and find myself slashing these things quite a bit. It makes me hope my editor and I didn't miss any of these in my books.  :icon_think:
 

Tom Wood

"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
 
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JRTomlin

He sat down as well. Have you ever sat up?
 

VanessaC

He sat down as well. Have you ever sat up?

Erm, sometimes. I would say "sat up in bed", for example, or my characters quite often end up knocked down so they sit up from there. But "sat down on a chair" is mostly redundant, I agree.
 

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Gaylord Fancypants

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He sat down as well. Have you ever sat up?

Erm, sometimes. I would say "sat up in bed", for example, or my characters quite often end up knocked down so they sit up from there. But "sat down on a chair" is mostly redundant, I agree.

Both "sit down" and "sit up" are phrasal verbs, which shouldn't be avoided ("We need to sit down with the marketing department" and "His claims made me sit up and listen closely"). Both can also be redundant when used literally ("I sat down on the chair" and "I was sitting up in the attic").
 
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David VanDyke

Lately I'm running into too much pointless detail--not enriching, but just description because the author can't seem to let go.

Example:

She went out the door, down the steps and walked down the sidewalk to her car. Opening the door, she sat down in the seat, buckled the belt and put the key in the ignition and started the engine...

*facepalm*

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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JRTomlin

He sat down as well. Have you ever sat up?

Erm, sometimes. I would say "sat up in bed", for example, or my characters quite often end up knocked down so they sit up from there. But "sat down on a chair" is mostly redundant, I agree.

Both "sit down" and "sit up" are phrasal verbs, which shouldn't be avoided ("We need to sit down with the marketing department" and "His claims made me sit up and listen closely"). Both can also be redundant when used literally ("I sat down on the chair" and "I was sitting up in the attic").
I was obviously referring to the literal use. That doesn't mean there might not be some point when you might want to use the phrase.

I absolutely agree about pointless detail, David.
 

sassybeewriter

Abusing gerunds causes hair to grow on your palms. Just sayin'.  :writethink:

Lol, it's almost a rhythm thing. Once you start using them they sort of become hard NOT to use.

Definitely getting hairy palms over here.

Inserting random cat emoji bc it keeps catching my eye:  :catrun 
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sassybeewriter

Lately I'm running into too much pointless detail--not enriching, but just description because the author can't seem to let go.

Example:

She went out the door, down the steps and walked down the sidewalk to her car. Opening the door, she sat down in the seat, buckled the belt and put the key in the ignition and started the engine...

*facepalm*

If you ever wrote stage or screenplays this is an easy trap to fall into! I spend a lot of time on second drafts cutting mundane physical activity (not as descriptive as your example but… Well it's not good). Just little things out that make me scratch my head and go "WHY?"
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VanessaC

Lately I'm running into too much pointless detail--not enriching, but just description because the author can't seem to let go.

Example:

She went out the door, down the steps and walked down the sidewalk to her car. Opening the door, she sat down in the seat, buckled the belt and put the key in the ignition and started the engine...

*facepalm*

Agree!

Or something I ran into was a first person story where the description included things like "I put my long, silky, brown hair up into a ponytail". I get that the writer is trying to convey the character's physical description, and it's tough without resorting to cliche (mirrors, etc), but I still remember that line of description several years later.

(And I say this knowing I have resorted to cliche or tricks from time to time to get information across.  :icon_redface:)
 

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David VanDyke

Cliches are cliches because they work. The mirror cliche works in prose and on screen. I personally never saw any problem with it, if, like everything, it's used sparingly--say, once per book.

***

Lately, I've been seeing "everyday" misused a lot. Proofreading usually catches this, so I don't see it often in books, but I often do on shop signs and in informal communications like emails and posts.

"Everyday" is an adjective. This is everyday weather, an everyday occurrence.

It's not an adverb or conjunction like "everywhere."

Wrong: Low prices everyday! I go there everyday.

Right: Low prices every day! I go there every day.
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Tom Wood

"The glass windows I pass reflect a distorted vision of myself—face elongated, dark jeans stretched too long, black gloves, beat-up boots, faded red scarf wrapped around my black hoodie. My rainbow-colored hair spills out from underneath my hood."

I won't name the author, but they do quite well.
 

PJ Post

Naming a body part that is already implied by the action or naming of a part of the body part.

"She shrugged her shoulders."
Ok, but what else would she shrug? (Not to be confused with "She shrugged A shoulder" which is a subtly different action and is acceptable (in my mind, anyways))

"He had a tattoo on the palm of his hand."
Really? I thought it was on palm of his knee.

I agree. I try to catch them, but they sneak through just the same, the little bastards. For me, it just comes out as part of the flow. But - on the other hand - sometimes, you need those redundant words, otherwise it messes with the rhythm of the prose. 'Bob sat' is one of those. Depending on the situation, it can be too stark or stilted, so, 'sat down' makes sense because it's how people talk. People say, 'please, sit down' all the time. We're programmed into thinking like that. So deleting these finishing words can leave the reader hanging and unsettled. These words also direct reader attention and increase reader engagement. So, it's a trickier rule to master than it may appear to be on the surface.

___

Reflection descriptions, at this point in cliche-ville, are just lazy writing. It's sooooooo easy to do better, especially in first person. Same with opening with weather or waking up. This is where re-writes can really improve things.
 

David VanDyke

It's funny, I think I have one review complaining that I used the mirror cliche. I seldom use it--maybe in 4-5 books out of my 30+. The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice. Readers have to be put on notice that something is "wrong," assuming it's not overused and organically distracting. But once someone has been told in some class or by some authority that something's "wrong," when it's actually only "inadvisable if overused," they suddenly take it as gospel and are happy to re-quote it in a stentorian voice of delegated authority--rather like the memes that go around on FB warning about some nonexistent health risk, that people are happy to forward, thinking they're doing the right thing.

Telling the differences among what's morally and ethically wrong, incorrect, inaccurate or merely inadvisable and unwise, is a skill many never develop.
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PJ Post

We all have our pet peeves; that's one of mine. My least favorite is the 'three weeks ago' opening following some random action sequence. And, not to put too fine a point on it, we all use our own share of cliches - and not always in some clever subversive way. How about the river/life/journey metaphor? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
 

elleoco

The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice.

Oh, yes. This very thing spoiled reading for me after I began to write and learn all the "rules." Can't say I'm totally over it, but at least I can enjoy reading again now, although I'm even fussier than I used to be. The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

And it makes me bare my teeth in defiance every time I start a sentence with and (or but). Although that taboo was beaten into me in grade school. Like don't use incomplete sentences.

Rose Andrews

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"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
Irk mode for real on this one. What is crouching other than going down?
20th Century & Western Historical Romance
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Tom Wood

OTOH, apparently the only direction to screw is up!  :hehe
 

David VanDyke

The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

That's simply the 3P Omniscient POV (unlimited). It's fallen out of favor in modern times.

Yet, the problem usually comes in the execution. Properly executed, the changes in perspective, also called narrative view (not POV, actually--this term is misused a lot), will seem natural and seamless. If badly executed, the changes will be confusing and irritating--head-hopping, as it were. 3P Omniscient (limited) is actually among the most common POVs to write in, where the narrator changes perspective, say from the detective to the killer and back, but creates a distinct break, such as a new chapter, to keep everything clear. The other choice is 3PPOV limited to one character, often called "deep third," where everything's told from the viewpoint of a single character, but the construction is 3PPOV rather than 1PPOV.
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David VanDyke

"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
Irk mode for real on this one. What is crouching other than going down?

How about "He thought in his head..."

Where else could he think? In his elbow?
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Becca Mills

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.
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Angstriddengoddess

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.

Trying to see how one could make that work.
"The haberdasher said, 'If that's true, I'll eat my hat!' A moment later, he was hocking up his wares."

I've forgotten the term for this, but my pet peeve is writers who don't understand the difference between sequential action and simultaneous action.

Instead of "He laughed and ate his hat" they write, "Laughing, he ate his hat." You cannot eat and laugh at the same time. Unless the next sentence starts, "Choking, he hocked..."
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David VanDyke

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.

Unless he pawned them.
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Becca Mills

Came across a tricky vocab mix-up: hocking one's wares. It should be hawking.

Unless he pawned them.

Yeah, I think that use of "hock" is probably what generates the mix-up. It sounds almost the same, both words are sales-related ... eggcorn waiting to happen.
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Jo

To me that reads like a software error, probably when dictating the text.
Jo
 

Becca Mills

To me that reads like a software error, probably when dictating the text.

Ah, that could well be! Hadn't thought of that.
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Doglover

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Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
That really pisses me off. I don't even like it when it's spoken, never mind when it's written and often in places where it should definitely be correct.

The one that really puts my blood pressure up is misplaced apostrophes. That I cannot be doing with.
 

Robin


Would of being used instead of would've/would have. Any of the '-ould' words.
That really pisses me off. I don't even like it when it's spoken, never mind when it's written and often in places where it should definitely be correct.

The one that really puts my blood pressure up is misplaced apostrophes. That I cannot be doing with.

'Would of' 'Should of'  :HB That really gets on my nerves, though I haven't come across it in a book - yet.

This one is controversial, but I can't stand it when people use 'addicting' instead of 'addictive'. It might not be technically wrong (arguable), but it is so weird and distracting that it makes me want to throw my kindle against the wall.
 

Doglover

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"He crouched down."

What other direction could he crouch?
Irk mode for real on this one. What is crouching other than going down?

How about "He thought in his head..."

Where else could he think? In his elbow?
It's funny you should say that. My adult son, who was born with brain damage, very often says 'I was thinking in my head'. Of course, he's special and nobody would dream of correcting him (not if they want to live, anyway) and it's rather sweet. He didn't talk at all until he was five or six so now he's very explicit.
 

Doglover

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The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice.

Oh, yes. This very thing spoiled reading for me after I began to write and learn all the "rules." Can't say I'm totally over it, but at least I can enjoy reading again now, although I'm even fussier than I used to be. The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

And it makes me bare my teeth in defiance every time I start a sentence with and (or but). Although that taboo was beaten into me in grade school. Like don't use incomplete sentences.
It seems that it's necessary, for dramatic effect, to sometimes start a sentence with 'and' in fiction, but every time I do it, I can hear my English teacher shouting in my ear.

Elizabeth George made a couple of big mistakes which put me off her books, the biggest of which was killing off Lynley's wife.
 

WordMend

One thing I notice a lot of writers do, especially when writing very long pieces, is to not have consistency throughout their work. If a minor character's name is "Eric" in one chapter and "Erik" in another, it seems a bit careless, and readers will notice.

However, a lot of mistakes are just simply typos and very simple grammatical errors. "Its 12:00," for instance, or "The shoe's are black," or "I should of thought of that."

But then again, these tend to be the people who can build a whole new world with characters and a fun plot to fit inside it, something I can't do. We all have our strengths, I suppose!
 

David VanDyke

Once is a typo. The same mistake repeated throughout the book represents something the author needs to learn and correct going forward.

Here's one I ran across today, but it's pretty common.

Awhile is an adverb that means "for a short time.

A while is a noun meaning a longer, but undetermined, amount of time.

Yes, it's a bit hard to get your head around "while" being an adverb, with a meaning somewhat like "quickly." It's archaic, and frankly, it shouldn't be used much anymore (who says "please tarry awhile" nowadays?), because in nearly every case I've seen where "awhile" is used in modern English, it should be "a while." The most common construction is he/she/they "waited a while," or occasionally "you'll have to wait a while..."  Note that using "awhile" almost exactly reverses the most common meaning.

So, dear friends, my suggestion is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2018, 05:33:38 AM by David VanDyke »
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Doglover

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So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe
 

Tom Wood


So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe

We're all going to end up installing Grammarly to check our posts!  :hehe
 

David VanDyke


So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe

Yes, thanks!

Damn you autocorrect!

This is why I have two proofreaders go over every book I publish...
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Doglover

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So, dear friends, my suggesting is to simply strike "awhile" from your vocabulary, at least until you are certain, because 99% of the time, "a while" is what you mean.
Sorry, did you mean 'suggestion'?  :hehe

Yes, thanks!

Damn you autocorrect!

This is why I have two proofreaders go over every book I publish...
Sorry, David, I couldn't resist being as it's this thread. I seriously detest autocorrect and I refuse to use any feature or machine that does things for me. Some inventions are useful; others are a bloody nuisance.  :icon_lol2:
 

David VanDyke

I don't actually think I have autocorrect on but it's a great excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Sometimes I think I have an autocorrect in my brain, or maybe it's a form of dyslexia. Ever since I received a relatively mild traumatic brain injury (also know as a concussion), ironically not on any of my combat tours, but rather from falling on an icy surface on a ski trip in Switzerland, I've had a form of aphasia. For a while I couldn't articulate some words for several seconds, even though I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I could write the words, though, usually, so it was something to do with speaking, not the formation of text in my brain.

Now, though, what occasionally happens is that I know exactly what I am trying to say, but somewhere between my conceptual thought processes and my fingers, it transforms into a similar word. For example, I'll want to write "think" but what comes out on the page is "thing," despite the k and g keys being 4 apart. In some cases, it comes out as above--suggesting for suggestion, which requires several completely different keystrokes.

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The Doctor

"Y'all goin' out 'night?" He asked.


I've never heard anyone drop the first syllable of "tonight" altogether.   :Hqn66ku:  I agree that writing dialect like that is inadvisable, but it's especially inadvisable if it comes across to native speakers as erroneous.



Where I am, in Scotland, you can regularly hear people say things like "Are you going out the night?" or "I think I'll stay in, the night" meaning "tonight".

Don't know if it's a Scottish Borders/lowlands thing or if it's widespread in Scotland.

 

David VanDyke

Not writing on this one, but narrating or speaking. Here are a couple doozies I heard recently:

hyperbole spoken as  "hyper-bole."

facade spoken as "fake-aid"

This demonstrates the necessity of "proof-listening" when creating shows or audiobooks.

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

spin52

The one that irks me is when something is 'kind of unique' or 'somewhat unique'. There aren't degrees of uniqueness. Either it's unique or it isn't.


Traditional mysteries with a dash of humor -- no cats, no cupcakes.
 
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Llano

These have been used incorrectly for so long that nobody even thinks they're wrong anymore, including judges:

"$5 million" says "five million dollars."
"$5 million dollars" says "five million dollars dollars."
"$5 million bucks" says "five million dollars bucks."

"50 cents" says "fifty cents."
".50 cents" says "half a cent."

 

Jeff Tanyard

".50 cents" says "half a cent."


When I collected coins as a kid, I always thought it would be cool to have a half cent.  I don't think I ever saw one at the local coin store, though.

For those who have never heard of the half-cent coin:

Half Cent
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Doglover

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The thing is, ordinary readers, ones who've never taken a creative writing class or tried to write, don't notice.

Oh, yes. This very thing spoiled reading for me after I began to write and learn all the "rules." Can't say I'm totally over it, but at least I can enjoy reading again now, although I'm even fussier than I used to be. The absolute that still annoys me more than anything (because I no longer can avoid noticing) is the "rule" against switching POV within a scene. Bad, bad, bad. Guess what? I just finished rereading an Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley mystery, and she....

Another author I used to enjoy is now forever spoiled for me because in her successful, long-running series she switches POV not just within scenes, but within paragraphs. The last of her books I read, unhappy every page of the way, I swear there was a switch mid-sentence.

And it makes me bare my teeth in defiance every time I start a sentence with and (or but). Although that taboo was beaten into me in grade school. Like don't use incomplete sentences.
I have no problem with switching POV; I do it myself all the time, although never mid-sentence or even mid-paragraph. I used to love Jean Plaidy until I started writing and realised she had an intensive love affair with the semi-colon - I mean, three or four in one sentence. She also likes to say: 'he shrugged his shoulders'. What the hell else would he shrug?

Elizabeth George made a big deal about Lynley and another character driving illegally because they didn't have their driving licences with them. We don't need to in England; it is enough to legally have one. She also doesn't realise that working class girls from Acton don't tend to say 'one does'.

I could cope with the latter, but not the former.

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.
 

VanessaC

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.
 

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Doglover

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One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.
I've been to the States a few times and can't say I've ever noticed. I always hold my knife and fork the wrong way round, fork on the right, knife on the left. I'm not left handed; my mother used to say I was cack handed!
 

Becca Mills

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.

My understanding (could be wrong) is that Americans tend to hold their fork on the left and knife on the right while cutting. After cutting, they set down the knife, transfer the fork to the right hand, and bring the fork to the mouth. In other countries, people very sensibly just keep the fork in the left hand throughout.

We do try to be willfully weird over here.  :icon_mrgreen:
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David VanDyke

I believe that's the "recommended" method for old-timey etiquette, taught in the past, but I don't think there is a standard anymore in America. People do whatever they want.

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spin52

I believe that's the "recommended" method for old-timey etiquette, taught in the past, but I don't think there is a standard anymore in America. People do whatever they want.
I think the standard these days is to eat with your fingers.


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Doglover

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I believe that's the "recommended" method for old-timey etiquette, taught in the past, but I don't think there is a standard anymore in America. People do whatever they want.
I think the standard these days is to eat with your fingers.
Well, I'm glad to hear the Americans are finally catching on to traditional London etiquette. There is, after all, no other way to eat fish and chips, shrimps and mussels.  :dance:
 

VanessaC

One thing that pees me off enormously is when an author makes a big deal out of something that is irrelevant to the story.

This reminded me of at least a couple of occasions where American writers went into great detail about British table manners - apparently we use different hands for holding our forks / cutting our food? In one case it was about half a page and I was even more confused by the end. Had the urge to go get a plate, knife and fork to check what the writer was describing.

My understanding (could be wrong) is that Americans tend to hold their fork on the left and knife on the right while cutting. After cutting, they set down the knife, transfer the fork to the right hand, and bring the fork to the mouth. In other countries, people very sensibly just keep the fork in the left hand throughout.

We do try to be willfully weird over here.  :icon_mrgreen:

Thanks, Becca - I knew there was a difference described, but couldn't remember what it was.  I'm sure the writer thought it was important for the story, but to my mind, in both cases, it could simply have been replaced with "he had good table manners" or something similarly bland, or indeed nothing at all, rather than the odd mental gymnastics I ended up trying to perform.
 

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