Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rules of the Read: Pet Peeves

Hello, loves! A week without snow and ice is a delightful week, indeed. Watching the neighbors bask in the glow of sunlight reflecting off of one’s winter-pale legs is somewhat less delightful, but we can still be thankful for the warmth.

Warmth. That reminds me of a conversation that I once had with the news editor of our local paper. Not that his was a warm personality; on the contrary, his charm rivaled that of a glass of cold gravy. No, the warmth in question related to the fact that I felt an urge to strike him with a fire extinguisher. The discussion centered on his, shall we say, creative use of grammar. He insisted that certain phrases were perfectly acceptable for use in news stories because “people talk that way all the time.”

People wear florals with plaid, Honey; that doesn't make it a good idea.

While style manuals give a fair amount of leeway in certain areas, there are a number of phrases that never fail to cause teeth to grind. The use of over when discussing quantity, for example. The store sold over four hundred copies of that designer coat last spring. Using over instead of more than is almost guaranteed to bring out the homicidal maniac in some editors.

Redundancies are another source of annoyance. As an added bonus, we’ll send you a free gift when you apply for store credit! Egad. I’m certainly glad that I won’t be required to pay for my gift, but I’d love to know what the baseline bonus might have been.

These are only two possibilities; throw in the “there, their, they’re” debate, and you have the makings of a mind bomb of nuclear proportions.

What say you? Are you inclined to grant a bit of artistic license where language is concerned, or do you brandish a virtual pointy stick with which to poke a lazy writer? Leave a peeve or two in the comment section, if you please. In the meantime, there are twenty-seven bags of red mulch to be spread in the flower beds. A dash of color will be nice; the weather may be doing its impression of spring, but the yard is still winter gray.

Have a lovely week, take a nice walk, and remember—a well-turned phrase is always in style!

The Style Maven has been sharpening her garden shears in preparation for a pruning spree. The hybrid rose/waitabit bush near the back walk is now taller than the house. The survivor will write the next installment of The Procraftinator.


  1. One of my pet peeves is nauseous/naseated. To me naseous is used to describe a color, a visual stimulus, etc. Nauseated means you feel ill. But there is much debate as to whether nauseous means a person feels ill. I'm willing to ignore grammar in dialogue, idioms, etc. in fiction. People do not speak "properly." It would be a boring world if we did. Everyone would sound pretentious and we'd lose all the colorful insults, rejoinders, and slang. Since a book is written from a character's POV, he would not necessarily think in "proper" language." That said, sentence structure and punctuation should not be trifled with! And I am a fan of the Oxford comma.

  2. When writing (or editing) non-fiction, I walk hand-in-hand with the Chicago Manual of Style -- the exception being quotes, which are used exactly as spoken or written. Fiction is another matter. Narrative needs to be grammatically correct but powerful in the writer's word choices to create the desired word pictures in the mind of the reader. Spoken or internal dialogue, on the other hand, needs to feel "real," be consistent with the character, and need not be complete sentences. Nor is subject-verb agreement required, nor any other grammar rule obeyed. However, it must be easily understandable and character specific, as well as used consistently whenever that character speaks. I did make a slight exception to this rule with the prosecuting attorney in one of my novels. When in the courtroom, he speaks quite properly. Outside that environment, he's much more relaxed, inclined to use slang, and drops the "g" off most "ing" words." In other words, his professional persona differs from his everyday speech, so the reader knows this is simply part of who he is.

    Great post, Style Maven. :-)

  3. Oh yes, I will send phrases such as, "It was a sudden and unexpected surprise," directly to The Department of Redundancy Dept.


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