Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Unnatural Writing Quirks

Tod Goldberg, novelist and blogger of Natural Selection, has been reading students' manuscripts. Since the students are trying to gain entry to an advanced novel writing course, they are, one presumes, sending their best work. He really shouldn't be forced to tell them:

If any of your dialogue regularly has the following tags, please consider a lower division course: interjected, retorted, perked, chided, elaborated, huffed, declared, admonished, clarified, ejaculated, defecated, spurted, sputtered, blustered, feigned, forced, exclaimed, condemned, purported, reacted, cautioned, cajoled, stated, lauded, or lambasted. Also, if you find yourself placing adverbs alongside any of those words -- like, "I hate to read poorly written dialogue," Bob blustered angrily -- perhaps pick up any of your favorite novels and check to see how many times anyone says something, you know, furtively.

Of course, I am jaded by too many years wielding a red pencil. The other day, I got a call from an editorial friend. She was whimpering, barely coherent. "The possessive form of it," she moaned.

"Yes, it's spelled without an apostrophe."

"I know. It doesn't have an apostrophe. But-- but-- it certainly doesn't have two apostrophes."

"Your author spelled it with two apostrophes?"

"He spelled it it's'. And this is the guy who sends around the grammar suggestions. Today's was a warning against using cliches."

"At least he followed his own advice. That's the most original misspelling of its that I've run across."

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