Monday, January 18, 2010


I was in Barnes and Noble today and picked up what looked like a really interesting book: The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes- and Why.

The book looks great. Although I can't afford to buy books for a while after my most recent spree, I'm going to see if my library has it.



I almost groaned aloud as I read the back cover. They wrote something about escaping a "raging fire".

I am not picking on this (excellent!) book, but really ... raging? I can't think of the last time I've read or heard an account of wind, fires, or floods that didn't have them raging. I blogged about this last year.

Wasn't anybody listening?

That does it. I'm going to write a best selling novel with sales figures that make J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, and Dan Brown bite their lips in envy. Blogger will have to set up special servers to handle the Slushbusters traffic.

And just before I unveil my new literacy program during coast to coast media coverage, I will ask ... beg ... demand! ... that rage only apply to really bad reality TV stars. I will provide alternative descriptions for violent weather, fire, or flood, and encourage all media outlets to use them.

So. I should get back to my revisions. That best selling novel won't write itself.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about language blunders that set your teeth on edge. I'm perfectly prepared to discuss using commas to make a word plural, its/it's, or anything else you care to mention.


Sarah said...

Just checked the library- they have The Unthinkable. Yay!

Michelle said...

No one should be allowed to use the word "excitedly." Ever. Strike it from the dictionary. It's awkward to say, and I am always pulled out of a story if I read it. If you are tempted to use this word after your verb or dialog, you need a stronger verb or dialog.

Anonymous said...

lol your too funny!!! Interesting, but fun point. Except, now your going to get that stuck in my head to where I HATE it. ;D

I can't think of anything at the top of my head, but my recent read of Twilight where Meyer repeats words um from time to time. (Too many to mention here.)

Sarah said...

Thanks for stopping by, MillyMarie.

I think one of the great things about critique groups is that they notice things that you might miss. I despise 'rage' but litter my submissions with all sorts of other mistakes. It always helps to have other eyes look at what you write. : )

KM said...

It's not really a language thing, more of a craft/style thing, but it drives me crazy when an author uses direct address too much in their dialogue. For goodness' sake, we know who's talking to whom! Must you keep reminding us?! There's only 2 people in the scene! *sigh*

TerryLynnJohnson said...

This is a great post. I tend not to notice these things if I'm reading an absorbing book. Recently I'm seeing the word "was" used too often - but only because my editor slashes red marks through it in my own work!

Sarah said...

KM, I realized I was doing that in my last batch of work. Boy, was I glad I caught that! I'm going to piggyback on direct address and add As-you-know-Bob. (Thanks to Miss Snark for the term!) It's when a conversation is clearly meant to inform the reader:

"As you know, Bob, it's been ten years since I saw her, and things have never been right between us since she saw me cleaning out her secret chocolate stash."

You get the idea.

TerryLynn, was's (pronounces wuzzes) can be the bane of my existence. They were certainly top of the list in my very first critique. I'd scattered them all over the place! How is the editing coming, by the way? You're far closer than I to using your fame and fortune to fix misuse of the English language.

Amy Allgeyer Cook said...

What drives me crazy are adverbs in tag lines:
"Blah," she said, sadly.
"Ha!" he said, rudely.
(And like Terry, my first editorial direction was to go through my book and remove every single WAS. Dang those was's!)

Sarah said...

Amy, the sad thing is, I remember being taught to do that in elementary school writing exercises. It was a way to expand your sentences and be more descriptive. You'd give your subject an adjective and your verb an adverb. I remember thinking it made the sentences look so vibrant.

Of course, most of us forget that what's good for fourth grade doesn't work so well if you're writing middle grade or higher...

Lisa said...

I actually had an amazing Jr. High School teacher who would not let us use any "to be" verbs. I still remember the list--is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. We had to revise each essay until it contained zero "be" verbs. After a while, it became habit to shun the "was" and search for a better word.

Thank you, Mrs. Moore!

MotherReader said...

My pet peeve - and I'm not alone - is the misuse of the word "literally" for extra important emphasis. Believe me, it's never "literally raining cats and dogs."

There's even a blog that tracks these mistakes, but doesn't update very often.

Sarah said...

Yours had me thinking, MotherReader. I don't think I do that.

I think (hope!) I use it only when I am not exaggerating but am afraid someone will think I am.

I can only say that if it ever does literally rain cats and dogs, I hope someone takes pictures...

Kim Kasch said...

My Dad used to say, "maters" and "taters" and Fave-or-ite.

Loved Dad - hated those words.

Sarah said...

I love it, Kim! It reminds me of the accent I hear when I visit friends in Texas.

Amy Tate said...

It irks me to tears when someone writes "I started to run... or I started to think..." Either run or think but please don't start. BTW, when you make that big sale, I'll be the first in line for your autograph!

Sarah said...

Wow, Amy. Do you know that I almost used "started to" in the newest Slushbuster post: "started to catch up on blog reading."

Thank goodness I noticed I was being wordy and caught it.

You know, I think most of the things that irk writers are grounded in laziness. The author writes something without being deliberate. S/he may not be deliberate about spelling/punctuation, or description, or the way the words move across the page. It's just sloppy.

Alison said...

Sadly, (you like that I started off with an adverb there, right? Very dry humor attempt...) the author of the book did not write the back of the book blurb, or the inside front cover, or any of the other marketing materials that accompany a book. The author may not even have been consulted about them in any way at all. So please, (here I go again, see if you can find the dry humor) don't judge the book by it's cover!

I remember a romance novel writer at the James River conference a few years back showing us one of her covers. The lovers had the wrong color hair, they were dressed in the wrong era of clothing, and they were located in a setting that did not exist in the book. The back cover had them riding away on a horse, also a scene that never happened in the book. Her point was about loosing creative control over some aspects of the book. I know even Stephenie Meyer says she has NO idea what the tulip on the front cover of Eclipse signifies. If she doesn't have the clout on jacket design and text, I guess no one does.