Occasionally, when I write a book review, people pick on it. I know, right? Like, what's with THAT? Seriously, however...I got picked on for taking an author to task for using the construction, "I should of," "I would of," and such. I don't believe I even was the only one to ream this person out for that construction, but one particularly persnickety reader blasted me for that, among other things she thought were "obnoxious" about my review. (Note: when someone starts out their comment by saying, "What an obnoxious review," you're probably not going to get much credit from them. Just sayin'.) Her contention? "This is how people talk. So you should write it that way." My response? "It may sound like how people talk. But it's still not how a literate writer should write it." In truth, when we say, "I should've done ____," we often do make the words sound like "should of." It's sloppy. But, then, a lot of people's conversation is sloppy. The point is, however, that many things that sound a certain way in speech don't get written that way in prose, and this is one of those that should NOT. It's wrong. It's wrong, no matter if it's in dialogue or not. What the speaker is saying is "I should have," in a contraction form. That contraction is never formed with the word of. If that's how you're forming it because you're too lazy to get it right, you ought to be called out on it. You form that speech pattern with an apostrophe and the "ve" at the end. For should've. For would've. For could've. And no, this isn't being needlessly pedantic. And no, it's not even being needlessly precise. It's simply trying to write the English language the way the language is normally read. If you put in "should of," you're putting a preposition in as part of a verb, a preposition that needs an object. A noun. Not a verb. So if you say, "I should of come," not only does it sound like you're an idiot...it'll stop an intelligent reader every time. They'll stumble over it. (Note I said an intelligent reader. Since half the population writes this and doesn't seem to know it's wrong in the first place, you may not get a reaction from them at all. But that's not whom I write for, and I trust it's not whom you're writing for, either.) Bottom line? It doesn't matter whether it "sounds" like that in speech or not. In WRITING, it still has to be written to reflect what the person is actually saying. Which is, "I would have," "I should have," "I could have," and so on. Frankly? If you're going to mess around with that contraction, then do it with a recognized slang form of the words: woulda, shoulda, and coulda. Everyone knows those. Everyone recognizes them. And slang, boys and girls, is vastly better than illiteracy. And an author--any author--has gotta know better. (heh heh) Just use an apostrophe and a "ve"...and no one gets hurt. Is that so much to ask? Janny
Having just discovered this, yet again, being misused in fiction...let's talk about being ORNERY. Yeah. I know. This space for laughing. All personality-themed barbs aside, however, let's truly talk about "ornery." What is IS...and what it AIN'T. And what it ISN'T...is anything funny. Several years ago, I first encountered an author I otherwise like very much using the word "ornery" repeatedly when she should have used words like "spunky" or "sassy" or the like. She had characters teasing each other and giving each other "ornery grins." Well, if she saw someone truly giving an ornery GRIN, she saw someone with a split personality. Because, boys and girls, that's NOT what "ornery" means. It doesn't mean "smart-aleck." It doesn't mean "sassy." It doesn't mean "daring" or "joking" or "teasing." It means, in a word, NASTY. The definition lists synonyms like "grouchy or grumpy," "cantankerous," and even "bad- or ill-tempered," "waspish," and "irascible." The KINDEST term for it in any dictionary I can find is a secondary definition as "stubborn." Now, in the context that this author used it, she did not mean ANY of the things above, with the possibly exception of "stubborn." However, since nothing else in the instances she mentioned had anything to do with someone being stubborn...I can only assume she had acquired some regional misapplication of the word that resulted in using the word wrong-- one that no one had ever bothered to query, so much as correct. Not even her editors. And that made ME ornery to see, frankly. All of which points back to something the CWC says with annoying and even ornery regularity: Whatever word you choose to use...make SURE you're using it right. Even if you think you know already, LOOK IT UP. Even if you're "sure" you know what it means, because everyone in your extended family says it that way, LOOK IT UP. And, for heaven's sake, if you're only approximately sure what it means, or you're not really sure at all...PLEASE. LOOK. IT. UP. There's no excuse for using a wrong word like this, over and over, in clear conveyance that you don't know what you're talking about. There's even less reason for an editor to let it pass by. You're never, ever, EVER going to give someone an "ornery grin." Unless you have elastic capabilities to both your face and your temperament that, frankly, would be a little scary in real life. And misusing "ornery" around this friendly editor...will NOT make her smile. Which will result in a red mark on your manuscript, and not make YOU smile, either. Use lots of words in your writing. Use all kinds of them. There are something like 600,000 words in the English language, and more are being added every day. So don't be shy. Dig right in and use 'em. Just please, please, please, please-I-BEG-you... USE THEM RIGHT. (And they wonder why I drink.) Don't be ornery about it...but do be picky. If you're going to call yourself an author, picky is one of the first, last, and consistent things you ought to be anyway. And lazy, quite frankly, is not. Learn the difference. Thoughts? Janny
FINALLY! No, this isn't a case of actual felines tripping the light fantastic...it's much better. It's the Northwestern Wildcats finally breaking into the NCAA Tournament, for the first time in 78 YEARS. And yeah, it's kind of a big deal. GO CATS!
OK, you may be wondering what "begging" has to do with a good old-fashioned Wrestle. You won't wonder long, though, if you find it as irritating as I do to hear the phrase "begs the question" used the WRONG way. ALL THE TIME. By people who ought to know better. Think about it. You can't go for more than a few days--or hours, depending on how much writing you read and commenting you listen to--without hearing some journalist, when presenting a query, say, "Of course, this begs the question..." And then they proceed to ASK said question. If this doesn't set your teeth on edge, you're either unfamiliar with one of the basic definitions of rhetoric and logic...or you think that "begging the question" is the same as "presenting" or "bringing up" a question. Guess what? IT'S NOT. Not only is it not the same thing...it doesn't even come close to MEANING the same thing. Basic logic lesson time. "Begging the question," according to wiser minds among us, is defined as: Any form of argument where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises. Many people use the phrase “begging the question” incorrectly when they use it to mean, “prompts one to ask the question." That is NOT the correct usage. Begging the question is a form of circular reasoning.
(H/T to Logically Fallacious for this concise definition. Without swear words or anything. Better than I could do.) Note that this "begging the question" aspect is a) considered an errant form of argument, and b) weak thinking on display. What it attempts to do is use a conclusion in order to argue its own premise. In other words, in shorthand, it's: Claim X assumes X is true. Therefore, claim X is true. The example on Logically Fallacious is, "Paranormal activity is real because I have experienced what could only be called paranormal activity." In order to say that anything "could only be called paranormal activity," one first has to acknowledge that paranormal activity is, in fact, a real thing. But that doesn't PROVE that it is...because in order to label your experience as such, you have to already accept as true that the thing exists and can be identified as such. Are your eyes crossing yet? Suffice to say that "begging the question" is a phenomenon that leaves a question, in fact, still unanswered--not something that presents or prompts a question. So the next time you hear someone say, "This begs the question, 'How were you able to see that purple cow, anyway?'".... Well, you probably know the response to that. Most of us have always said we'd rather SEE than BE one. Old rhymes aside, if you're brave enough, you'll also point out that the purple cow question isn't begging anything. Nor does the cow do any begging. And then, if your audience is truly paying attention...you can BEG them to stop misusing this phrase. And tell them why they're misusing it. You will strike a needed blow for logic and clear expression. And the purple cow will thank you. Milk it! Janny
Leave it to Chicks on the Right, one of my favorite places, to channel this wonderfulness. Actually, one more thing should probably be said. LEARN YOUR HISTORY. Because Hitler, as almost no one seems to want to point out, was a liberal socialist. Three guesses what both Obama and Hillary are. 'nuff said.
Okay...This is actually starting to get a bit scary. What's with people writing stories nowadays in which the tenses are all mixed up--not only in the same paragraph, but sometimes in the same SENTENCE? I've just finished skimming a potential editing project in which the author actually used past, present, and future in one sentence. And, no, they weren't talking about time travel. This was supposedly normal narrative. When I first encountered this, I thought it was a couple of clients with bad habits and/or bad instruction. However, it's become so rampant now that I can no longer assume that. The only thing I CAN assume, therefore...is that NO ONE is teaching verb tenses in school anymore. I don't mean sketching around them, touching on them briefly, and then going on to "more interesting" things in the language. I mean NOT TEACHING THEM AT ALL. If this is the case, WHY and HOW did this happen? Please don't get me wrong. Slang is one thing. Informal, casual speech is one thing. But when I see a narrative sentence that says something like, "She and her brother had never ventured out of the safe area in their lives, so they don't know what they experience when they will..." and so on? This makes a reader's head hurt. Which strikes me, oh, I don't know, as something YOU DON'T WANT TO DO? It's not DIFFICULT to learn verb tenses. In English. No. Really. It's not. In fact, it used to be common sense. It used to be that you couldn't get out of school without nailing these things. But now, it's basic error I see in manuscript after manuscript from people who think they're writing books, even people who claim those books HAVE BEEN EDITED ALREADY. By whom? The legendary 100 monkeys with computers, allegedly writing Shakespeare? This isn't a matter of pedantry. It's not a matter of being "picky." It's a matter of communicating clearly what you mean. And it should worry people who call themselves writers, above all. Because in this age of people taking every single word you say or write, pouncing on it, and giving it their OWN spin to paint you in negative terms...why would you be content writing anything that a) makes you look stupid, or b) is completely unintelligible? I suppose the upside is that if everyone is equally stupid, they won't do you any lasting damage. But I'm not in a position where I'd recommend anyone take that chance. The up side, I suppose, is that editors will be getting more work than ever. The down side, however, is that that work should be aimed at higher levels than needing to correct what should have been basic, fourth-grade grammar. I'm an editor. Not an elementary school teacher. I'm willing to do my job...but, apparently, there are a swackload of others who are not willing or able to do THEIRS. And so it continues. Pardon me while I go take a painkiller now. Or, maybe, six. Thoughts? Janny