Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Guardian Books Blog: random whiny complaints





many more editors needed, under my direction





Today’s entry appears on Guardian Books Online, and deals with things that make you go hmmm: words, phrases, small mistakes – anything in books and articles that annoy you. A random list of whiny complaints, as one commentator correctly said. Phrases that make you ‘inexplicably outraged’ as another put it. This is part of it:


Of course we all make mistakes (and by the way, any errors in this blogpost are IRONIC), but I can't be the only avid reader who has a mental list of red flags when I'm reading a new book or writer. There are warning signs that tell me I am not going to enjoy this; things that make me go "hmmm". I've divided them into categories, and asked other people for their ideas (so don't blame me for all of them): 

Spelling – I am astonished by how often minuscule, supersede and longueurs are misspelled, but it's a helpful alarm signal that this author isn't too careful. Confusing uninterested and disinterested is a giveaway, too.

Misquoting poetry – how hard is it? It is 'they shall grow not old as we that are left grow old' NOT 'they shall not grow old …' and the rhythm of the line should tell you that. (A proper book from a proper publisher got this one wrong recently, but put it right for paperback.)

Putting the dialogue of some characters in supposedly phonetic dialect – RP isn't phonetic, so why do authors start dropping h's and g's when it is a working-class character?

Characters' speech is fertile ground for irritation. No one listens to Elmore Leonard's rule that "says" or "said" is all an author needs, but if other talking words must be used, then I would ban characters from chortling, growling, blurting out and using a husky voice. "Smile" and "laugh" are not speaking verbs.




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The picture, from the US National Archives, shows editors in the Census Department in 1940.



8 comments:

  1. Moira - What a great post! You've highlighted some things that really pull me out of a story too. Now of course, we all make mistakes - goodness knows I do! But I think lack of careful editing sends a signal that the author doesn't respect the reader and the story enough to be careful. And I don't like that message.

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    1. Thanks Margot, I really appreciate that. And you express very well what I was trying to say - I'm not just being pedantic or picky, but I do find certain things trip me up, and as you say, if the writer didn't think it was worth correcting, why should I think it worth reading....

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  2. I would have to think about what irritates me - I'm sure there is a lot.

    Digressing - something I'm prone to do, when I post on the blog - blogger is always telling my spelling is incorrect........favorite not favourite, color not colour........cosey not cosy - I made that last one up, as I don't think I have used it (yet)!

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    1. Yes, made me laugh with that. And in general, I guess the blog software is American? I used to live in America so sometimes I have to think hard which is right anyway, so I'm a lost cause. Ignoring spelling warnings is my way out of it....

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  3. Very entertaining post at the Guardian. You must have a thick skin, there are so many cranky people commenting there.

    I liked one of the suggestions in the comments... Repetitive phrases. I can see how it happens, but when an author writes lots of books, you would think someone (editor?) would be paying attention.

    But for the most part I just don't notice. Next time I get irritated I will pay more attention.

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    1. Thanks Tracy - there were so many comments that I can't get too bothered about the ones that didn't like it: and I've seen worse. You are a patient nice person, not like picky pedantic me! I hope you don't change....

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  4. What a great post. A few people mentioned one of my pet peeves "padding" which is over used in detective stories. I also dislike crooked grins and husky voices ...

    North London??.


    Sue

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    1. Yes, agree on all that. North London was a bit of a tease really, I knew it would annoy people but I couldn't resist putting it in as a sweeping generalization.

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