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Gettin' Laid While Lyin' Around

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Lies are what you tell so you can lay someone on the side.
But more to the point, lay is transitive (i.e., it takes an object), whereas lie is not.
This is further complicated because some idiot decided the past tense of lie should be lay, which also happens to be a present-tense verb.
But back to how to know what to write. If you can lay something, it's lay: lay the book down, lay some bricks, lay your best friend's girlfriend. This use of lay is known as a transitive verb. It  transitions based on its meaning when combined with the object it affects.
Even Ratt knew this, of course:


With lie, there's no object: I'm going to lie down now, don't just lie there, he was lying on the bed. But note that in past tense, lie becomes lay: I lay there all day, NOT I laid there all day, BUT I laid (past tense of lay) the book down. In this usage, lie and lay are called intransitive verbs—they don't have objects, so they don't change.
Exceptions exist, mostly idiomati…

One Way or Another (and a Tip for Remembering the Difference)

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I mostly don't observe the difference between these two usages in everyday editing except when only two people or things are involved, although for formal writing or when someone requests that I stick to strict rules of standard written English, I revise accordingly:


Use each other to refer to two people or things—e.g., "Edie and Bill didn't care about each other."Use one another to refer to more than two people or things—e.g., "The people of the village cared about one another."

Why don't I care so much about the difference?

For starters, most people reading or listening to the phrase will be able to determine the meaning from context, with each other being the predominant phrasing used by most speakers of American English (and probably UK English as well, but that's a guess).

The second reason is because the distinction is tenuous in many cases anyway; to wit, in our second example, do the people in the village care about one another simultaneously…

Character Descriptions That Matter

How much detail to give a character's description is often hotly debated, with two primary schools of thought:
1. Include as much detail as possible about each character in order to let the reader know what the character looks like and also to provide additional imagery. It's good to include all five senses in your descriptions.
2. Only include what is absolutely necessary in order to move the story forward. Assume readers will fill in other details with their own imaginations. Descriptions should be built into the story and not just a date dump - e.g., a whole narrative paragraph describing a character but with no context.
Bestselling author Barry Eisler is a great technical writer, but he sometimes uses a little more description than I like (completely a personal preference; to most people, his writing probably seems pretty streamlined). The following are some search results for the word 'hair' in his book Detachment in which that is definitely not the case:

From th…

*On the Economy of Words* (another installment in the Buckaroo Saga)

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The single greatest transgression committed by teachers (besides fucking them) is telling students that English comprises eight parts of speech. So wrong. English has *two* parts of speech and *six* little helpers (interjections are bullshit, but that's a minor point). Perhaps if people realized this, they wouldn't engage in so much pointless drivel: twisted old trees covered with brown bark, tall skyscrapers, wrinkled old people, blue skies, dark nights (OK, maybe that one on a new moon).

Here's a little secret, Buckeroos. Follow me into the chamber where we make the sausage (it's OK, it's just a little prick). Come closer, let me whisper in your cute little mouselike ears (please remember—no hyphen in "mouselike"): *Every word counts. Every word matters. And every time you add a word, you dilute all the others*. See that? My extra "the" (for example) just diluted the other words in that sentence.

Think of it this way. Let's say I am writin…

A Brief Aside (the '19' Ate My Bray-EEN!) to Avoid Writing a More Difficult Post

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Being Famous Won't Always Save You from the Reaper

Those who know me well know that I don't shy away from criticism. I mean criticizing others; what sort of masochist welcomes criticism from others? 😉 Certainly not me, or so I've heard before blocking such critics before they unfairly drip their bloody tears upon the fabric of my extraordinary life.
OK, where was I? Right. Criticism. The bigger the fish, the bigger the firefry Frey. In this case, James Frey. I dislike James Frey's writing so much that I actually contemplated intentionally misspelling his name just to make it harder to find him. But that's like trying to keep a coke addict from finding a dealer—ain't gonna happen. But I'll be damned if I'm going to supply a link to that freak; a music video is better:


And on and on. But truly, Frey is small fry. Let's go bigger—a sacred cow, as it were—the only difference being that I'm fairly certain that a blind, syphilitic cow with palsy coul…