Showing posts from January, 2020

Up Your Pretension

Writing tip 379:

Need your MC to be more pretentious? Here you go.
Also add these fun words (just don't forget to write the words phonetically so your readers can "get it"):

homage = ohm-AHJ
meritage = meri-TAHJ
coif = kwahf
foyer = foy-YAY

Edit: These words are not pretentious on their own; they are perfectly fine. The foregoing pronunciations are. Thanks.

Don't forget to accent that final syllable for greater writing for-TAY.

Onward, Buckeroos, onward.

(Entry shown is from Garner's Modern English Usage, which I highly recommend.)

I'd Rather Be Well Hung Than Well Hanged, Especially Around Heroin

Because I've seen these two misusages more frequently than others, I'm posting this PSA.

Heroine: female protagonist:
"The heroine, Betty Hardcore, kicked Random Bob in the neck." Heroin: a street drug: "Dude, I shot heroin last night. That was pretty messed up."
If you shoot heroine, your book is pretty much over.
Hung: past tense of hang, as in "hang a picture." Does not apply when hanging a person:

"Bob hung the painting."
Hanged: past tense of hang in the specific use of hang to denote hanging a living being by the neck with a rope or similar material to kill them:

"Epstein was not hanged by himself."
Note also that the following, though both can be correct, have vastly different meanings and are usually mutually exclusive in use (though not always in fact):

"Bob was hanged."
"Bob was hung."

Thus demonstrating why we must differentiate the terms.

However You View It, "However" Is a Big Ol' Problem

In recent years, I've noticed increased misuse and abuse of punctuation, particularly in the form of comma splices and mistaken conjunctions.

Comma Splices/Run-On Sentences

What's a comma splice? Here's an example:

"I went to the store, I had to get some beer."

What we have here are two sentences joined with a comma when they should really be separated into separate with a period (full stop) or by using a conjunction. You've probably heard the term "run-on sentence" rather than "comma splice," which is technically "I went to the store I had to get some beer," the distinguishing feature being a complete lack of punctuation. These two sins are, for the most part, morally equivalent, and what they're called is pretty irrelevant anyway.

Conjunctions and Prepositions

Is it OK to start a sentence with a conjunction (for, and, not, but, or, yet, so, aka FANBOYS)?

Sure. Just make sure it's necessary, as one can often get rid of the introductory conjunction with no loss of meaning. But there's no "rule" against it.

Oddly enough, this question is the one I'm asked most by strangers when they find out I'm an editor (the second-most common being, "Can I end a sentence with a preposition?"). I guess I had hoped for more. But you got's to take what's you can get's.

If you put a comma after that introductory conjunction, however, you're fucking dead to me. And I don't care about your "style" or "expression" or "dramatic pausing," you freaking poser. You wanted a rule? You can smoke that all day long, Buckeroo.

More Exceptional Phrasal-Adjective Fun—The Number of the Beast

Trigger warning—someone will be triggered. We don't know how; we don't know why; we just know. Buckle up; this is gonna be a long ride, mofos.

Also, I will be liberally pointing out various writing devices/techniques/approaches in this post. For those who already find my posts dull, lifeless, and exceedingly long, this post may prove to be both tedious and your undoing.

But It's My Style! I Can't Change It!

Writers Unclear on the Concept Oh, Buckeroos, I saw something so funny today that I just had to share it. And no, it wasn't a turtle making sweet, sweet love to a cocker spaniel.

If you look closely, you may see yourself in this picture.

On a related note, I will soon be posting the greatest post ever in the history of WG—an esoteric, ambiguous, yet pointed assay (no—if I meant essay, that's what I would have written; don't bother) on the true nature of writing. I hesitate to share it, it's so good.

Pigeons and sparrows who read it will become hawks, shit writers will win awards, good writers will become Pulitzer winners, and great writers will become gods. That's how fucking good it is. Of all the really good shit I've written for free, it's probably #12 or #13, that's how good it is. I mean, hell, my #20 is pretty much Man Booker quality, so #12 or #13 is like finding the Fountain of Youth or guiding a Carnival Cruise ocean liner through the Strait o…

More Excuses

What's worse? Making excuses for why you can't write well, or believing that you are magical and can become whatever you observe (e.g., musician, doctor, astronaut, physicist)? I'll let you decide.
No. Just fucking no.

Be Like Me

The Secret Steps for Becoming a Successful Writer
I wrote this back when I thought people might be redeemable, like soda bottles. As with all my stuff, it ages better than a cheerleader stored in a cryogenic center.

People often ask me, "Brent, how can I become a successful writer like you? What are the secrets?"

Oh, you silly people, let me tell you how I've done it. This is my way to give back to those still struggling to achieve wealth and fame:

1. Be attractive. No one wants to look at a sell sheet with an ugly person on it. If you aren't naturally good-looking like me, then do like C+C Music Factory and hire a stand-in. To me, this is the most critical element for writing success. So much so that I work out 6 to 8 hours a day and write only with whatever time I have left.

2. Be friendly. I work pretty hard at being gracious and nonconfrontational, always working and playing well with others. My posts bear that out (and those who think otherwise can go fuck thems…

The Phrase That Pays

Using Phrasal Adjectives
Buckeroos! Let's talk about phrasal adjectives, shall we?

I don't get a whole lot of TLDRs on my posts (IKR?), but I'm a lifelong learner intent on scoring 100% on all social media strength tests, so I'll be breaking this up into several posts. Not only is this necessary because the topic is fairly involved, but also it allows me to score bigger SEO points within the group.

So what's a phrasal adjective (bonus lesson #1: DO NOT put a comma after "so" if you are so inclined to use "so" to begin a sentence, which, frankly, you should fucking avoid like the plague)?
In simplest terms, a phrasal adjective is a phrase (i.e., more than one word) that functions collectively as an adjective to modify another word or phrase.

Today's example shall be "fast moving train."

Taken literally, "fast moving train" means a fast train used for moving. In the absence of hyphens or commas, the word "fast" i…

What a Great Economy!

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

The Tears, They Are A-Falling

Common versus Standard Usage
Ah, my Buckeroos, I try oh so hard to be pithy (but not so pithy to be hard). You might be surprised to know that in my "real" writing, I'm considered something of a minimalist.

Perhaps all the well-wishers here, conflicted as they are about performing abject acts of kindness such as acknowledging that yours truly may sometimes know "word stuff," just make me want to shed my kimono and engage in a giant word orgy.

Or perhaps I enjoy annoying those who prefer their words tight and their sphincters tighter. It's a yin and yang thing, is it not?

But after suckering you into that preamble, I shall attempt pith.

Common usage = what people use every day
Standard usage = what (most) people expect in formal (i.e., published) writing; does not include every word or usage one finds in a dictionary

Example: the correct inflection of "forecast" is forecast/forecast/forecast. 

The Continuing Crisis

Along with trusting Microsoft Word's spellchecker (to the point of arguing for an incorrect spelling or usage because "Word says it's correct"), some writers adopt the odd behavior of others simply because. As is instinctual for humans, once committed to bizarreness, these chosen few refuse to adapt even in the face of facts indicating that perhaps they should reassess their position.

The author of this article picked up the affectation of crossing out his printed name when signing books, on the recommendation of a fellow author but without any logical reason for doing so. In polling a few people, more votes were cast for not doing this, and I've also never heard of any successful authors doing this. When you ask people why they do something, and their response is along the lines of "I believe" or "I heard" or "I told," you're not heading down a blind road; you're already on it.

The author's conclusion—either way is just …

Your Trust Is Misplaced

Microsoft Word is a great tool for identifying potential errors in your writing.
Its only shortcoming is that its suggested fixes are often wrong.

What I Meant to Say Was . . .

People often say I'm overly critical, but it's really not my fault.

Damn autocorrect.

Crazy Rich Asians and Other Nonsense

People be all up in my grill like "B, you crazy MFer, no one cares 'bout grammar, you fucking twit. It's the two-thousandth century already."

Or similar stupid bullshit.

Anyways, today's screed shall be about consistency and logic. For many, this will be too much. You'll run for the exits, screaming and trampling each other to death because you were born in a barn and have no social cuing skills whatsoever. For you, I make the same recommendation that I make to beginning writers who suck (or perhaps "other beginning writers who suck," depending on your situation)—quit now and get a new hobby so that your life, on the whole, becomes more valuable and less suckworthy.

Swearing Like a Mofo, and Other Expletives

'It' and 'There'—Nasty Little Fuckers
While expletives their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line,
While they ring round the same unvaried chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes.
—Alexander Pope "An Essay on Criticism: Part 2"
Let's talk about expletives.

When I say "expletives," I don't mean what most people think of, swear words ("bitch, cunt, asslicker, motherfucker, douchebag, dickhead, asshole, fuckstick"—I think you get the idea), but rather a reference to a subject or an object that delays the appearance of a sentence's subject. The most of these are clauses formed by "it" or "there" with a "being" verb:

it is, was, could be, would be, might be, etc.

there are, is, was, were, could be, would be, might be, etc.

A sentence using an expletive is a fairly common passive construction that writers are typically advised to avoid.