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Basics | Issues

Writers, agents, editors and publishers have a tendency to disagree on the way things ought to be done. I couldn’t possibly go into detail about all the sticking points argued about. But I know at least two I would like to go over and when I can think of others I’ll add them here. Please feel free to mail suggestions to writer.devlin@gmail.com


Adverbs


My frustration could be summed up in a single sentence: Leave my adverbs alone.

Yes I have seen writing that is littered with too many adverbs. Authors foolishly bloat their sentences with words they don’t need. But I’ve slowly realized that adverbs aren’t the problem. It would be ridiculous to ruthlessly cut those words instead of paying more attention to the beat. Okay I’ll stop.

Word play aside I’ve read the blogs of some miserly editors with horror. They give examples and I wonder how exactly they got their jobs. They take a sentence with a melody and cut it to a single tone. There is a rhythm to language, even a novel has poetry in it. Adverbs are a part of the music and nothing to be afraid of.

If you want to convey emotion one really good way is through an adverb. Savagely cutting them out is like giving us a box of crayons with some of the colours removed.

Don’t overuse them, but don’t ban them from your book.

Sheesh people.


Towards is a word


Reading the blogs of some American editors you would think no one has heard of the UK or has any kind of literacy about the difference in language usage. To be specific American convention is to use the word toward (no s) despite the fact many Americans use the perfectly correct English version which has an s on it. Frankly, since language is music in my ear, that rather leaves the sound falling flat when sentences are adjusted to the so called American norm. (Again despite the popularity of using towards)

 

They


It's in the dictionary, you can use "they" when referring to someone of unknown gender. It also works as a gender neutral pronoun for those who identify as non-binary.

I too was raised to be taught to use "he" when referring to someone of unknown gender. A lot of my writing reflects this.

But since then I have been introduced to a whole new world thanks to my genderqueer spouse. All it took was a little a bit of practice and their pronoun rolled off the tongue.

It's time to let go of the idea "they" is plural only.

 

Note


English is an evolving language and it's use by several countries means all kinds of conventions are being broken, challenged, or returned to. For other clarification on language mix ups, I highly recommend reading World Wide Words. It is no longer updated but the wealth of knowledge is huge.

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Last updated May 6th, 2017


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