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The English Language

August 8, 2010

So, I did some editing to a piece by another author tonight. From 9pm until 4am. It was hard. It reminded me why, back when I wrote fanfiction, why I stopped being a beta reader. Too many authors think writing is just putting words to paper, but it’s not. This is probably why I won’t beta/critique/edit any of my author friends’ works. I’m ruthless, and when an author disregards a notation of mine about grammar/punctuation/spelling issues, it just pisses me right the fuck off.

The following is brought to you by one small piece of fiction that devoured my night and made me want to scream more than once for repeated, violent misuse of the English language (regardless of how twisted said language happens to be).

Now, I appreciate the time and effort an author puts forth, but an endash is not a replacement for a period. A colon is not a replacement for a comma. And FFS, in the US English language, you write it: John walked through the door, and then tripped over the sofa. You see that? ‘AND then’, not just ‘then’, following that comma.

Grr.

Folks, ‘then’ is not a conjunction. You cannot use it like a conjunction. You NEED a conjunction! Use one. ‘AND then,’ ‘BUT then,’ ‘OR then,’ ‘FOR then’… Just not ‘then’ all by its lonesome!

Also? When restating a subject? YOU PUT A COMMA! Judy stared at the fish, and she hummed a tune. When you restate a subject, you need a comma and the word AND. USE THEM.

An endash is used to set off a dramatic or comedic disjunction of flow.

An emdash is used in PAIRS as bracketing, to set off parenthetical phrases that interrupt the flow of a sentence.

A colon is used to introduce a list or a restatement/clarification of the word or phrase that it follows.

A semicolon is used to separate TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES without the use of a conjunction. Stop using commas! The use of a comma where a semicolon is required is called a comma splice, and is grammatically incorrect.

Don’t get me started on commas. The using them where they aren’t needed and the dropping them of where they should go (I love my Oxford comma, and the commas attached to the word ‘too’). It makes me want to weep.

Know the language. Just… know it. Please? Especially indie authors who are not using editors or truly knowledgeable people. Buy a book (I highly recommend Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss to start with) or five and LEARN YOUR LANGUAGE before you thrust your unwieldy, unattractive, and, frankly, offensive prose my way.

BTW? The fiction I edited? A stellar story, I will say. Beautiful, somewhat bittersweet. I hope others enjoy it as much as I did when it comes out. ^_^

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