Of Words And Other Things

woodchuck

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

If you are of a certain age, chances are that you learnt that tongue twister in primary school, just as I did back in the nineteen-fifties. It is a perfect example of the overuse of specific words, even though in this case it’s just a fun thing for kids to learn and to attempt to recite.

Many emerging writers tend to rely on a limited vocabulary, even though most words have perfectly acceptable alternatives. How many times have you seen specific words endlessly repeated in the first book written by a new writer? Either that, or their incorrect versions.

Chances are you will come across examples of words when writing, which while sounding similar when used in actual conversation between two people, are completely wrong in a given instance within any piece of writing.

Note to self – hmm, a lot of words beginning with ‘w’ in that last sentence. Must watch that. Damn, there’s another one!

If you want an example of similar sounding words think about there, they’re and their. They all sound exactly alike. But in each instance they have a totally different meaning. Even simple words we all use such as and, can and do become seriously overused by most writers. I’m no different in that regard. I’ve even been known to start a sentence with it on occasion, for example the one word question – “And?” But only during a conversation between some of my characters.

What I’m about to say, I’ve said in previous posts here on my blog. But just for you, here it is again – once you have written that first draft, go back over it many times during its edit phase. Make sure that one of your editing sessions is solely dedicated to deliberately finding alternatives of those words you are so fond of using.

How? Use the synonym function incorporated into your writing software in conjunction with a dictionary and thesaurus. Even better, why not rewrite certain sentences using completely different words, that convey the same meaning as the original one?

Before some of you feel an attack of righteous indignation coming on, and are thinking of going on the offensive, I am fully aware that I have used several words in this post more than once. In this instance I am completely justified as I’m merely pointing out that every one of us needs to pay heed to the way we write.

In short folks, do your darndest to avoid using certain words too often. Damn, there are two more – your and you’re, to and too. Allowed is yet another example of a word that sounds the same when spoken even when spelt differently. Its cousin aloud has a completely different meaning. The list is endless. Is it any wonder that so many people find the English language hard to come to grips with?

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Next, I would just like to point out something to all of the various types of literary cowards who insist upon hiding behind pseudonyms, such as a number of the armchair critics, pedants, grammar nazis, literary snobs etc, who inhabit the darker recesses of the Internet, each of them purporting to know far more about the written word than most writers. None of us likes a smart arse who deliberately sets him or herself up as a critic.

To all of the above – I can only surmise that what you appear to be suffering from is the literary equivalent of penis envy. Remember this, apart from being counterproductive, jealousy tends to feed on itself. Never forget that. It’s the only reason I can think of for why you deem it absolutely necessary to be so vicious towards not only the newcomers, but also seasoned writers, whether Indie or traditionally published?

First of all, may I suggest that you get over yourselves. Secondly, instead of endlessly criticising new and seasoned writers, by issuing those interminably boring, often repetitious one and two star reviews you are so fond of placing in the public arena, in your pathetic attempts to destroy a writer’s reputation, as some of you still tend to do on Goodreads and Amazon (you know who you are), why not actually try to write a book yourself. Maybe you already have, which probably accounts for the way you behave. But go on, give it another try. Far better to occupy your time by writing a book. Once you do, prepare yourselves for when it is torn to shreds by your fellow trolls. In other words, I’d think long and hard if I were you before you feel the overwhelming desire coming on, to rubbish someone else’s work.

Like most writers, I always refrain from reviewing some books, especially those written by new writers, if they did not succeed in gaining my full attention by drawing me into the story. Believe me when I say that it’s always better to do that, rather than to publically condemn, and by definition, earn yourself a reputation as yet another vicious troll. If I ever feel the need to offer criticism, its usually in the form of advice done privately, well away from the gaze of the general public, either by email or when chatting to writers on Facebook.

You should try doing the same…

Well that’s enough for today. It’s back to my current W.I.P.

😉

Want to make my skin crawl? Then carry on misusing words!

facebook-like-thumbs-up

Even though, like so many others who inhabit the internet, I make use of the ‘Like’ function, whether here in the blogosphere or on social media sites such as Facebook, there is a fundamental problem with doing so. What is it? See if you can guess before reaching the end of this post.

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The Oxford English Dictionary has several definitions of the word Like. Here are just four:-

1. Having the same characteristics or qualities as; similar to

2. In the manner of; in the same way or to the same degree as

3. Used with reference to a person or thing of the same kind as another: the quotations could be arranged to put like with like | I know him—him and his like. (the like) a thing or things of the same kind (often used to express surprise or for emphasis): did you ever hear the like? | a church interior the like of which he had never seen before.

4. Find agreeable, enjoyable, or satisfactory: all his classmates liked him | [with present participle] people who don’t like reading books | [with infinitive] I like to be the centre of attention.

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Quite obviously the last is the definition predominently in use anywhere on the internet. But once again, what’s the point of using it? How many times have you clicked on the ‘Like’ icon purely out of habit, without bothering to read the post it is attached to? How many times have you ‘Liked’ something like a promotional post about a new book, then never followed through by buying a copy of the book to support the author? None of these actions make any kind of sense to me or any other sane person.

Then there is the way the word is misused these days by the young. What do I mean? Starting a sentence with the word ‘Like’. Or far worse, peppering each sentence they utter with the word. Thank goodness that most internet sites haven’t adopted another of my current pet hates, the equally misused word ‘So’. It’s bad enough that it is now used in conjuction with, or as an alternative for the word Like, to begin a sentence by kids and teenagers. I blame their teachers and parents for allowing them to get away with it.

When people who quite frankly should know better (adults) do the same thing, it positively makes my skin crawl. I’m talking about some well known academics, leading business people, politicians, and most celebrities, all of them in the public eye, along with anyone else you care to name who believes it is acceptable practice. Often these people show their lack of understanding of the specific usage of certain words while being interviewed about something or other concerning their specialist subject. Maybe they think they’re being cool or trendy, appealing to the young. Sorry ladies and gentlemen, all you are doing is showing your ignorance by misusing a word, not to mention proving to the public at large that you are foolish in the extreme.

Now, getting back to using the ‘Like’ option for any post, why can’t you also be allowed to make use of a ‘dislike’ option as well, should you wish to? The idea of giving you only one option is extremely unsatisfactory don’t you think? At least when I ‘Like’ a post, I have the decency to read it first. The same goes for promotional posts about books. In that specific case if I ‘Like’ it, it is an indication to whoever posted it that I purchased a copy. How about the rest of you? Does any of this also apply to the way you use ‘Like’? More to the point, do you even care?

Rant over…

😉