Good mornin’, eager students.
Saint Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us, and before Ah let loose and
indulge in some serious celebratin’, Ah will first attend to the
onerous task of servin’ up a heapin’ helpin’ of the Sacred Laws of
Fiction Etiquette, all tied up with a green bow and garnished with a
wee shamrock like Saint Patty’s platter of corned beef and cabbage.
Mah Aunt Fanny! Ah am just toooo
hilarious, if Ah do say so mahself! But enough levity. Wipe that smile
off your face, baby doll, and let us get on with the business at hand.
Bring me today’s envelope, and don’t be givin’ me any of your sass, if
you please. Ah am not in the mood to be charitable today.
Dear Ms. Flanders,
As you stated in last month’s
column, the most important thing we aspiring authors can do is to
ensure that our manuscripts are the very best we can make them before
we are so bold as to solicit endorsements, much less submit them to
editors or agents. In your long and esteemed career as an expert on all
things related to publishing, what would you class as the worst writing
mistakes you’ve seen, and how can we avoid them?
Oh, honey, Ah must commend you
highly on your address. You most surely have been reared in the South,
darlin’ because you certainly know how to capture your dear Ms.
Ah did indeed mention in last
month’s column that the lack of understandin’ of the most basic
principles of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and logic is a most
distressin’ scandal in the world of publishin’ today. Gentle readers,
it’s painfully obvious that all too few of you even know what those
terms mean. And it’s equally evident that even many of the editors
responsible for maintainin the highest standards of publishin’ decorum
somehow managed to escape the educational system with their ignorance
Let’s take a look at a glarin’
example of the type of grammatical error that invariably sets my
unmentionables in a twist. Ah came across this in a recently published
novel and have reproduced it below, havin’ first graciously amended it
to spare the darlin’ culprit and her clueless editor the shame they so
richly deserve. Ah must say Ah am kindness itself, especially since
this novel was rife with these kinds of errors and Ah would be doin’
the author a favor by exposin’ them since her editor is clearly not
helpin’ her one teeny bit. Below is mah version.
“Resting the goblet on the hall
table, the swish of a gown descended the stairway, and he swung around
to capture the vision of her loveliness.”
Need Ah say more? Mah stars and
garters! When is the last time you watched a swishin’ gown restin’ a
goblet on anythin’?! Is it possible that even an editor would be
ignorant of the fact
that a present participle phrase
modifies the first noun that
immediately follows it??? Does anyone even know what a present
participle is these days???
Can it be that teachers in
elementary school no longer bothered to school young uns in diagramming
sentences? What is the world comin’ to, sweetheart? If we don’t learn
our mother tongue properly, we’ll soon all be speakin’ like brutes!
And don’t even get me started on
the formattin’ sins Ah am seeing with increasin’ frequency in the books
comin’ from publishers of every stripe. Ah am talkin’ about widows and
orphans on almost every page. And no, honey chile, we are not talkin’
about sadly bereaved wives and fatherless children. We are referrin’ to
those lonely single lines at the beginnin’ or end of a paragraph that
are left flappin’ in the breeze at the bottom or top of a page in a
published work. What is an editor supposed to do with babies that have
sadly become separated from their lovin’ families? Eliminate them
ruthlessly, puddin’ head! And if you don’t know how to do that, you
need to have a discussion with your designer, who will clue you in.
Trust me on this.
Whether you are a writer or an
editor, how do you avoid such appallin’ errors? Why, by enrollin’ in
mah class, dearie, and payin’ attention instead of noddin’ off like Ms.
Rotier in the seat ovah by the window. Helloooo!!! Do you want me to
come back there and administer a smart rap where it’s likely to do the
most good, darlin’? Ah thought not.
Now that we have that
settled, Ah must excuse mahself in order to assuage my ire with a
festive and restorative draft of Saint Patty’s green . . . ah . . .
lemonade. Ah must say this is mah very favorite time of year as every
month brings us yet another happy occasion to make merry. Toodle-oo
until next time!
April: Is it
proper to attempt to communicate directly with an author if you’re a
is proper etiquette on writers’ e-mail loops?
Oh Jane! Oh Roger! Using characters’ names in dialog.