Friday, August 02, 2013


I read a lot of stories--in my workshop and as editor--and I find it funny how some writers present flawless work, free from typos and punctuation woes and egregious grammatical errors, while others present what reads like a rough draft without even a word checker's blessing.

Although these rough stories often have that elusive thing I think of as voice, the first paragraphs are so riddled with inaccuracies I find myself getting annoyed, angry even. Why waste my time? My eyes are too tired, too impatient, to wade through multiple split infinitives, gerunds running wild, and ubiquitous and improperly used semi-colons; they drive me mad.

On the other hand, when a writer in control of her material breaks a grammar rule, exciting things can happen. Like effective fragment use. And starting sentences with conjunctions can make the reader pause in a powerful way.

Myself, I eschew adverbs, gerunds, and improper use of possessives. But I love, love, love the effective use of fragments.

And you?

What grammar or punctuation 'rules' bug you the most? Which rules do you love to flaunt?

And why?


  1. I'm with you Linda, (though thankfully I don't have to wade through slush piles). One of my biggest pet peeves is when writers use words incorrectly, such as "loose" for "lose" or "two" for "too", etc. That said, I have to admit I sometimes have difficulty with "affect" and "effect", but when I need to use it I always triple check the usage because I can't stand the thought of submitting or publishing something with grammatical errors.

    1. Hey Deanna! Yeah, I get irked by those words that slip past the word speller but are incorrect. 'Their' and 'there', and lately, a lot of 'wear' and 'where'. Huh?

      My own grammatical bugaboo concerns lay and lie. I always have to check which one to use, especially when in past or past perfect tense.

  2. In reading the work of others, misspellings annoy me, and I don't like to see a lot of semi-colons. When writing, commas drive me crazy. When to use them, when to leave them out? Sometimes I find myself inserting commas, then taking them out, back and forth.... I get off on well-placed fragments. And I get off on breaking grammar rules, as well as seeing others do it - for the sake of voice or pacing.

    1. Mark, so agree about misspelled words--they are a symptom of sloppy writing. Ditto with semi-colons--the writer has not put a lot of thought on sentence formation. Semi's are like red pepper flakes--a little goes a long way.

      I get creamed on commas sometimes. I use too many of them myself. I think of them as my character or narrator breathing, though when they start to sound as though they have emphysema, I guess I am getting too comma heavy.

      When a writer has command over her or his story and breaks rules, it makes me giddy. Really. I am such a nerd! Peace...

  3. Insure for ensure. That one drives me crazy. I got caught once for assume when I should have used presume--now I am acutely aware. Misplaced or missing apostrophes get me, as do missing hyphens. I'm not as good as the hyphen-Nazi in my writers' group, but he's sure made me aware of all the times we forget those pesky-but-important hyphens., I mean, Peace to you.

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  5. Just a few I have noticed a lot recently, that particularly drive me nuts...
    OK for okay
    1, 2, 3, or 4 (etc) for one, two, three, or four (etc)
    "Hi." He said. for "Hi," he said.
    There are plenty more, I'll stick with these three for now :) Haha....

    I know I have my own issues - I mix up past and passed (and I deliberate and still use the wrong word, huge issue there), and also lay, lie, and laid I mix up all the time (I have a cheat sheet on my desktop, still mess them up though!)