pet peeve #1

You know we all have them–some of these peeves haunt us more egregiously than others. I’m not talking about a grammar-grinch attitude. I’m talking about those single linguistic moments that make our hearts burp and our eyeballs turn 20 degrees towards our brains.

Here’s an example: One of the members of my dissertation committee wrote one thing on the draft–a mark at every instance I wrote “quote” with the correction, “quotation,” in the margin. That’s it. OK, there were a few comments on translation issues, but no marginal comments on my ideas, organization, research. To this day, the skin under my right eye still twitches when I write “quote” instead of “quotation.” And the other thing? At the time I wrote my dissertation lo these many paleolithic years, “quote” was acceptable as “quotation.”

There. That was cathartic. So let me share my tic, and it is…the word “truly.”

If I could just wingardium leviosa that word into Pluto’s orbit, I’d be a happy camper.

Or, perhaps I’d be a truly happy camper. Really? Truly happy as opposed to what? A falsely happy camper? A half-happy camper?

“We truly hope you’ll enjoy our new product.” As opposed to not really hoping so much? Or maybe secretly hoping you’ll hate the new product, so the company will fold, and the CEO can go write poetry instead of selling dental orthotics in his family business, which seduced him into betraying his first love of the villanelle.

Most adverbs suck the life out of verbs. Don’t be a language wimp. Stand by your verbs.


vibrant verbs

My K-12 English teacher friends use this term: vibrant verbs. I like the alliteration, the movement, the zing. Toni Morrison also said somewhere that the verb is the most important element of the sentence. Verbs venture valuable variety. Should I apologize for that painful alliteration? Maybe not today.

So get your verb diva on. Tussle with a sentence, harangue a paragraph, coax a revision. Then steal a well-deserved nap from your crowded linguistic schedule.

On the other hand… may the force be with self-editing!

Self editing is the path to the dark side. Self editing leads to self delusion, self delusion leads to missed mistakes, missed mistakes lead to bad reviews. Bad reviews are the tools of the dark side.  – Eric T. Benoit

I don’t really believe that self-editing leads to the dark side, although it would behoove me to promote that belief (and I don’t even like the word “behoove”) because if everyone were an accomplished self-editor, there would be no market for editors. Self-editing can be thrilling… catching that pesky misplaced modifier you didn’t see on the first three reads, finally finding the shape of your conclusion after despairing of ever being able to end your piece. But once we’ve read our writing too many times, we go blind. Our writing mind skips over what it has seen too many times. That’s why we still need editors––even those of us who pride ourselves on magnificent self-editing skills.