Writing for Life


Oh, Those Lovely Adverbs

ice cream sundae

Since we’re examining pesky adverbs and weasel words this month on Wednesdays, I couldn’t resist sharing this entry that I wrote for our compilation book: 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing (which you can buy online here). Debate rages over whether adverbs are bad for your writing (like too much sugar in your diet?). See what some writers, famous and otherwise, have to say about these “pesky” critters and share your thoughts in the comments.

One of my editing clients just this week wrote and asked me, “What’s the problem with adverbs? Are they really bad to use? Why does everyone say I should take them out of my book?”

Adverbs do have a bad rep. Stephen King was quoted (and endlessly re-quoted) for saying that fantasy author J. K. Rowling “never met an adverb she didn’t like” (and that wasn’t a compliment). Out of curiosity, I read some comments on one of the Harry Potter forums (www.Potterforums.com) to see if “normal” readers are bothered by them as well—or if it’s just us authors that have a bug up our broomstick. Here’s one comment: Continue Reading…

The Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing


Writers, Wipe That Smile off Your Page


This week editor Robin Patchen wraps up our look at Fatal Flaw #11 – Pesky Adverbs and Weasel Words. If you’ve missed the other posts, start with this one here.

It’s been said (by someone) that 93% of communication is nonverbal, and of that, 55% is pure body language, including facial expressions, hand gestures, and postures.

For instance, take the word sure. If it’s delivered with a big smile, it means something very different than when it’s delivered with a glare. One is agreement, the other sarcasm or distrust.

We authors know this—we’re students of human interaction, after all. So it makes sense that we so often include facial expressions and body language in our stories.

But these nonverbal descriptions can quickly become weasel words and bulky phrases, shoved into our paragraphs to convey quickly—and perhaps lazily—our characters’ feelings and reactions. Continue Reading…

Grammar, Punctuation & Confusables


We Have Mutual, Common, and Reciprocal Interests

Say What new

What we have in common, we share mutually. Some purists argue that mutual means something experienced or expressed by two people about each other, and so it is wrong to speak of something such as “our mutual enemy.” Their argument is that if you and I have an enemy in common, that adds up to a total of three people, and three is not two.

In the same manner, some believe  it’s incorrect to refer to more than two people as making an agreement to their mutual benefit.  The correct word, they say, is common (which I used as an example above).

However, not all of us are purists, and as word usage changes in society, those purists lose ground. Not many editors or grammarians are going to scream “violation!” if you use mutual for three or more people or things. Continue Reading…

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