Thursday, March 28, 2013

Endearments: Hiya, Honey

What endearments do your characters use for their loved ones?

Think carefully before writing, because what works in real life may not work in a book. All the men you know may call their partner “babe” or “baby”. Just as you might have four friends all named Sarah. In real life it’s easy to keep the four Sarahs or "babes" separate, but in a book, or even in a series, having more than one character with the same name can lead to readers getting confused, needing to flip backward and forward in the text and ground themselves in the story again. This is not what you, as an author, are looking for. If you get three heroes meeting in a car on a stake-out, all referring to their special person as babe, it doesn’t work.

Also remember your book will be read internationally. Not all endearments work cross culturally. “Ma petite chou” is quite common in French-speaking areas, but for those not used to it, who look up a translation and discover “chou” means “cabbage”, it may be off-putting. Not everyone thinks cabbage is cute and delightful.

Also, it’s not necessary for the hero to call the heroine, “darling” in every second sentence. That becomes heavy and labored, worse than if he used her given name so often. In normal conversation the endearment might be used a couple of times but not in every second line. Dialogue tags can slow down a story. If it’s obvious who says what, they can be eliminated.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy birthday, OK

On this day, one hundred and seventy-four years ago, America’s most used work, OK, was born.

There are multiple theories for its origins, including that it's a derivation of the Scottish affirmation och aye, or comes from the 2000-year-old Greek expression olla kalla, meaning all right, or from the Choctaw word okeh meaning ''it is true'', or from the initials stamped on US Army biscuits by the Chicago bakery O. Kendall and Sons.

But the truth was uncovered by the late Columbia University scholar of American English, Allen Walker Read. He pinpointed its first use as a piece of would-be humor by an editor in the Boston Morning Post in 1839. It stood for ''Orl Korrect'' a jokey shortening and misspelling of ''all correct''.

It went viral in 1840 when US president Martin Van Buren from Kinderhook, New York, got the nickname ''Old Kinderhook''.

Despite the prevalence of “sweet”, “awesome” and “all good”, okay is still ahead of them today, usage-wise.

So happy birthday OK!

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Monday, March 18, 2013

England outlaws apostrophe

The MidDevon Council in England is planning to ban apostrophes in street signs, “to avoid confusion”.
Uh-huh? And this will help how?
Or is it that they aren’t sure where the apostrophe goes themselves and don’t want to look stupid?
Hey, why not hire an English teacher to proofread their signage?

A very wittily written article about the potential demise of the apostrophe is here:


Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

21st Century Netiquette

Here’s some basic hints for chat loop/internet etiquette. If this all seems to be common sense, you’re right, it is. It’s just that way too many people forget their manners online.
So here we go.

Wrong publisher: No, don’t tell everyone on the chat loop for publisher A that you have a book releasing tomorrow from publisher B, or one that you’re self publishing. The most you can do is tell them you have some “exciting news” on your personal blog and post a link to the blog. (not to another publisher’s website, or to Amazon etc!)

Read it before hitting send: Yes we’ve all seen some screamingly funny YouTube videos of people who sent a rant to the entire email list instead of to one person, or worse a rant about someone and included them in the copies. Read the “to” field before clicking on “send” and especially before hitting “reply all”.

Don’t spam your loops: It’s fine to tell a general loop about your book. It’s even fine to tell them twice, but don’t keep posting the same blurb and excerpt over and over again. Talk about another book, or about your blog, or even about your cat, then give them a new excerpt from the book.

Never ever post advertising about your books on someone else’s Facebook timeline. That will get you unfriended very quickly.

Truncate long messages: On yahoo chat loops there’s always people on digest. The last thing they want to receive is ten messages with the same excerpt repeated repeated repeated. If you are just saying thank you, or congratulations, or a few words, clip the message. Delete the blurb and the excerpt, just leave the title and author’s name, and maybe a website link in case the person on digest can’t find them in earlier posts.

Take 1:1 conversations off loop: If a discussion topic has dwindled to just two or three people, take it off loop and talk about it as long as you like on your private emails. The other three hundred people on the loop have obviously lost interest in this discussion long ago.

Change the subject line: Often a discussion will wander through various topics if it last a while. When the topic changes alter the subject line to reflect the new topic. That way people who had lost interest will know you’ve now moved on to something else that may interest them again.

Finally NEVER abuse anyone online. Someone will take a screen shot and even if you delete it the post may come back to haunt you or ruin your writing career.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The word puzzle about –gry

Every year or so a word puzzle does the rounds.
It says something along the lines of:
There are three words in the English language ending in –gry. What are they?
Most people interested in word puzzles think of angry and hungry quite quickly. It’s the third word that stumps them.

I’ll give you five minutes to think about it.

The problem is, this puzzle has been around since 1975 at least. And in 1975 there were still plenty of people who knew some older words. Words no longer in common usage. Words like meagry (now meager) and ymagry (now imagery).

So some versions of the puzzle are now trick questions.
“There are three words in the English language ending in –gry. Two of them are angry and hungry. What is the third word?”

Read it again.

Yes, the third word is “what”.

Another variation is: There are three words in the English language that end with the letters g, r, y. One is angry. Another is hungry. Everyone knows what the third word means and uses it every day. What is it?

Give up?
The answer is energy. The puzzle doesn’t say the last three letters have to be in that order.

I’m sure you can now think of even more variations on the puzzle. Have fun playing with words.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Begs the question

I’m beginning to think that at least 70% of writers who use “beg the question” in a story, get it wrong. Most of them use “beg” instead of “ask”. They seem to think the “beg” means begging for the question to be asked. This is not what the saying means at all.

Begs the question is a term in philosophy. Aristotle wrote an entire book, “Prior Analytics” explaining the term. Basically, begging the question is when something that requires proving, is just assumed to be true. Therefore a logical conclusion following the assumption is also assumed to be true, yet one or both may be totally wrong.

“Going to the gym is good for you because it’s fun.”
The premise is: Going to the gym is good for you.
This is not necessarily true. Going to the gym does nothing for you at all. It’s the exercise that you do once you arrive that’s good for you. I’ve seen people go to the gym and sit in the coffee shop.

The result: because it’s fun.
Well some people would find it fun. Especially those who go to meet their friends in the coffee shop. But others would argue if it’s fun it’s not doing you much good. “No pain, no gain”. Unless you’re sweating you aren’t building muscle tone.
The premise requires proving. It wasn’t proven, therefore there’s no guarantee the answer will be correct. Therefore it begs the question.

If you’re still confused, read:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.