Monday, June 1, 2015

5 Blunders: A List by Heidi Hormel

It is my pleasure today to turn my blog over to Heidi Hormel. She is just as entertaining in person and in her writing as she is in this blog post. Enjoy!

List. My Kingdom for a List.
I’m a guilty list lover so for that reason, I thought I’d share my list (in no particular order) of the Five Blunders I regularly spy with my editorial eye (I know this now opens me up for everyone checking my books for these).

The Classics: Its for it’s and their for there or even they’re. But what about rode and road or to/too/two. English is riddled with homophones (words that sound the same but do not mean the same thing). The contractions are easy to figure out. It’s or its easy? Can you say it is? If so, then it’s it’s.
Available now

Quote Marks Run Amok: Just as air quotes are over used and have become their own joke, placing quotes around a word does not emphasize it. That’s what italics, bold, and all caps are for. Quote marks around a word, unless it is a direct quote, is to show a word is being used in a NEW and DIFFERENT way.

Semicolons: Nope. When used to connect two thoughts, it’s just better to break the sentence into two rather than use the semicolon. By the way, semicolons prove nothing except you’ve had a grammar class somewhere along the way. They do not class up a story.

Buzz Wordery: Get thee to a nunnery. (I’m on a Shakespeare roll today.) No paradigm shifting or thinking outside the box or even freemiums. The only way to go is to use language that was NOT created by marketers, public relations folk, or corporate communicators. These linguistic tidbits may even be worse than clichés—and you know to not use those, right?!

Commas: Writers either hate commas and only use them when placed there by an editor OR put commas everywhere, like the bling of the English language. There are hard and fast rules about comma usage, but their use can also be very nuanced and less black and white (cliché alert). Figure out your style and comma accordingly (and, yes, I purposely verbed a noun—and just did it again). I won’t get into the Oxford comma which has been known to cause armed conflicts among Wordies.
Coming in August

Bonus Item—For proofreading help, checkout Word’s text to speech function. It has made my proofreading 50 times* better (*Not scientifically proven).
Finally, remember spellcheck and all of those other nifty tools are not editors. An editor is the person who makes a story its best because she (or he) understands the unwritten rules of language, the expectations of readers, and the voice of the writer. Ain’t no machine can do that.


A former innkeeper and radio talk show host, Heidi Hormel has always been a writer. She spent years as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a PR flunky before settling happily into penning romances with a wink and a wiggle. Her first two (published) novels are from Harlequin American Romance: THE SURGEON AND THE COWGIRL (Book #1, out June 1) and THE CONVENIENT COWBOY (Book #2, out Aug. 4). Visit her online: HeidiHormel.net; Facebook, Heidi Hormel, Author; Twitter, @HeidiHormel; and follow her on Goodreads, Heidi Hormel.

Heidi hit some of my favorites. I had an editor once who wanted to change my sentence structure and use semicolons all over the place. Does it drive you crazy to see the homophones mixed up so often? Do you let buzz words sneak into your writing? Love or hate commas?

Don't forget, this Wednesday is the monthly posting for IWSG. Are you ready to share something this month?

59 comments:

  1. Great guest post! I'm guilty of abusing semicolons sometimes, I must admit. Whoops. XD

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    1. I admit to not understanding them. I used one, once.

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  2. Test to speech - I'll have to try that.
    I don't use quotes or semi-colons, so I avoid those issues.

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  3. Once had a professor tell me semi colons are the most overused and least understood. Ever since then, I've tried to stay away.

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    1. I know I don't understand them so I avoid them.

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  4. Review, Review, Learn something new is always good. Great list of tips given.

    I agree about semi-colons. They take away from the flow of ideas.

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    1. Semi-colons are getting voted most unpopular punctuation today.

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  5. I avoid semi-colons 99% of the time. And yeah, don't use those dumb buzz words much, if at all, either

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    1. Yeah, buzz words get stuck in your head, LIKE CERTAIN SONGS.

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  6. I don't use semicolons often; sometimes, though, you just have to. ;)

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    1. I'm always worried I'm using them wrong. But that's what editors are for.

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  7. I'm glad to read that others feel the same about semicolons. I was also told that dashes are teen-aged girl punctuation. But I still use those with abandon!

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    1. Thanks for being here today. Congrats on your latest contract!

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    2. Thanks :-) I'm having a great time ... always love geeking out over punctuation!

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    1. I find commas difficult and I seem to add them depending on my mood. Probably not the best way to punctuate!

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  9. Ha! I am one of those writers who struggle with commas. ;P

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  10. I see at times homophones mixed up with my work as a medical transcriptionist with the words that voice recognition will choose to use. Hard to sometimes train it to use the right word in the context of what is being dictated; the main one I have to watch out for is two, to, too.

    Its funny about commas, we can get "dinged" on our audits if we don't have a comma in the right place. Sometimes too many commas but one into a coma :)

    Great guest blog!

    betty

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    1. Sometimes we mix up the homophones even when we know better, like our fingers have a mind of their own.

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    2. Thanks, Betty! Love the comma/coma :-) Spell check (back in the old days) used to wreak (another homophone) havoc. It regularly replaced my town of Hanover with Hangover.

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  11. It drives me crazy when people misuse the homophones. What really makes me crazy is proofreading something I've written to discover I'VE done. There I was typing at the speed of sound and my fingers just went for the wrong thing. It's gotten to the point that I find words like "lake" when I mean "like." The possibilities are endless. Take any word that ends in the same consonants and then change it to another word. My fingers and brain don't always work in league with one another.

    As for the dratted comma, I use it to set off something (like the beginning of this sentence) or to combine two sentences than can stand on their own as complete sentences. That's it.

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    1. My fingers do that too. They're unruly.

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    2. Any mistakes like those, Robin, I blame on autocorrect! Right now, on my phone it changes my cat's name Betsi to Vergie? Huh?

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  12. The thing that really bugs me, and I am seeing it more and more, is could of meaning could've which of course means could have. This applies to all the other forms, should of, would of and so on. Drives me batty. There are so many places where one comes across grammatical or spelling mistakes that it is enough to make one find a hole and hide.

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    1. I see that too. I understand it sounds like that in the lazy way we speak, Jo, but to write it that way makes no sense.

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    2. This sounds like not knowing grammar and relying on spell check which wouldn't flag that construction!

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  13. Happy pub day, Heidi! Super post. Hope to see you at a meeting soon. And when I think of homophones, the only thing I can hear is Larry the Cucumber singing this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0J-T2lr0Ms

    Hi, Sue!! ::waves::

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    1. Hi Ava. Miss you, but I know you're busy, busy busy.

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    2. Thanks for the Pub Day shout out -- today is print book pub day! The fun just won't stop this week!

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  14. Sometimes we mix up the homophones even when we know better, like our fingers have a mind of their own. love quotes

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  15. Excellent tips! I am a comma lover. I have a tendency to forget when the clause is dependent or independent and just throw the commas in there anyway.

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    1. Me too! You made me laugh, Tyrean. Just throw them in.

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    2. I had a boss who added commas where she'd take a breath!

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  16. Fab tips, for beginning as well as experienced writers.

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    1. Thanks! Considering how much I complained about learning all of this grammar stuff, it's amazing how much I now love to talk about it!

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  17. I just remembered it was IWSG week this morning! That was such an entertaining English lesson. I like the occasional semi colon myself, but know most people treat them with aversion. Commas kill me when I beta read for writers. Obviously it's not taught anymore. I'm going to check out the word to speech function in Word now. You learn something new every day--cliche alert!

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    1. I never feel confident telling others how to use or not use their commas. I keep that style book right on my desk.

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    2. Hope the text to speech function is helpful. I even downloaded an app for my phone that allows me to listen to a PDF from the phone while I hold the old school printed out document in my hands with red pen at the ready!

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  18. great list! I am guilty of the comma issue. I know I know how to use them. It was drilled into my head by many English teachers. I rarely use them in my poetry. In my fiction, I will try to get around using them if I can unless I am writing lists. I am just not too hip on commas.

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    1. I've improved in not over using them but they still appear a lot in my work.

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    2. It amazes me how many times I add in and take out the same comma! It's not always easy to know. Unfortunately, I love writing compound sentences, so I'm usually in need of commas!

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  19. Homophones get me every time. Not always, but whenever I'm writing fiction, I have to be on my guard constantly.

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    1. The two I have trouble with are bare and bear. I just can't keep it in my head.

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    2. Homophones are too bad for me, but I get tripped up on words that look wrong even when they are spelled right! For me, it's the ie construction. I blame it on my name not following the rule (hEIdi)

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  20. I must admit, I have a soft spot for semicolons, but I know they don't do much for a hard and fast tension filled story. I think it's a hangover from college essays!

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    1. You're still young enough to remember doing college essays. Now when I read your short story collection, I'm going to look for semicolons.

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    2. When I discovered the semicolon in college, I was a frequent user (and abuser). Then I started writing for a newspaper. The only semicolons allowed were in lists!

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  21. Aw, I sometimes enjoy semi-colons. I'm keeping them! And I'm a staunch Oxford comma supporter. ;) Great tips, though! I don't *think* I use buzz words, but now I feel a desperate urge to go check.

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  22. I don't know, what you mean, about, commas.... ;)
    Sorry, couldn't resist.

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    1. Tee-hee ;-)
      (I think the winky face is the best use for a semicolon ever).

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  23. This list made me laugh, but I don't know why so many people hate on the poor semicolon. I understand that it shouldn't be used EVERYWHERE, but it has its place in the language just as much as the comma or exclamation point.

    But yes, commas are difficult. Also, I was taught "this". when it's supposed to be "this." even in scare quotes... it is killing me trying to get used to it!

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