Words You Hate…and How to Love Them

Hated WordsAdmit it. There are some words and phrases that irritate you. Words you wish others would stop saying. Words that shouldn’t have become trendy, but did, without anyone asking your permission. Words you think should be banned.

This blog post might cause you to think about those words in a different way.

First, what sort of words am I talking about? Some are used to fill up silence with sound, but don’t mean anything. Some occur at the beginning of sentences, others at the end. Some convey a meaning, but either the meaning is stupid, or the word’s trend has run its course. In the following sentences, the hated word is italicized:

I was actually so mad I could spit.

Anyways, that’s what I heard.

Anywhoo, I figured I’d head out to the park.


Then I go “what?” and she goes “you heard me.”

Honestly [or To be honest], he was really mean to me.

Like, my math teacher is crazy.

When I said that, his head literally exploded.


I know, right?

Say, are you doing okay?

See [or You see], it was like this…

So what are you doing today?

That was totally the best.

Then the, uh [or um or er], transmission thing failed and I had to pull over.

Well, I don’t know about that at all.

It was, you know, the funniest thing I ever heard.

Some of these may not bother you at all. Others may drive you toward causing great bodily harm. (My current pet peeve is starting sentences with ‘So.’) Each of us has different reactions to these words.

How is my blog post going to make you love these words? Simple. If you’re a writer of fiction, you need to understand that people really say (or used to say) these words and phrases in conversation.

For you, the words can serve several purposes. They can:

  1. Help distinguish one character’s speech mode from another—very helpful to a reader confronted with a long string of dialogue;
  2. Lend realism to your dialogue;
  3. Establish the historical timeframe of your story;
  4. Emphasize an age difference between characters, as when an older character uses “Well,” and the younger character uses “Like;” and
  5. Increase the hatred you (and possibly some readers) feel toward your story’s antagonist.

Let the debate rage here and there on the Internet about which is the worst word on the planet. You can even leave me a comment about your own personal, hated-word list. But you have to admit, those hated words can be useful to you.

So you’re actually starting to look at those, um, hated words in a different way, right? You’re starting to love them, aren’t you, as much as—

Poseidon’s Scribe

January 11, 2015Permalink

I Dint Proofread This Blog Post

Yes, I should have proofread this blog post before publishing it, but you know how thyme gets away from you. It’s possible there may be errirs I didn’t catch.

ProofreadingProofreading is impotent because readers get annoyed when they see mistakes left behind. They may conclude you’re not a competent writer. Worse, depending on the mistakes you make, you can convey a meaning counter to what you mint.

I’ve blogged about editing once or twice before, and I may have been lumping proofreading inn with that term. There is a distinction. In fact, in large publishing houses, there are different people involved; the editor and the proofreader halve different skills.

Editing should precede proofreading, and it concentrates on the biggger picture. An editor is checking for focus, readability, clarity, logic, good transitions, and consistent tone.

A proofreader, by contrast, is checking for speling errors, the bad affect of grammatical errors, use verb tense problems, words that might missing, mis$ing or incorrect punctu@tion, and poor sentence structure such as run-on sentences or sentence fragments that.

How do you go about proofreading? There’s some excellent advice available here, here, here, and here.  I’ll repeat some of that advice below, grouped into categories:


  • Don’t trust spell checkers. Use them, but realize they only check four spelling, knot the correct use of a word.
  • Keep a dictionary on hand. This helps with obscure words that spell-checkers don’t no.
  • Read backward. An old trick, but it werks! You’l spot errors more eesily.


  • Keep reference materials on hand. The web can work for most things, but not all.
  • Double-check facts, figures, and proper names. Making sure of these things now can save embarrassment later. Ensure you check “internal facts” such as consistency with your character names, ages, hair and eye color, etc.


  • Give yourself a break. Keep yourself mentally fresh and alert. Proofreading requires attention to detail.
  • Give the manuscript a break. This means to let your creation sit for a time (days, weeks, even months) before proofreading, to make it seem fresh to you. It’s easier to spot errors that way.

Other Proofreading Tricks

  • Adopt a critical mindset. Think like an auditor, or channel your most frustrating English teacher from school. Assume your manuscript is awash in errors and you’re going to find them.
  • Print out the text, review the hard copy. This works for some people.
  • Create a customized proofreading list of your most common errors. I highly recommend this. Keep the list dynamic by adding new errors you uncover.
  • Proofread for one category of error, or one type of problem, at a time.
  • Read the text aloud. Sometimes errors are easier to spot when spoken.
  • Ask someone else to proofread your manuscript. Ideally this would be a fellow writer, or a friend who knows English well and is willing to give you honest criticism.

Its my sincere hope you take more time proofreading you’re stories than I’ve done with this blog post. Eye was a bit rushed today:; but that’s really no excuse?! Starting with the next post, I’ll return two the polished, error-free, grammatically perfect prose you’ve come to expect from—

Pose-sigh-dunce Scribe

Do You Know the Ropes?

For any job, there’s a body of knowledge and a skillset you must acquire before you can do it well. Having that knowledge is called “knowing the ropes,” ever since the time when sailors aboard tall ships had to know which line trimmed which sail.

know the ropesYou want to be a writer? You’ll have to know the ropes of that profession, at least to some extent. Just as a sailing ship’s ropes seem confusing at first and more understandable after time spent studying, so the ‘ropes’ of writing can be learned. Specifically, I want to address those tricky English language rules you learned long ago in grade school and have since forgotten.

Why is it important for you to re-learn those rules? If you send your story to a publishing house, and the editor sees you haven’t mastered the basics of English, it won’t matter how compelling your story is. It’s just not worth the editor’s time, so your story gets rejected. If you self-publish, your lack of knowledge will be out there for readers to see. Your story might be captivating, but readers get tripped up when you demonstrate an ignorance of English. You’ll get bad reviews.

Here are a few of those rules your Language Arts teacher tried to instill:

  • Affect and Effect. Usually, ‘affect’ is a verb meaning influence, while ‘effect’ is a noun meaning result, as in: Adding salt affected the taste, which produced a satisfying effect on her palate.
  • Farther vs. Further. ‘Farther’ refers to linear distance only. ‘Further’ refers to types of extent other than distance, as in: As he watched her run farther in the marathon, his excitement increased further.
  • Its vs. It’s. “It’s” is an exception to the rule about apostrophe-s indicating possession. In this one case, “It’s” is a contraction for ‘it is.’ Use ‘its’ for possession, as in: The dog gnawed its bone.
  • Lie and Lay. This one’s complicated, but in present tense, use ‘lie’ when there’s no direct object, and use ‘lay’ when there is (when you lay an object down). I’ll lay this pillow here, and then you can lie down on it.
  • Punctuation inside or outside quotes. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks; semicolons and colons go outside; exclamation and question marks go inside if part of the quotation, and outside if not.
  • That and Which. ‘That’ introduces restrictive clauses and ‘which’ introduces nonrestrictive clauses as in: The blogpost that elicited the most comments was the one about English rules, which can be confusing. The clause after ‘that’ restricts the sentence’s meaning; the clause after ‘which’ doesn’t.
  • Very Unique.   ‘Unique’ means one of a kind. Therefore nothing can very unique, or quite unique.
  • Was vs. Were. Use ‘was’ for verbs in the indicative mood, where you’re stating something that is or could be true, as in: If I was to go to your place this afternoon, we could watch the game. Use ‘were’ for verbs in the subjunctive mood, where you’re stating opinions, wishes, etc., as in: If you were a player on the team, you’d get me free tickets to every game.

These are just some of the tricky English rules you need to know. I know it seems confusing, and you might be tempted to give up writing. But if the story’s in you and wants to get out, you won’t give up.

You can learn the ropes by any or all of these methods:

  1. Join a critique group, and benefit from the knowledge of other amateur writers
  2. Take an adult English class at a local community college
  3. Use a word processor that highlights grammatical mistakes and poor word choices
  4. As you write, if you’re unsure of the proper usage or phrasing, mark the sentence for later review, and look up the answer on a trusted website.

You don’t have to know all the ropes, but enough so your editor doesn’t gag while reading your manuscript. As for me, I’m no English teacher, I’m just—

Poseidon’s Scribe