Tag Archives: editing

The English Language – Fun or Crazy?

Be A NovelistI Can’t Take Credit for This

As a lover of words, language, and writing, I am fascinated with word-facts like these below.

I cannot take credit for what is posted here as I received this in an email from a former high school classmate. In fact, you may have even seen this circulating about the WWW. My intent is to enlighten, not plagiarize.

This will really scramble your brain. The post is rather long, but read it all. You’ll be fascinated.

Heteronyms and Homographs

Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.

Take a look at these examples:

  1. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  2. Do you know what a buck does to does?
  3. They were too close to the door to close it.
  4. The buck does funny things when does are present.
  5. Don’t desert me here in the desert!
  6. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.Be A Novelist
  7. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  8. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  9. With every number I read, my mind gets number and number.
  10. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  11. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  12. I did not object to the object.
  13. We must polish the Polish furniture.
  14. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  15. The farm was used to produce produce.
  16. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  17. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  18. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  19. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  21. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  22. The weather was beginning to affect his affect
  23. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  24. The bandage was wound around the wound.

Plurals and Other Confusing Word Usages:

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are animal organs. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?Be A Novelsit

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth?

One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese?

One index, two indices?

Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

Ship by truck and send cargo by ship?

Have noses that run and feet that smell?

Be A Novelist How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

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March, 2014

Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection

This collection includes six re-released titles

of my previously-published teen novels

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Beware of Heavy-Handed Attributions – Create Realistic Dialogue

Be A NovelistProblems With Attributions

For nearly a decade I served as an instructor for an international writing correspondence school. This course was designed for those who wanted to write for children and teens – which of course was my niche.

The student load that I carried was big, which meant I was reading multiple manuscripts every day. What an awesome learning experience for me. Like on-the-job-training.

When it came to writing dialogue, one problematic area that plagued nearly every beginning author was the attributions.  The “he saids” and “she saids” that show who is saying what. Otherwise known as “taglines.” Heavy-handed attributions – what I call clunky taglines– are one of the surest hallmarks of a beginning writer.

What do I mean by clunky? Check out these few examples:

  • “Is she going to be all right?” I slowly asked.
  • “One to two years of hard work and for what?” I surprisingly said to him.
  • “I only meant it as a joke,” Mr. Jordan laughingly said.
  • “I’ll give you all the money you paid me this year and I’ll keep working for you,” I questioningly said.
  • “I hope she doesn’t bring her dog along,” Moped Jeff from the doorway.

An Easy Trap

Whoa!  I’ll stop there. I could add several more but I trust you’re getting the point. I used to collect these – not because I wanted to poke fun at anyone, but to clearly demonstrate what a sticky wicket this area of fiction writing can be. (Keep in mind, no one can make these kinds of errors in writing unless they are trying. The one who never makes errors is the one who never tries!)

Creating clunky taglines is an easy trap to slip into. It boils down to trying too hard. The author wants so much to convince the reader as to how the character is speaking, so the fall-back remedy is to pad the tagline.       

Editing Test

A good editing test is to go through your entire manuscript searching out taglines and note how they are written. Now you know whether Be A Novelistor not this is a problem area in your writing.

For the most part simply using said works because it becomes almost invisible to the reader.  But even said can be overdone.

Best Technique

The best technique – which takes time to learn – is to weave in bits of business. Let the character’s actions work to pump drama into dialogue.

  • Craig yanked out a chair and sat down bumping the table, making the water glasses quiver. His folder slid across the table. He grabbed for it and bumped the table again. “Let this dad-blamed meeting begin!”
  • Her hands quivered as she shredded a tissue. “You can’t tell me what to do.”
  • His ham-sized fist hit the wall. Their framed wedding picture slammed to the floor. “Get out of here now.”

As you can see, no need for attributions here; the action lets you know the tone and inflection. Once you move into this pattern of writing dialogue, the importance of attributions just seems to fade away. The entire focus changes.

Be A NovelistStudy Your Favorite Author

Now read one of your favorite novels and study passages of dialogue and see how the author handled the dialogue exchanges.

  • How many taglines?
  • How many saids?
  • How many bits of business?

The main job of the author is to become invisible. Heavy attributions (clunky taglines) cry out that someone behind the scenes is writing this stuff.

The more skilled you become at writing dialogue, the more invisible you become. The attention of your readers will seldom, if ever, be drawn to your taglines!

Be A Novelist Photo Credit: ©

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Second Title in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection

Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood

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