Writing Glitch #166

Today’s glitch:



I believe the expression used these days is I can’t even.

Let’s tackle the glitches in the writing mechanics first.

Do not capitalize a verb unless it’s the first word of a sentence. (Why would anyone do that? Why?)

The comma after people is actually saying that who watch TV effectively renames people… which is both ridiculous and causes the sentence to contradict itself. (CMS refers to this as a nonrestrictive appositive; it can be “omitted without obscuring the identity of the noun to which it refers.”) Why would you use a comma before who watch TV but not use one before who read books, since both phrases are functioning the same way? (No, really, try it: People, who read books, will always be ahead of people, who watch TV. This is the kind of nonsense you get when you misuse commas.)

Also, there should be a period at the end of the sentence.

People who read books will always be ahead of people who watch TV.

Now let’s take a brief look at the logic glitches in this example.

It is safe to assume the person who created the original of this example is a person who reads books (and thus wants to encourage the belief that readers of books haz teh nowleges that watchers of television invariably lack).

So, logic glitch number one: assuming that reading books and watching TV are mutually exclusive.

Show of hands: How many of you read books and watch television?

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Me, too. It is probably safe to say that most people who read books also watch television sometimes.

Logic glitch number two: assuming that reading books automatically makes a person smarter, more able to get along in the world, or whatever definition of ahead you care to apply.

If the person who created this glitch example was specifically defining ahead as being better at stringing words together into written stories (in which case, they should have said so), then yes, reading stories gives an advantage that one cannot get from watching stories on the screen, because the way in which those stories are told is different. Not worse, and not better — just different. Watching good television can certainly teach one about dialogue and plot, but descriptions are all done through visuals on the screen, and writers… Well, writers need to know not only what to describe, but how. That means reading descriptions of things to see how it’s done.

(Clearly, the person who created the example didn’t learn much about the mechanics of writing from reading books. Were the idea expressed in the example true, I’d hate to think of how bad their writing skills would be as a watcher of television instead.)

If you think everything on television is crap, you’re watching the wrong things on television. If you think books are boring, you’re reading the wrong books. But it’s not a damn dichotomy; you don’t have to take sides, because there shouldn’t be sides.




About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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5 Responses to Writing Glitch #166

  1. If yours is broken, you can borrow my soap box!! 😂😜👍🏻

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “be ahead” Expressions like this annoy me because of the implied assumption that we all think alike. There are many situations where one person can be ahead of another: in line, in a race, in terms of wealth acquisition, etc. As you pointed out, the writer did not define what is meant by being ahead. I think it would be hilarious to add a space between the “a” and the “h”.
    “People who read will always be a head of people who watch TV.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. That actually hurt me, I think. Why would anyone do that? That poor, poor sentence…

    Who doesn’t love a good sweeping statement? Or hard binary choice?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Quintessential Editor says:

    “If you think everything on television is crap, you’re watching the wrong things on television. If you think books are boring, you’re reading the wrong books. But it’s not a damn dichotomy; you don’t have to take sides, because there shouldn’t be sides.”

    Perfect way to put it. I’ve been enjoying the extra spice in your posts 🙂


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