More Bad Advice to Writers Leads to More Bloggish Outrage

One more “this is why we can’t have nice things” post to end the year…

There’s a “writing advice” site I found through a reblog from someone I follow. I’m not going to tell you whose blog it was, because I don’t want that blogger blamed for the Really Bad Information found in the original post.

Go here, though, and see for yourself. Specifically, I would like to direct your attention to Rule 10 (“In quoting titles, quote with exactness! Do not carelessly omit articles (ie., the, a, an), or place them outside the quotation marks.”), because the examples given are wrong in so many ways.

Quote with exactness, eh? Friends, I can tell you with absolute certainty (because this is one thing the Mandela Effect hasn’t touched yet) that Salinger’s novel is titled (not “entitled,” dammit!) The Catcher in the Rye, NOT The Catcher and the Rye. *rolls eyes*

Would you listen to someone who told you that you must make sure to quote book titles with exactness and then got so famous a title incorrect?

What they say about dealing with titles:

Right: Bring me the spring issue of Golf Digest magazine.

Right: Bring me the spring issue of “Golf Digest” magazine.

Wrong: We are reading the “House of the Seven Gables.”

Right: We are reading “The House of the Seven Gables.”

Wrong: We are reading the “Catcher and the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

Right: We are reading “The Catcher and the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

What I say (and a certain style guide with Chicago in its title also says) about dealing with titles:

Wrong: Bring me the spring issue of Golf Digest magazine.

Wrong: Bring me the spring issue of “Golf Digest” magazine.

Wrong: We are reading the “House of the Seven Gables.”

Wrong: We are reading “The House of the Seven Gables.”

Wrong: We are reading the “Catcher and the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

Wrong: We are reading “The Catcher and the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

Right: Bring me the spring issue of Golf Digest magazine.

Right: We are reading The House of Seven Gables.

Right: We are reading The Catcher in the Rye.

(The Catcher in the Rye, dammit. IN, not and. *rolls eyes again*)

This web site says book titles should be written inside quotation marks. Yes, I’ve seen it done. No, it’s still not right. Quotation marks are for short works (songs, short stories, poems, episode titles for television series, magazine articles), whereas italics are for long works (albums, books, television series titles, names of magazines). It’s not complicated; the only time you should even need to pause a moment to think about it is in the case of epic poetry: we put quotation marks around “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” but we italicize The Iliad.

Anyway. Just in case this topic is a fluke and the rest of the site is a reliable source of information on the mechanics of writing, I’m going to take a look… And no, it’s not reliable. It’s not always wrong, but it’s far from always right.

Semicolons: wonky and not to be trusted completely.

Wrong: It was raining; so we went home.

Right: It was raining, so we went home.

Don’t use a semicolon with a conjunction.

Wrong: There are no songs comparable to the songs of Led Zepplin; no singers equal to Robert Plant; and no guitarists better than Jimmy Page.

Right: There are no songs comparable to the songs of Led Zeppelin, no singers equal to Robert Plant, and no guitarists better than Jimmy Page.

(Wow, such a huge fan that you can’t spell the band’s name right! *Weaver’s eyes roll right out of his head, land on the floor, and startle the cats*)

The entry on apostrophes, at least, is sufficient for most purposes.

Colons: also wrong…

Wrong: The American flag has three colors, namely: red, white, and blue.  

Right: delete the colon or delete namely.

Also wrong: I can play various musical instruments, such as: the trumpet, the guitar, and the piano.

Right: delete the colon or delete such as.

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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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12 Responses to More Bad Advice to Writers Leads to More Bloggish Outrage

  1. M. Oniker says:

    Ahhhh. :::leans back and smiles to herself::: This is why I headed straight to your blog when I returned from my blogging hiatus. Educational with that soupçon of snark. I’m thinking that The Catcher and the Rye is a morality story of a baseball player’s struggle with the demon drink. I did not know that thing about book titles versus short works, though. I thought anything with a title could go inside quotation marks. I did know that you can use italics and underlines, but thought they were interchangeable (while sticking with one format throughout a piece). I can’t fault my teachers on my misinformation, because the last time I had this in a classroom Gerald Ford was president, and Mrs. Spenttoomuchtimeinthesunandherskinlookedlikeleather no doubt instructed us correctly.

    Since we can’t edit our own comments, thanks WP, I’ll have to wait to see if it works using the html for the italics. Somewhere I recall seeing that the use of asterisk brackets would work, like one * does nothing, ** gives italics, *** bold, etc., but I haven’t seen that working lately.

    Like

  2. prodisonhetgal says:

    Thank you for the heads-up Thomas! Much oblige.

    Like

  3. J.R. Handley says:

    Sometimes people do the quotes instead of italics because the forum doesn’t support using italics. In those cases, if they seek to be accurate in crediting the work, the quote would be their only reasonable solution.

    Liked by 1 person

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