Writing glitch #800

Today’s glitch:

Delete the comma after away.

There. Now the grammar and punctuation are correct. Wasn’t that easy?

Also, I’m changing dust to brush, partly to make the sentence sound better and partly for accuracy: One, the dirt or whatever on top of that dome is going to be quite compacted — this character is lucky that it doesn’t need to be scraped off with the sharpened edge of a trowel, which is what you should expect of something buried for a long time — so dusting it  away isn’t an option. Two, when the material is soft enough to be removed without scraping, a brush is used, so as not to risk damaging whatever is in/under the dirt.

You are an archaeologist working on a dig. When you find a thick pane of glass, you brush the dirt away and see the inside of a massive bio-dome, hidden for too long. Only one organism is inside, and it was meant to be forgotten.

If you know me at all, you know I love a good ‘archaeologists uncover something ancient and dangerous’ story. (For the record, I liked this kind of story long before I even met my twin.) However, I find that some (most) of these stories lack a certain level of realism and/or understanding of how field archaeology actually works.



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Writing glitch #799

Today’s second glitch:

Add a double quotation mark before the first line of dialogue.

Do not end a sentence with a question mark if it is not a question. Stating that you wonder something or do not understand something is not asking a question. Change the question mark after mine to a period.

Also capitalize Clan in this context (part of a proper name).

The first sentence of the second paragraph sounds like the writer is trying too hard. I don’t know how to fix it, however, other than strongly recommending that by his delusional statement be either deleted or replaced with something else. I’m not sure intrigued is the right word, either, but who knows what vocabulary contortions lurk in the minds and Wattpad postings of the same people who have declared that literally means not literally?

It is normal to italicize direct internal dialogue (character’s exact thoughts) when the narration is not in first person. (You may also italicize such in first-person narration.) Italicize A thousand years old, my ass, and don’t forget to add the comma after old. Also, change the comma after ass to a period and capitalize Did (because that sentence is not the character’s exact thoughts, as made clear by the switch back to third person). If you want that last bit to be direct thoughts, too, make it first person: Does he think I was born yesterday?

The next paragraph… First of all, it doesn’t need to be a new paragraph, because the speaker here is the same person whose thoughts we get in the previous paragraph. Second, the verb in the dialogue tag is flat-out wrong. I understand what the writer was trying to say, but spared isn’t the correct word. I’m certain the writer meant sparred (after all, it’s on the list of “substitutes for said” *sigh*), if only because spared — past tense of spare — is not possible as a way of speaking. Verbal sparring, on the other hand, happens all the time (more than necessary, in the sort of story frequently written by newbie authors who think “snappy” dialogue is a valid substitute for actual plot and characterization). Under any circumstances, when the dialogue tag comes before the dialogue, you must have a comma after the tag to separate it from the dialogue, so change the period after sparred to a comma.

Personally, I sort of feel that whoever handed this writer a list of “substitutes for said” should be hit upside the head with a very large and possibly just metaphorical cyborg fish. No one says anything in this example; they spar, they tease, but they never let what they say, or the context in which they say it, show how they’re saying it. This, friends, is the unfortunate logical endpoint of telling all writers that adverbs and adjectives are bad, that Real Writers use only nouns and (zingy — always zingy and exciting) verbs to get their point across.  

When used to describe a person according to hair color, redhead is one word.

“What I can’t figure out is why you would agree to go with this Grey kid willingly to Clan Ankh, when you are so obviously meant to be mine.”

Lexy was intrigued. A thousand years old, my ass. Did he think she was born yesterday? She sparred, “What would make you think I was meant to be yours?”

Tiberius teased, “You are a certifiably insane redhead, and that’s kind of my thing.”




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Writing glitch #798

Today’s first glitch:

This one is already grammatically correct, more or less, but it still needs a bit of work.

They is used twice in this sentence, but each time it refers to something different. This may confuse readers. Just change the second they to these, and the sentence will make more obvious sense.

They painted charms on the sides of their boat, hoping these would ensure safe crossing.


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Writing glitch #797

Today’s glitch:

Let’s look at some of the terminology first, okay? Race doesn’t mean the same thing as species. Generally, when the word race is used, the reader should be able to assume that it refers to some subset of the same species as the author and reader. On the other hand, species should be used for — d’uh! — members of some other species.

(No, kids, it is not an insult to refer to humans as members of a species. If you actually believe that, you’re too scientifically ignorant — probably due to excessive and unquestioning religion rotting your brain — for me to help you. That’s okay, however, because people with brains rotted by excessive religion aren’t likely to be reading my blog anyway.)

Now, for grammar-and-punctuation stuff, just change the (correct number of dots — yay!) ellipsis after thing to a colon.

A species that has lived in space for thousands of years decides to invade Earth. Their sneak attack goes horribly wrong because they forgot to account for one thing: gravity.

I find it very implausible that people who live in space would forget about gravity. Living in microgravity doesn’t mean you get to ignore the fact that all material things are affected by gravity. You cannot travel in space without dealing with gravity, and since these people obviously do travel — how else would they get to Earth from wherever they were before? — they must know about gravity even if they don’t like living at the bottom of a deep well. 

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Writing Glitch #796

Today’s glitch:

Do not capitalize the first word of a dialogue tag placed AFTER the dialogue. In the first line of dialogue, he should not be capitalized; nor should he be capitalized in the third line of dialogue. (Notice that she isn’t capitalized in the second line; this strongly suggests that the incorrect capitalization is linked to the end punctuation ion the dialogue. Either that, or the writer is a sexist and grammatically ignorant idjit who believes masculine pronouns are more important that feminine pronouns, in which case the writer needs to be hit with a chair or something. Trust me, it’s far better to go with, I didn’t know any better than to trust a computer program to auto-“correct” everything.)

I think get scared should be changed in the first line, because get is used twice there and it sounds clunky. Instead of Don’t you get scared, try Aren’t you scared. Even replacing the first get with become or feel would be an improvement.

OMG, the verbs in the tags! He doesn’t speak; he croaks, and then he yells (and then the readers roll their eyes). The exclamation mark on the third line of dialogue makes it perfectly clear that this is spoken with strong emphasis, and no tag at all is necessary, because there are only two people talking, so once the speakers are established, you don’t have to keep tagging their lines every time, especially not in a short exchange like this one.

Also, although croaked is valid for a tag (because it is a vocalization, unlike, for example, grinned), it’s rather difficult to croak a long-ish sentence. Consider some other verb.

The third line of dialogue is a run-on. Add a question mark after Why the hell not and begin a new sentence with I’m.

Even in dialogue (no ‘my character don’t know grammer so I don’t write their dialogue with grammer’ excuses), a compound sentence (independent clauses — that means each part could stand alone as a complete sentence — joined by a conjunction) requires a comma before the conjunction. Add a comma after mind.

A direct address needs to be set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or commas. Add commas before and after my love.

I modified the tag on the fourth line of dialogue so that only the last sentence is whispered.

“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll harm you when I get angry?” he growled.

“No,” she replied instantly.

“Why the hell not? I’m a monster!”

“I’ve had demons in my mind, and you, my love, are the angel who saved me from myself. Not all monsters are bad,” she added in a whisper.




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Writing Glitch #795

Today’s glitch:

Seriously, WTF is up with the capitalization here? *shakes head* Other than the one at the beginning of the sentence, none of those words should be capitalized.

Add a comma after seconds, because the sentence is compound.

“You’ve been here four seconds, and you’re already holding a big knife and wearing my leather gloves.”



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My clone-sibling’s next book will be in HARDCOVER.

This summer, my twin has a book coming out in hardcover. Please note that I said book, by the way, not novel; this isn’t a work of fiction.

Here’s a sneak-peek mockup of the cover:

The author’s name and the book’s title will be on the spine: Paul B. Spence, Thesis. (Actual title is An Analysis of the Features Found at Arena Ancestra, an Archaic Component of Arena Alta, LA 34307, but that’s only on the inside, not the cover.)

For fun, here’s a fake (and deliberately over-the-top) blurb, as if this were a work of fiction (which it very much isn’t):

On a new archaeological dig in northern New Mexico, brilliant and ruggedly handsome archaeologist Paul B. Spence braves harsh weather and questionable wildlife to find something none of his colleagues has ever seen before: evidence not only of the post holes from an Archaic period pithouse structure, but also the ashy remains of the posts themselves. Will the lithic debitage support the dates for the site, or will the stone flakes prove to be irrelevant?

The cover’s not much to look at, but there are some cool interior illustrations. 🙂



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