I’ve written and read a lot, mostly critically. Over the years, I’ve wanted to bring up style issues, and I’m guilty of the crimes outlined below. I might as well confess to my sins and those I’ve observed in other guilty parties. You know who you are. Can you relate to any of these? Please fess up.
Sisters of the Semicolon: Is it a fancy comma? A real sentence? I don’t know; really. Some pepper entire books with them; incorrectly. With a complicated series, sure, you can use them. Some employ the mighty semicolon to add onto a sentence; thinking it’s really a comma. Not so fast, von Ryan*. There are rules for using a semicolon. If I see a semi-colon, I tend to stew over it. I don’t hate them; they just should be used sparingly. (I think that’s right)
One-sentence paragraphs bug me.
But I get why writers like them.
They create tension. Suspense.
Mostly, to me, they seem lazy.
Like trying to fill up the page with the least amount of effort.
And then the elephant jumped through the window.
Ecstatic for Ellipses: I was thinking…oh I don’t know…I’d like a Poptart, but…should I go to the deli or Duane Reade? The former might have…fresher ones…the frosted kind.
Conjunctionitis: And you thought I wouldn’t notice. But I do. Or rather, I don’t want to. And yet, on reality shows, most sentences in the narrations start with conjunctions: “And then this happened, and I had to call my manicurist for help. But she got a flat tire. [wa, wa, wa]” I take out those opening conjunctions as much as I can. But I’ll leave in a few.
Mostly Mozart: Too many notes (for shame!). Rick’s pizza was cold. Or: It would seem upon further elucidation that Rick’s pizza, ordered half an hour ago and delivered by a twelve-year-old who swerved all over the road–Rick saw him from his porch–had fallen short in the hotness department. Short can be sweeter, but I like Mozart too sometimes.
You Are Actually, Really Emphasizing: On an episode of Chopped, my husband and I noticed the number of times a chef said “really” within a minute: 5. It was really embarrassing, actually. When I see it in a manuscript, I tend to strike it.
Fragmentation: I used to like sentence fragments. Until now. I see them over and over again. Without warning. Where are those Poptarts again? On my desk. Half-eaten. Containing 8 essential vitamins and minerals. I think in fragments (I think) so it seems appropriate to read them throughout a book. Until my eyes start squawking. Then I wonder aloud, “Where are those long, sumptuous sentences, full of narrative power and really really great other stuff?” Fragments should be used sparingly or else they read like the one-sentence paragraph.
And those are my style thoughts this afternoon. Truly…
*I’m not advertising perfume. I just like this commercial.