There are certain things in life I’ll forgive.
Forget to use your blinker while driving? Sure. I’ve committed that heinous crime a few times when I was in a zombie-behind-the-wheel state of mind.
Forget to hold the door open for an elderly person… or a disabled person… or a veteran… or a pregnant lady… or anyone within 10 feet who is most obviously headed your way? Alright. You’re a pedestrian, after all, not a doorman. Unless of course you are a doorman. In that case, you suck at your job and I’d recommend finding another line of work.
But commit any of the following heinous writing crimes and I’ll solidly stare you down like Grumpy Cat on a bad Monday.
Therefore, if you’re doing any of these things, stop it. Stop it right now!
5 Mountain Owl Peeves
- Overdoing the ellipsis. It’s three dots, people. Not four, not five, and definitely not three seconds worth of holding down the period key (…………………………………………… <— that’s this many). On top of that, ellipses are used to edit quotations or to indicate a pause or trail-off in dialogue. They’re not to be used in place of commas, semicolons, dashes, or periods.
- Using sarcasm/irony quotes (aka scare quotes if you’re writing or air quotes if you’re speaking) in the same sentence as the word “literal” or “literally”. Example: It’s like you’re a literal “failure”. Either you’re a failure, or you’re not. Saying you’re a literal failure means, yes, you got a big fat F on your report card. Saying you’re a “failure” is like me being sarcastic when you win the Nobel Prize (What a “loser.”). There is no such thing as a literal “failure.” (Read about irony punctuation here.)
- Writing excessively long sentences without punctuation. Unless I meet someone in person and discover there are actual living people out there who can talk really fast with their hands gesturing crazily and their eyes bugging out of their head and all their words coming out of their mouth like a waterfall into the world without them needing to inhale a single time to catch more breath then I really don’t want to see anyone writing sentences this long without punctuation to denote pauses and stops. Period. (Note the difference between long sentences and run-on sentences.)
- Similarly, shouting via ALL CAPS. If you’re shouting, use an exclamation point. If you’re not shouting, don’t use an exclamation point. Unless you really have a fondness for your caps lock, understand there’s a reason for both upper and lowercase letters. Otherwise, the only acceptable reasons to use all caps are:
- You’re writing a headline.
- For creative purposes. (A number of good books, including one by Mark Faddon which I read for a class in creative fiction, stretch or even break many writing rules like grammar and punctuation in favor of the art of storytelling. Like all art, story writing has few rules. It, though, has at least one that stands solid and true: it must be readable. However, beyond that the rules become flexible and potentially obsolete.)
- You really are shouting and feel that using an exclamation point simply won’t cut it.
- In case of C, see this article and its accompanying flow chart. It’ll help you. You’re welcome.
- People who write as if “incredible” is pronounced like “incredibly”. This is English, not French. Our word ending ‘-ble’ isn’t pronounced like ‘bleh’. It’s not incredi-bleh. It’s incredi-ble, as in edible or able.
Maybe this is just lazy typing or the effect of too much reliance on word processors to do our writing for us, but I have no patience for what I’ve been finding to be an increasingly (not increasingle’) more common error.
And that’s the short list. I don’t want to go too far into things that bother me as a reader/editor–like the overuse of “that”, which includes using “that” instead of “who” when referring to a person–because then you’ll just think I’m complaintive.
And that’s annoying, too.