Tag Archives: blogging

Tags and #Tags

Most people who use social media, know what tags are on Twitter etc. and use them to attract more followers. I will, no doubt, add a few tags to this post to advertise it and maybe encourage a few more readers to follow my blog.

Tags, when you are writing away from social media, are a bit different. These are short, questioning phrases, at the end of an affirmative or negative statement. Such as the cheery – “It’s cold today, isn’t it?”  as you hurry pass a neighbour in the street. Or the more hectoring – “You won’t do anything silly whilst I’m away, will you?” from a busy mother to a recalcitrant teenager.

Tags are regularly used in dialogue. Their aim is for the speaker to confirm that the person they are speaking to is listening to them and has understood what’s been said. They do not appear much in formal / literary prose. But they can be found in more informal prose, such as a newspaper article, where the writer wants to grab the reader’s attention, maybe with their opening sentence.

Even if they are mainly used informally, tags have their own grammatical ‘rules.’ They almost invariably use an auxiliary verb – to be, which is usually followed by a personal pronoun – it, you, I, we etc. Sometimes they us irregular verbs – “I’m a clever boy, aren’t I ?” (not amn’t I). I suppose you could say ‘am I not?’ but that sounds a bit pompous. And the perfectly correct, but archaic, contraction – ‘ain’t I?’ seems, to have gone out of fashion, doesn’t it?

As you can see from the above, the most used tags are in the negative, aren’t they? But they don’t have to be – and you don’t have to be a born again optimist to use a positive one occasionally, do you?

tag

Children playing tag – not a very relevant caption for this blog, is it?

If you would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon author pages, where you can usually find at least one story is available free.

 I am taking a short break now – back the end of April.

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Speling Misteaks

Graham Sharpe co-founded the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, and was a judge for this year’s competition (which was won, incidentally, by a biography of the cyclist Tom Simpson by Andy McGarth). After reading the 131 books that were entered into the competition he was dismayed by the number of misspellings of simple words. He described it on the Bookseller website as a ‘crime against books.’

He sympathised with writers, who can become blind to their own mistakes, and wondered whether some of the problem lay with the demise of the ‘dragon’ editor (my description), from the big publishing houses. Indie publishers have always been under time and financial constraints and have little leeway beyond, for example, offering one proof read with suggested corrections sent back to the author, one follow up by the editor, and a final check via the author to the editor in chief before the manuscript goes off to the printer.

This still sounds like quite a lot of checking, and opportunities to put things right. But even after all that, some of the most vigilant of authors can gasp with dismay when the printed version of their book is in their hands – and a missed typo leaps out from the page.

What to do? I find using the ‘tracking changes’ in Word difficult, and don’t use it myself if I can avoid it. But editors do, so it is something I need get up to speed on. I love the spell check on the computer, but it can be a false friend, and let through a misspelling, or ‘correct’ you to something you hadn’t intended. Beta readers can help, but that is not really their role, so don’t blame them if they don’t point out your tendency to add apostrophes where they aren’t needed (or leave them out where they are) etc.

Of course, a self-publisher has to take all the responsibility for errors, but writers with publishing house support can also follow a few simple steps to reduce errors. Yes, use spell check, track changes, recruit beta readers etc. But it also helps to leave a bit of time between finishing a manuscript and re-reading it, to change the font and letter size, and even change the ink colour – anything to make the work look different from last time you worked on it. Some mistakes will still get through – we are human, and ‘to air is human’ after all.

If you have any suggestions for reducing misspellings, I’d love to hear them!

If you have enjoyed this post, and would like to read more of my work, please go to my Amazon author page.

Two short stories might interest you to get a feel for my writing style. I don’t think there are any typos in either, but you never know …

Love in WaitingLove in Waiting 

 

sleeping beautySleeping Beauty

 

Both these short stories are published by Solstice as e-books for about £/$1.00 – http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

 

 

 

 

Text Speak and ‘Proper’ Writing

There are stories about people attempting to write novels using Twitter (so much easier now that you have 280 characters to play with!). The process may certainly help concentrate the mind, and cut out padding, though this maybe counteracted by a lavish application of txt spk and emoticons, so you can pack more in each episode / tweet. Why write a tweet about someone feeling sad, if you can simply slip in a down-at-mouth emoji? The same goes for text messages.

text1For some people, text messaging abbreviations we are all familiar with (even if some of us are not too sure what they mean) illustrate an accelerating decline in standards of written English – there have been newspaper articles about candidates answering essay questions in public examinations using text speak, ffs!

But, according to researchers at Binghampton University, New York, use of emoticons, irregular spellings and abbreviations, and imaginative use of exclamation marks andtext 2 other forms of punctuation are def not sloppy, but an attempt to convey additional meaning. Whilst perhaps not a gr8 thing to do in every written document, their use can indicate that the writer is thinking about what they are trying to communicate and, if it comes across as a bit harsh, trying to soften the impact. (smiley face).

A texter is aware that the receiver of their message is not in front of them, so cannot make use of non-linguistic clues – the smile, to soften a blunt comment, the pitch of the voice to convey a certain amount of doubt rather than intransigence, or the breathlessness to illustrate that you really are sooo sorry to be keeping you waiting, but are coming as fast as you can …

The researchers also suggest that the omission of a full stop in a text message can indicate sincerity. They found that people who received a one word response to a text, which included a full stop, felt the response was less enthusiastic or genuine than if it came without one. For example, someone who replied ‘yeah’ to an invitation to meet up that evening, was more likely to keep the appointment than one who responded ‘yeah.’ The researchers were so taken by this that the title of their study is called Punctuation in text messaging may convey abruptness. Period. (Published in Computers in Human Behaviour, 2017)

Are there any lessons in this for writers of novels, short stories and plays? Not least, perhaps, it illustrates the importance of thinking about how words are received by a reader or, in dialogue, by other characters in the story. As we wax lyrical, with words tumbling onto the page, maybe we should pause every so often to think, hmm – how will this be interpreted? Who is receiving this? Just a thought. LOL

If you have enjoyed this post, and would like to read more of my work, please go to my Amazon book page.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

Or go to my publisher’s website:

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

A superfluous word can be useful.

Did you notice that I started my last blog with the word ‘so’? Did it annoy you? Apparently the BBC has been deluged with complaints about interviewees starting every response with the word. And on Tuesday, there was an article in the Times, as well as an editorial, in response to this. Though, in fairness, the paper didn’t seem to take the issue too seriously.

In all probability hapless interviewees are just playing for time, gathering their thoughts, or feeling nervous. They’ve been told not to say ‘um,’ ‘well,’ and ‘er’ and, in avoiding these words (and knowing ‘like’ is the domain of the young), they’ve hit on ‘so.’

‘So’ is a relatively new kid on the block, perhaps first used by programmers in Silicon Valley in the 1990s. But there are others to choose from – ‘look,’ ‘sure,’ ‘no problem,’ ‘yeah’ that have a modern feel if you want to ring the changes.

Use of such, seemingly uneccessary, words is not a new phenomenon – my father used to call one of his colleagues ‘Ahbut Umwell’ (only behind his back, of course) because he would invariably start his entry into a discussion with one or other phrase.

What should a writer do about this problem, if it actually is a problem? First, recognise it is not a big deal. It may not be good grammar in a written disposition. But it is an authentic part of everyday speech, and has its place in written dialogue – a verbal tic that helps fix a character’s personality.

As for my use of ‘so,’ in my last blog – was I just being a bit sloppy? No doubt socio-linguists would excuse me on the grounds that apparently superfluous words can convey subtle meanings. The use of ‘so,’ for example, may denote the speaker’s confidence. That must be it – I was reporting back on a radio session that had turned out better than I’d feared. My opening word was there to subtly convey this to you.

So there you go!

If you have enjoyed reading this, and would like to find more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon author pages. There is always at least one free story you can download.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

That dreaded radio interview!

The other day, out of the blue, I received an email asking if I wanted to take part in a radio programme to talk about my recent book and, maybe, read an excerpt from it.

radio_studio_3.fwGulp! I have tended to avoid such invitations. I may have the face for radio, but not necessarily the voice.

However I realise that it is a valuable addition to the opportunities writers have to promote their work, and maybe I should take the plunge. So, after a mild panic attack, I emailed back to say ‘yes.’ Then settled down for a more serious panic session.

More constructively, I started to think about what to do in preparation.

Here’s what I’ve thought about so far. I would welcome other suggestions – bearing in mind I’m slotted in for an interview this Sunday.

  1. Clarify what is expected. E.g. Who else will be there? How long will the interview last? What will the format be – question and answer? readings?
  2. Which book / books will the interview cover?
  3. Does the interviewer want to know more about my work in advance? And more about me?
  4. Where is the studio? Is there parking? How soon before I am on air will I need to arrive?

So far I know what time I will be on air, what book we will talk about mostly, and which Cast Offexcerpt the interviewer would like me to read. The interviewer is particularly interested in Cast Off, my collection of Shakespeare themed stories. This isn’t surprising as he has a new programme on Stratford’s community radio. He will also give me a chance to promote my book event (with readings done by professionally trained readers) which will take place at a community theatre in Coventry later in the month.

And now I must go and practice reading my excerpt aloud. (But why is it my tongue suddenly feels too big for my mouth, making the words hard to come out?)

Links:

Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff

A very nice blog today?

 

Writers sometimes strain to use different words when plain and simple is just fine. A common error is to seek desperately for different ways of indicating speech:

I shouted / he screamed / she bellowed / they wailed / we whispered …

None of these is wrong, but too many (especially the more elaborate), can distract from the dialogue. Indeed, there is nothing wrong, and plenty right about the humble – ‘she said’. The reader can concentrate on the dialogue, but is clear about which character is speaking. Alternatively, the speech can stand alone, and the follow-up phrase can indicate who is speaking, and the tone in which it was spoken.

‘“I see you have thrown out my mother’s photo.” Only the slight reddening of her neck indicated her anger.’

Instead of struggling to find alternatives to ‘said’, maybe we should expend our energy on words that can regularly slip into our work without us noticing.

Like ‘nice.’ Jane Austen

Jane Austen had plenty to say on the over-use of this word. When Catherine, in Northanger Abbey, is talking to Henry Tilney:

“… but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?”

“Very true,” said Henry, “and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk and you two are very nice ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything. Originally perhaps it was applied only to express neatness, propriety, delicacy or refinement: people were nice in their dress, in their sentiments, or their choice. But now, every commendation on every subject is comprised in that one word.”

 

Another word that crops up a bit too often, even with the likes of Henry Tilney (though I suspect in the above speech he was just being sarcastic) is ‘very’. Again, the constant repetition of the word shows a lack of imagination and can get boring. There are plenty of alternatives to using ‘very’ before a word. Here are a few examples:

  • Very rich – wealthy / loaded
  • Very poor – destitute / impoverished
  • Very loud – noisy / deafening
  • Very quiet – hushed
  • Very often – frequently
  • Very rarely – seldom
  • Very short – brief
  • Very long – lengthy

If you have enjoyed reading this blog and would like to read more of my work please go to one of my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

Let’s talk peace!

Leafing through my Latin dictionary (as one does) I came across the word pax. I think we all know that the word has something to do with peace, as opposed to war. These days the word is largely used in reference to children’s games: ‘Pax’ as in wanting to call an end to a game, or declare immunity from any consequences of a game. The word is often called out while crossing fingers, and /or holding up one’s hands. Even in this context, the word has an old fashioned feel to it, and doesn’t appear much in the dialogue of modern books for children.

Pax is still to be found as part of a Latin tag in more literary or historical books. For roman soldierexample:

  • Pax Romana – the long peace of the Roman Empire brought about by the impressive strength of the Roman military.
  • Pax Britannica – a similar state of peace imposed by the British on members of its colonial empire (when there was one!).
  • Pax in Bello – peace in war, whereby fighting continues, but at a reduced rate.

Pax, from these examples, would seem to be used in association with more bellicose activity. Not so the ‘pax vobiscum’ (Peace be with you) that Christ is reported to have said to the apostles on the first Easter morning.

 

45paxPAX was the name given by the Romans to their goddess of peace. The Greeks called their goddess of peace Irene, from the Greek eirenikos (peace). The word eirenic / irenic, meaning tending towards conciliation, or promoting peace, is clearly linked to the name Irene. Not so the word ire, and all its angry associations!

If you have enjoyed this blog, and would like to read more of my work, please go to one of my Amazon author pages: