Tuesday, November 05, 2019

speaking of circuses, it's election day!

Felix Buttonweezer led the circus into town.

Felix Buttonweezer led a circus into town.

Is this on your list of nit picks nits to pick?***

What else** creeps into your manuscript, lying in wait to ambush Miss Picklepuss the purse lipped copy editor?

**(anymore/any more is mine)

***I'm really happy to have Dena Pawling's eagle eyeball


nightsmusic said...

A while vs awhile. They really are two different things. I have a lot more, but I'll leave it at this one.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

The instead of he, she, or they. No idea why this happens so often, but I am still finding it in my WIP after I can't even count how many revisions. It drives me insane. Well, more insane...

Kitty said...


Megan V said...

off of vs. off

Jen in Edinburgh said...

I'm not getting the problem with the examples. I mean, it would certainly be *unusual* for someone you know well enough to call by name to turn up at the head of an unknown circus, but it's not impossible - maybe you were expecting him to come into town alone, or had sent him off on a seemingly impossible task to find an elephant within 10 miles. Or maybe he met them when they were lost.

Am I missing something, like the 'fruit flies like a banana' which baffled me for years? (Of course it does, unless it flies like an apple!)

JulieWeathers said...

Well, some of my readers think it's "duck". I use duck twice in Rain Crow. Three actually, but they've forgotten the first one describing a stormy day.

"It's a day fit for naught but ducks or the devil."

The first protestation is this:

My protestations about the way she made me out to be a monster did as much good as trying to teach a duck French. She lifted her head at the end of my diatribe and blinked as if just waking up. "Are any cookies left?"

Yes, exactly like talking to a duck.

The second:

Dear Father in Heaven. I sat stunned as a duck someone had just hit over the head with a wooden spoon that my aunt and mother were debating men so.

It's led to some interesting discussions.

My current hunt for words to replace is "rose". I have people rising here, there, and everywhere.

JulieWeathers said...

Regarding voting:

Felix Buttonweezer led the circus into town.

However, it all goes back to context. If people are wondering where on earth he found a circus, I would say "a circus".

Dena Pawling said...

It's "nits to pick", not "nit picks to pick."

Chief Picker of Nits

Timothy Lowe said...

Frain says I mutter too much. He's probably right.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

The old "lie, lay, laid, lain," etc

And trying to sort out the toward or towards issue and then being consistent in my MS.

Fearless Reider said...

Um, Janet? I'm sorry to whinge about the new color scheme again, but on mobile devices it's now black text on a navy background. Just thought you might want to know. If you're trying to cure me of my habit of squirreling my phone under the (my?) quilt to peruse the archives during bouts of insomnia, it's working.

Spot on about the context of Felix's circus, Julie Weathers. I was thinking the same thing. My personal bugaboo is lay/lie -- in other people's manuscripts, of course. Mine are above reproach, until I print them out and read them aloud. Or maybe out loud.

Mister Furkles said...

I don't have a problem is 'led a/the circus'. Depends on context. But 'Felix led a circuit into town' is different.

And 'any more' doesn't mean the same as 'anymore'.

Many of my crit-folk use 'alright' which is all right but not an official word yet. Likely, will be in a few years.

This is one of my favorite websites because homonyms trouble me to death:

https colon //brians dot wsu dot edu/common-errors/

I fear homonyms more than vampires. And does that mean I fear homonyms more than I fear vampires or that I fear homonyms more than vampires fear homonyms?

It's so confusing.

Am I homonym-phobic? Is that like being homophobic only with words that go either way?

It's so confusing.

Fearless Reider said...
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Fearless Reider said...
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Craig F said...

Big argument when in my query I wrote "the grand opening of the first two point of a planned network is a success."

That is correct because the sentence is about the grand opening, not the two locations.

Julie wouldn't rise and risen have been considered proper during the Civil War era?

That is what makes English such fun, it is all relative.

nightsmusic said...

Another one I just came across: affect/effect. ARGH!!!

And just for the record, it's nuclear. It's always been nuclear. It will always be nuclear. There is no such word as nucular when speaking of atomic anything or meltdowns or what have you. Botany, that's another subject which is never talked about. But it drives me insane.

Fearless Reider said...

Oh, and that reminds me of another pet peeve: pour/pore. Every time I encounter a character who's (nope, not whose, but I always break down the contraction to double-check) pouring over the contents of a rare book, I envision a supremely ticked-off librarian about to rain (neither rein nor reign) fire down their unsuspecting neck. Which brings me to another peeve: grammar defenders who gripe about using "their" as a singular possessive pronoun even when it's the most graceful way around a situation. If it was good enough for Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw, it's good enough for me.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Council vs counsel.

Also I have a character named Sha, which looks a lot like she, but he's a boy. Might be a mistake.

JulieWeathers said...


"Julie wouldn't rise and risen have been considered proper during the Civil War era?"

Very much so, but I may use it too much.

A porkpie hat rose, revealing the startled face of my favorite fae, Darcy Hawkins who stared at the muzzle of my five-shot.

He agreed and immediately rose in stature with his friends.

I pushed back the satin sleeve, kissed her perfumed hand, and rose.

I have roses everywhere.

Karen McCoy said...

For me it's your, you're, their, they're, there. This one, like others said, depends on context. A circus can either be specific or general. The problem arises if "a" is in front of a particular circus.

Beth Carpenter said...

The instead of they, but that's just a typo. For some reason, I can't keep the spelling of conscious vs. conscience straight and always have to look them up. Don't know why; the n is right there. Also I've said "all of the sudden" all my life, but I'm told the phrase is "all of a sudden."

Brian Wells said...

I'm impressed by my fellow blog readers here. I've met actual editors who use "try and" instead of "try to" and who don't know the difference between "backyard" and "back yard."

I once described skin sores as "legions" throughout one of my manuscripts. I blame the trouserless day-drinking.

Adele said...

To me, Felix could have done either, but the meanings differ:

Felix led the circus into town: There is a known circus - a travelling show featuring acrobats and clowns and the like - that traditionally parades into town and Felix was leading it.


Felix led a circus into town: "Man, that Felix. He comes into town, and with him comes his daft Auntie Joan and her collection of stuttering ducks, his cousin Alex, the shadiest lawyer west of the Pecos, his two sisters who speak in rhyme, and I don't know what strange things the rest of them do but like I said, it's a complete circus."

Adele said...

And my pet peeve is "went extinct". Everybody says it - I've even heard paleologists say it - but to me it should only be "became extinct". Harrumph.

Adele said...

One life, two lives. Not two lifes. I listened to somebody talk about changing lifes for over an hour in a webinar. And he may be a millionaire but I'm not buying his product.

Theresa said...

I've been thinking about Felix all morning and finally concluded I would need more context to know which sentence would be appropriate.

Since all kinds of these mistakes get past me in draft after draft until that very last one, I don't have any nits to pick. But I am ever vigilant about my use of that and just.

Craig F said...

That's okay, Julie, I have too many orchids. My mind blanks when I get to 100 of them, so I don't know how many there is.

Barbara Etlin said...

I've finally accepted "anymore" instead of "any more" but it's a begrudging kind of acceptance.

Lora said...

Anyways (rather than anyway).

That extra "s" makes me violent.

Chris Desson said...

I agree with others on a/the. It depends on the context. My critique partners used to hit me with this one all the time. *I wish I could say that I love the new color scheme but the black and electric blue font on the grey background hurts my eyes. (Literally. Sorry, Kitty, but it's true.) Looks like I'll have to stop reading the comments section. :((

Lennon Faris said...

Ha, I like how the question is 'what is in your manuscript,' but the conversation has exploded into things we hate seeing anywhere. I'll join in!

Things in my manuscript: strangely enough, 'ducks' as well but it's the verb here, not the bird. My character ducks all the time. To be fair it is a YA fantasy and she has a lot of things to avoid, but I've got to find another way to say it.

Pet peeve: seeing 'than' and 'then' mixed up, especially on a professional page. It make my eyelids flutter.

I am guessing the example Janet gave is her saying that she is picky about 'the' vs. 'a' in a sentence, given the context. Not that, in general, either of those sentences is bad.

Kregger said...

What I had to remove:

Felix stood up and...


Felix sat down on the divan.

There were a number of "out of(s) and into(s) vs in to(s)

Rio said...

I love the bumper stickers shaped like paw prints that read "Who Rescued Who?" I get warm fuzzies every time I see one on a car. But I want so badly to take a permanent marker and add an "m" at the end, because the question really oughtta be "Who Rescued Whom?" Then I feel guilty, because saving lives is worthy and beautiful work, and also I've had lots of rescue dogs over the years, and probably only one would ever have complained about a missing letter.

Fearless Reider said...

Adele,, I'm still chewing on "went extinct" vs. "became extinct". I'd expect to encounter "became extinct" in a scientific journal, but "went extinct" in a novel, just as I'd expect to read that a mother "went crazy" or a toddler "went limp" after he was instructed to pick up his LEGOs. But maybe I'm missing something having to do with the agency of the subject; I guess species don't usually have a hand in their own extinction (humans being a stark exception). Hmmmm. You're making me think.

KDJames said...

I tend to put in a bunch of physical "direction" that isn't necessary (she stood up, walked to the window, looked out, etc). Pretty easy to edit, once I realized I was doing it.

What's more difficult (for me) to catch is that I repeat words ("the the" is a favorite, instead of "and the" or "for the"). Or I leave words out entirely, since apparently my fingers can't keep up with my brain.

I've also become so hyper aware of over-using "that," I hesitate to use it even when it would be appropriate. <-- like in this sentence.

And yes, like many of you, a pet peeve in other people's work -- not that I'm immune -- is when they use a homonym/homophone or, far worse, a word that *sort of* sounds like what they want to say but they apparently don't know what it means because it's the wrong word. Like saying someone is riding pinion when the right word is pillion. Probably I shouldn't admit this, but I make note of who copyedited books with several mistakes like that. If you ever plan to hire your own, you want a copyeditor who's smarter than you are.

Brian Wells said...

Adele, you bring up a good point about "going extinct".

In a similar vein, novelists should remember that students do not "graduate" from college. They "are graduated" by the college. It's something the college does, not the student.

Likewise, nobody "earns a medal". Medals are awarded, not earned.

(And, yes, I know I should have my periods inside the quotation marks, but I am trying to effect a change, here. That convention arose from a typesetting glitch, not a usage concern. And, in my defense, legal documents have, in the interest of accuracy, long ago dispensed with the usage norm of always putting commas and periods inside quotation marks unless it is actually part of the quote. Example: The sign said "STOP." This would not be used in a legal document since the sign did not have a period on it. Yeah, I may not pick battles I can win, but I do pick them with integrity.)

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Regarding malapropisms, The Poisonwood Bible has one character who narrates in rhem. It's hilarious, but I wonder many editors the author had to explain the joke to.

John Davis Frain said...

Brian, I don't follow your distinction for medals.

If I finish first in a swim meet, or the pinnacle of swim meets, the Olympic games, haven't I earned the medal they award me?

Likewise, if I get injured by the enemy in war and get treated for my injury, surely I've earned the Purple Heart that the U.S. awards me, right?

Regardless, I admire how you pick battles. Keep up the good fight!

(And it's great to be back swimming in the reef, although it sure was nice to swim in the ocean for a few days. One of my sons apparently thought we vacationed in Carkoon because he wouldn't get in past his ankles ... fear of sharks, which in his mind wasn't a phobia because it's nothing close to irrational.)

I'll stop muttering now so Mr. Lowe has a chance.

Brian Wells said...

John, I was speaking primarily in the context of military awards, and I'd agree that the distinctions you cited are technically earned. But even so, the awarding organization decides the criteria for awards and establishes the means by which they can be earned, or even withheld. You could be the fastest swimmer in the world, but you won't get a prize unless someone confers it on you under rules they establish.

But all that notwithstanding, saying medals are awarded is just "more correct" for reasons we can't influence. And I'm not willing to take on that "fight". ;)

(Incidently, if any editors are watching, let it be known that I will keep my commas and periods inside my quotation marks like a good writer when it comes to my manuscripts. I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid.)

LynnRodz said...

I just wanted to say, my eyes thank you for the color change.

John Davis Frain said...

Brian, I hear what you're saying. And I like the way you say things. Well done.

Wouldn't it be amazing if we were all sitting around Janet's living room talking about the nuances of writing. Like musicians get to do with a jam session or actors can do backstage after a show.

I miss that camaraderie in the writing world. Someone to tell me how lame my last metaphor was, and scratch it out or rip the piece of paper to shreds and tell me to come up with a better one or they'd kick my ass, and then we'd laugh about it a year later when we read that part of the manuscript and remembered that scene in Janet's living room. And I'd show 'em the scar cuz they really did kick my ass, but I still came up with a better metaphor.

Okay, back to the loneliness. I gotta go earn something, because nobody's bestowing any medals on me yet.

Megan V said...
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