a massively extended version of ruthlesscalculus’ post
Benjamin Dreyer is the VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House Publishing Group. Below is his list of the common stumbling blocks for authors, from A to X.
- One buys antiques in an antiques store from an antiques dealer; an antique store is a very old store.
- He stayed awhile; he stayed for a while.
- Besides is other than; beside is next to.
- The singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep.
- A blond man, a blond woman; he’s a blond, she’s a blonde.
- A capital is a city (or a letter, or part of a column); a capitol is a building.
- Something centres on something else, not around it.
- If you’re talking about a thrilling plot point, the word is climactic; if you’re discussing the weather, the word is climatic.
- A cornet is an instrument; a coronet is a crown.
- One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to a place.
- The word is enmity, not emnity.
- One goes to work every day, or nearly, but eating lunch is an everyday occurrence.
- A flair is a talent; a flare is an emergency signal.
- A flier is someone who flies planes; a flyer is a piece of paper.
- Flower bed, not flowerbed.
- Free rein, not free reign.
- To garner is to accumulate, as a waiter garners tips; to garnish (in the non-parsley meaning) is to take away, as the government garnishes one’s wages; a garnishee is a person served with a garnishment; to garnishee is also to serve with a garnishment (that is, it’s a synonym for “to garnish”).
- A gel is a jelly; it’s also a transparent sheet used in stage lighting. When Jell-O sets, or when one’s master plan takes final form, it either jells or gels (though I think the former is preferable).
- Bears are grizzly; crimes are grisly. Cheap meat, of course, is gristly.
- Coats go on hangers; planes go in hangars.
- One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).
- One insures cars; one ensures success; one assures people.
- Lawn mower, not lawnmower.
- The past tense of lead is led, not lead.
- One loathes someone else but is loath to admit one’s distaste.
- If you’re leeching, you’re either bleeding a patient with a leech or otherwise sucking someone’s or something’s lifeblood. If you’re leaching, you’re removing one substance from another by means of a percolating liquid (I have virtually no idea what that means; I trust that you do).
- You wear a mantle; your fireplace has a mantel.
- Masseurs are men; masseuses are women. Many otherwise extremely well educated people don’t seem to know this; I have no idea why. (These days they’re all called massage therapists anyway.)
- The short version of microphone is still, so far as RH is concerned, mike. Not, ick, “mic.” [2009 update: I seem to be losing this battle. Badly. 2010 update: I’ve lost. Follow the author’s lead.]
- There’s no such word as moreso.
- Mucus is a noun; mucous is an adjective.
- Nerve-racking, not -wracking; racked with guilt, not wracked with guilt.
- One buys a newspaper at a newsstand, not a newstand.
- An ordinance is a law; ordnance is ammo.
- Palette has to do with colour; palate has to do with taste; a pallet is, among other things, something you sleep on. Eugene Pallette was a character actor; he’s particularly good in the 1943 film Heaven Can Wait.
- Noun wise, a premier is a diplomat; a premiere is something one attends. “Premier” is also, of course, an adjective denoting quality.
- That which the English call paraffin (as in “paraffin stove”), we Americans call kerosene. Copy editors should keep an eye open for this in mss. by British authors and query it. The term paraffin should generally be reserved for the waxy, oily stuff we associate with candles.
- Prophecy is a noun; prophesy is a verb.
- Per Web 11, it’s restroom.
- The Sibyl is a seeress; Sybil is Basil Fawlty’s wife.
- Please don’t mix somewhat and something into one murky modifier. A thing is somewhat rare, or it’s something of a rarity.
- A tick bites; a tic is a twitch.
- Tortuous is twisty, circuitous, or tricky; torturous is painful, or painfully slow.
- Transsexual, not transexual.
- Troops are military; troupes are theatrical.
- A vice is depraved; a vise squeezes.
- Vocal cords; strikes a chord.
- A smart aleck is a wise guy; a mobster is a wiseguy.
- X ray is a noun; X-ray is a verb or adjective.
Life Hacks: Kitchen Edition!
WOW I’M SO ANGRY I DIDN’T THINK OF THIS
Hell I give him credit for breaking the “everyone’s a special snowflake” train of thought. If you want to succeed you have to actually work towards something.
The 22 rules of Storytelling, according to Pixar
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
There’s nothing wrong with being happy. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying something so much that it strips away all that irony and cynicism. And there’s nothing wrong with loving anything so much that it feels like it could pull your heart out of your chest and toss it on the floor. We build ourselves up to not do that, and then we build up the armor so thickly that we have trouble finding what’s underneath. We use that as an excuse to lash out at people who do feel stuff, who do like things (and I am, of course, mostly saying this about myself). It’s hard sometimes to remember that the world isn’t a place to glide through, so nothing can touch you. It’s a place to be experienced.
Sex Tip #56
When your partner is least expecting it, steal the Declaration of Independence.
Come on guys, let’s be real. If people dressed like video game characters, most women would probably be naked. Awkward.