If you watch TV, you’ll know that people are dumb. As a writer, you don’t want to alienate the slavering masses of humanity, so here’s ten ways to make absolutely sure you come across as a complete idiot in your writing (interspersed with steampunk gadgets).
1. Use “like”, “totally”, and “you know” as much as possible! Also exclamation marks! Exclamation marks are totally awesome and not irritating at all when used frequently!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You know what else is GREAT????? CAPITALISING AND ITALICS!! They’re a fantastic blog/online habit that brilliantly and non-annoyingly translates into REAL LIFE!!!!!!!
2. Invent a wacky dialogue (or several) and make sure at least one character talks in a way that makes your readers want to strangle them. Brian Jacques is the master. Observe:
Dotti wiped her lips ruefully on an embroidered napkin. “I bally well wish we could, I’ve never tasted honeyed oatmeal like that in m’life. I say, Rogg, how the dickens d’you make it taste so jolly good, wot?”
Rogg chuckled at Dotti’s momentary lapse from molespeech. “Hurr hurr young miz, oi chops in lot of. . .” [let’s just stop it here, or I’ll bally punch meself, wot wot?”]
3. Correct apostrophes are for pompous know-it-alls. If you want to pretend you’re smarter than, say, your pet fish (and shame on you for such ludicrously high goals), then go ahead! Use apostrophes like this. . .
a) For abbreviation. Eg can’t, isn’t, I’m, they’re = cannot, is not, I am, they are.
b) For possession – but only when it’s the next word or phrase. Eg Sarah’s cat/Sarah’s alluringly plunging neckline/Sarah’s totally, like, awesome grip on the English language. And also, “The cats belong to Sarah” with no apostrophe, since the owner-ownee words aren’t in the right place to need an apostrophe.
If you’re REALLY the kind of fool who thinks editors like consistent punctuation, I bet you’ll also be able to combine plurals and possessives in a way that allegedly makes more sense than just putting apostrophes in where they look pretty. So I guess if you were a real geek you’d put the apostrophe precisely after the owner or owners. Eg The cat’s bowl (one cat) or The cats’ bowl (more than one cat). Also, The women’s club (because “women” already indicates it’s more than one woman).
And I bet you’ll cut out the one optional bit of apostrophes (whether you add an extra ‘s’ or not when the word already ends with ‘s’) by sticking to the rule that always works (leaving off the ‘s’ – because the plural of “Jesus” never has an extra ‘s’ – strange but true; you’re allowed an extra ‘s’ for almost everything else. . . if you want it). So that’d give you disgustingly consistent tripe, like “The princess’ cat” and “Jesus’ disciples”. Or maybe even “The princesses’ cat” if the princesses collectively own a cat.
You’re such a nerd I bet you even know that the only time apostrophes get left out is for the possessive “its” (so people can tell the difference from the abbreviation “it’s” for “it is”) so you’d end up with a sentence like, “It’s such a nice dog even its bark is polite.”
4. Adjectives and adverbs are for winners! More is better!!! You don’t need actual characterisation if you have a handy thesaurus. As you can clearly see below:
Boring old sentence: The Doberman took one look at my mother and growled. Mum’s blue eyes filled with tears. She didn’t even try to shield herself as the dog attacked.
Thrilling drama unfolding: The vicious cruel Doberman took one menacing look at my blue-eyed mother and growled loudly. Mum’s crinkly eyes filled with salty tears. She didn’t even try to shield herself as the mean and underfed dog attacked her quickly.
This lazy descriptive technique is also super great for dialogue. The word “said” is invisible, and you don’t want that!!! Write like THIS:
“Hello,” she extemporised.
“Why hello,” he growled back rapidly.
5. Words that sound the same may as well look the same. Right? Right!
Use “there” (“over there”, “There, there, don’t cry”) interchangeably with the possessive “their” (“their dog” “their lack of IQ”) and the abbreviation “They’re” (“They’re kidding about this, right?” = “They are kidding about this, right?”)
Ditto for the possessive “your” (“Your dog is getting mentioned a lot in this blog post”) and the abbreviation “you’re” (“You’re dumber than you look” = “You are dumber than you look.”)
6. It’s totally edgy to mix up past, present, and future tense. Make those verbs add zing to your story. If that’s too hard, just write in future tense or present tense. Readers LOVE that. It might be harder to read, but readers these days need a challenge anyway. (The exception is primary readers – for some reason, present tense doesn’t make them want to throw a book against the wall. For them, stick to future tense. It’s the only one that’ll really build their character.)
Boring old sentence: As I went to the store, I thought about how yesterday I’d had foccacia.
Thrilling drama unfolding: As I go to the store, I thought about how yesterday I will have foccacia.
Don’t you love how trippy that second sentence is? It just makes you want to read it again and again before moving on.
7. Corect Speling is 4 peopl with no imaginashon. Spel chekers are for peopl who r unartistic.
8. It’s totally humble to use a lower-case “i” instead of the standard capital “I”. Your editor will think, “This person will be great to work with” rather than, “This person has never written anything longer than an SMS.”
9. You don’t really need to start sentences with a capital letter. That’s old-fashioned. So are speech marks, like these old fuddy-duddies:
“Do you like my question mark?” said Mrs Jones.
“Sure!” said Mr Jones.
“I’m not sure though,” she said, “about how to break up a sentence in the middle, using commas.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Just use two sentences. The main thing to remember is that punctuation belonging to the sentence goes inside the speech marks – just like that exclamation mark I used earlier – and various commas for when the speaker pauses.”
“Do you think giving each new person a fresh line makes dialogue easier to follow?”
“Yes. And it means that not every single line needs a ‘he/she said’ tag.”
Mrs Jones said, “Good point. And I suppose you’d need to capitalise the first letter of dialogue mid-sentence if the dialogue made its own mini-sentence.”
“Sure. If you’re a total know-it-all.”
10. Don’t bother inserting page numbers. If your book gets dropped and the pages are out of order, the story will probably improve. For bonus points, leave your book title out of the header, too. It might just cause your book to get mixed up with a much better book. (Of course, if you also leave your name out of the header, no-one will be able to track you down – but that just adds to the mystery.) Having a header containing your name, book title, and page number is just showing off.
This post was based on Steffmetal.com’s #38: Re-Vocabise. The pictures are from http://oddee.com/item_96830.aspx
PS: CJ has SMSed to say our jewellery evaluation is ready for him to pick up, and thus discover all the details – such as, which items are worth how much (all we know so far is that the total is $11,500). Will the hideous amber necklace be the only item of real value? Will I still be haunting ebay’s jewellery section trolling for buyers in ten years’ time? The full financial details and pictures. . . tomorrow!
7 thoughts on “How To Talk English, Like, More Gooder”
My dear cousin,
I have a present for you: http://writebadlywell.blogspot.com/
I do believe that the earlier works were largely better, and my all-time favourite was the syllepsis entry (and even my spell checker doesn’t know that _that_ word exists!). Furthermore, one of your amazing cousins has even recently contributed to the effort!
Jolyon: Yours was very good.
Err… I never wrote one of those. My brother contributed a recent one though 😉
Jolyon: Yes of course, sorry! I read “Felix” and thought “Jolyon”.
why write badly?
gives insight to what constitutes great writing.
Harsh but makes you think.
He writes a mean play.
Oscar: Thanks for the recommendation. Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” is still the first grammar book that gets mentioned in a bunch of professional places. It’s online, too.
Love yr blog and posts are frequently compelling.I have been enjoying the banter of all you young people discussing the finer points of codified text and revelling in the historical perspectives of an epistemological extravaganza. Hmmm? From my own slightly more mature perspective it seems that the SteamPunk is almost indistinguishable from the hipster. And please this is not a “troll” comment. I don’t know if this makes the artiste, the aesthete, the stylist bristle. The political sensibilities of stylists are not to be lightly ignored. But i can tell you that about 35 years ago I picked up a wind up gramophone at a garage sale and people immediately started accusing me of being “trendy”. Well I was then and still am now. Can’t help it. Why? Because fashion is a pendant (appendant?) to essence.