Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, June 28, 2010

Velveeta on my Conscious, I mean Couscous

I'd like to say a few words about grammar. I am sure you are relieved that it will only be a few. I understand that the only subject that would be more boring would involve mathematics.

People in the know say that, when submitting a manuscript, not to worry too much about the odd typographical error. It's going to happen. Certainly, submit the cleanest, most professional work you can, but what an agent or an editor is looking for is good writing and a compelling story.

Well. I believe that. I have to. Articles get left out. To gets typed for too, even though you know the difference. Yet, I have to think there are some things that are bound to make the professional in question hoot, slap a knee, and yell at everyone in the office to come and witness what the imbecile of the moment has written.

While reading (again) the manuscript that Plotter and I are polishing, I found where I had used the word couscous for conscious—twice—as in: She didn't wave as she drove away. Though he hadn't been couscous of it before now, she'd always waved when they parted, even if she was just leaving the room. He missed that wave.

Folks, we are talking Moroccan pasta here right in the middle of the black moment. That would have to be a scene killer. I know what happened. I'm not a great typist and I typed something that had a nodding acquaintance with conscious, clicked on the drop down list, and served myself up some couscous.

I want to throw up when I think that might have made it to someone's desk in New York City. I will go ahead and say I have been known to eat couscous. I like it with Velveeta. I wouldn't volunteer that information to anyone in New York City either—or maybe I just did. This is the World Wide Web.

Though this has nothing to do with couscous or conscious, I will now share with you one of my biggest grammatical error pet peeves. I suspect my motive for this is, after relating that embarrassing tidbit, to demonstrate that I am not illiterate.

Who and That

Who is a person. That is a thing.

As in:

Jack is the one who built the house. It was the house that Jack built.

What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever found in your manuscript? If you won't tell us that, tell us your grammatical pet peeve.


  1. For me the most embarassing thing was my love affair with semi colons. Yes that lovely little ; --while helpful and easily used in memos is not something you want in fiction.

    The first time I wrote a story (and there are a few out there who managed to read my story with out pepto-bismol beside them) I had more than...26 semi colons in the first chapter alone (I think there were more, but after 26 they gave up).

    I was banned from semi colons.

    I still use them, very, very sparingly. It helps now that I am no longer writing memos as much. Thank goodness.

    And I am appreciative of grammar goddesses, because I am not one. I am grammar goofball. So any hints and pointers I like.

  2. My most memorable faux paus was a little off color. It involved moist folders instead of moist folds. Let me tell ya, that typo changed the entire feel of the scene. The bad thing? I'm not the one who caught the error. Luckily it was a trusted friend though and not my editor. Although, I probably would have given her the best laugh of the day...and something she'd never forget.


  3. They're, theirs, there. There is a difference and yes, it matters.

  4. Disrespect - If I hear one more time that "someone disrespected me" i will not be responsible for my actions. The word is a noun, not a verb! I know it is becoming part of American slang but I hate it.

    My next peeve is when a newscaster says the building was totally destroyed - now not partially or minutely destroyed but totally! If a thing is destroyed that means it's gone, poof, no longer in existence. It can't just be totally destroyed because destroyed is a total action. Just drives me crazy ( ok, I know you can't go to town if you're already there).

    M.V. - I too suffer from the semi-colon disease. I swear when I read something I wrote there are just too many of them. I spend a lot of time re-writing because of them. I do love them, though...

    Hey Instigator - I nearly died laughing. I could just imagine a hot steamy scene and then reading moist folders. FOFL

  5. M.V.-- Now don't abandoned our friend the semi-colon altogether. It is just the thing when you have two independent clauses that need to be in the same sentence. Using a comma makes it a comma splice and that it one of those letter grade lowering mistakes!

    Instigator--That is so funny! Definitely a mood changer!

    OF--Oh, yes. That is one of those you don't want to get get through, for fear that people will think you don't know.

    Cheryl--I am with you of words that don't need qualifiers. There is no such thing as most or more unique. It is unique or it isn't. Period.

  6. My peeve is punctuation. Specifically, apostrophes. It is not Lynn Harris' book. ARGH! That drives me crazy! It's Lynn Harris's book. People think when there's an 's' on the end of a word, you just add an apostrophe.

    I guess the grammar thing that gets me is people saying 'Julie and I' no matter where in the sentence it falls. Because they were told as a kid that 'Julie and me' is wrong, so they always say 'Julie and I' even when 'me' would be correct.

  7. Y'all are scaring the ship out of me! :-D Looks like I will be needing a 3rd grade grammar book on hand from now on. I've totally forgotten (LOL-Cheryl-it means I didn't only forget, it has been erased from my memory!)all the grammar stuff I learned in school. Guess I'll be looking for an online class on grammar. ;-D

    Kira - moist folders! LMAO

  8. Lynn--Yes! There is an old rule that you can only add an s to nouns that end in s or ce if the next word begins in s, as in Lynn Harris' serpent. I think that is one of those that is so obscure that more people would think you had it wrong.

    Sherry--Don't be scared. Get a copy of The Elements of Style (Strunk) and look up things as the need arises. It's the Bible and is very easy to use.

  9. Ugh! Pirates hate grammar and so do I. I'm sure I'm very bad at it. Sometimes I have a dislexic mind, along with spastic fingers. ;)

    Folders... LMAO!

  10. Kathy--There's got to be a pirate out there who's moist folder. I know it