Unhinged Usage

For those interested, I’ve probably started a new series. Short stories so far, but then that’s how both The Laws of Power and the Yamada series started. I’ve already sold the first one and finished the first draft of the second. Otherwise there’s not a lot to say about it right now. I’ll give more details when we’re closer to publication day. Of course things can get derailed; that’s always a possibility, but so far it looks promising.

I’ve never been a member of the grammar police (no segue for you); which is probably a good thing, as my punctuation usually doesn’t meet ALA standards, and I’m okay with that. My bugaboo, my pet peeve and constant irritant is usage. This started early. Back in the stone age there was such a thing as Saturday Morning Cartoons, and one of my earlier memories was fussing at the intro to one of my favorite cartoons which always used “transferred” when they meant “transformed.” I knew they couldn’t hear me, but I fussed anyway. Which, looking back with 20-20 hindsight, was probably my first hint that I was going to write. Mark Twain talked about usage in the context of writing effectively: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

Twain was right on this, just as he was right about a lot of things. But to this quote I’d add another: “The difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between a well-oiled machine and a machine with sand in its gears.” Not “almost right” word. WRONG word. Not only does the machine not work, the sand gets into everything and is extremely irritating.

Their, They’re, and There. Know the difference. As a sometime Indie author myself, I’m willing to give a writer a chance. Misuse these words on the first page and that chance went away. Learn your tools, or find something else to do.

Its and It’s. It’s an easy mistake to make. I’ve done it. If I don’t catch it immediately, I tear myself a new one in its defense. Imagine what I would do to someone else. Probably one reason I don’t review so much anymore.

Affect and Effect. Subtle, but not interchangeable. It you think they are, look them up.

Less and Fewer. Are you counting or measuring? There is a difference.

Impacted and affected. Affected is a perfectly good word, yet someone had to make up another usage to make the same exact meaning sound more dramatic. “He was badly impacted by his mother’s death.” No. Unless his mother’s death literally punched him in the face, he was not impacted. He was affected, as one would be. Otherwise it’s just newspeak. I refuse to surrender on that one, even though the cause was lost long ago. To this day I cannot hear that usage without wanting to impact something. Hard.

At least, that’s the effect it has on me.