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He said; She said – the case for ‘said’

A recent post on Tumblr very helpfully gave a great selection of verbs that could be used in place of ‘said’ when writing dialogue. It’s a useful list – and it’s always nice to expand your vocabulary – but I think its premise is flawed. There is nothing wrong with using ‘said’ in your stories.Continue reading “He said; She said – the case for ‘said’”

Lessons in Language: Reign vs Rein

Here’s another set of homophones that I frequently see mixed up in print. The number of times I’ve seen ‘reign in’/’free reign’ instead of ‘rein in/free rein’ in newspapers is… okay, not hundreds of times. But given ‘reign in’ is not an actual term, it’s more often than it should be. To start with, bothContinue reading “Lessons in Language: Reign vs Rein”

Punctuation: musical notation for language

I am presently reading the delightful Semicolon by Cecelia Watson. The book has the charming sub-heading of “How a Misunderstood Punctuation Mark Can Improve Your Writing, Enrich Your Reading and Even Change Your Life”. Far from dry reading, it’s a crisp and entertaining exploration of the history of this much-maligned punctuation mark, from its originsContinue reading “Punctuation: musical notation for language”

The Secret Life of Dashes

As an editor and proofreader, I spend a lot of time hyphen-hunting. I look for hyphens lurking in places where en dashes and em dashes should live. I burrow into the empty places where a hyphen has been dispossessed of its rightful place. But what is the rightful place of a hyphen, and what theContinue reading “The Secret Life of Dashes”

Creating Character Voice, Part 3: Revealing Story through Voice

Part 1: Making Voices Distinctive Part 2: Accents and Dialect Now that we’ve covered some basic on making your characters sound like individuals, let’s move onto some of the fun stuff – using the voices of your characters to demonstrate relationships and reveal (or conceal) elements of the story! When should your characters sound alike?Continue reading “Creating Character Voice, Part 3: Revealing Story through Voice”

Creating Character Voice, Part 2:  Accents and dialect

See Part 1: Making voices distinctive Writing distinctive character voices sometimes means writing people who have accents. This is an area of writing fraught with challenge, because it’s so easy to overdo the dialect – and to fall into stereotyped phrases and representations. PG Wodehouse always writes dialect and accent hilariously, even if he isContinue reading “Creating Character Voice, Part 2:  Accents and dialect”

Lessons in Language: Toe to tow

Beechworth is a lovely little town in regional Victoria, with generally intact historical architecture and a cheerily promoted link with Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly. A few years ago, while partaking of the Ned Kelly tourist walk, I heard tour guide Daniel Goonan talk about infamous Ned’s exploits as a boxer. Goonan referred toContinue reading “Lessons in Language: Toe to tow”

Lessons in Language: All above board and ship shape!

I once wrote a feisty rant about the phrase changing tack (meaning to change one’s approach) and how some folks mistakenly write that as change tact, despite the term’s surely obvious nautical origins. It shouldn’t make me foam at the mouth, and yet it does. Okay. So I’m not necessarily a reasonable human being. The thing is, knowing theContinue reading “Lessons in Language: All above board and ship shape!”