Thursday, June 26, 2014


The more I read--and I read a lot--the more discouraged I get about the use of English by today’s writers. I posted a similar article on this blog some time ago, but it bears repeating because those same “boo-boos” keep`showing up.

With all the self-publishing going on these days--and the authors not having their books professionally edited--I suppose it was bound to happen, but, please, fellow authors, try not to make the following mistakes.

1. could’ve - could of. There is no legitimate reason to use “could of.“ I’ve seen it even in traditionally published books, and it apparently stems from the author--to say nothing of the editor--missing an English class. He/she means “could’ve” a contraction of the two words “could” and “have.“ Example: “I could’ve been a contender.“ or “I could have danced all night.”

2. doctors - apple’s. Plural words don’t get apostrophes. (See my blog post on Apostrophe Apoplexy) Example: “The apples were ripe and the doctors ate them.“ If you put an apostrophe before the “s” you have turned the word into a possessive. Example: “The doctor’s time was limited.”

3. Try to - try and. Technically there is no “try and” (or almost none.)  If your character is going to try to do something, use “try to,” not “try and.“ Example: “I will try to help you.“ After all, if you say “try and” you imply you’ll succeed. But what if you don’t succeed? You’ve told a lie.

4. I couldn’t care less - I could care less. Once again, the second construction should never be used. After all, if you could care less, then you must care somewhat. But you’re trying to say that you care so little that it would be impossible for you to care any less than you do.

5. lose - loose. Stop putting the extra “o” in “lose.” Look them up in the dictionary. To lose something is to no longer have it. Example: “I don’t want to lose the lovely watch you gave me.“ Something which is loose is of an unstable consistency. Example: “The watch slipped off my wrist, because the band was too loose.”

6. incidents - incidentses. The latter is not a word. One event is an “incident.“ Two or more events are “Incidents (add an “s” to make a plural)” There is no such word as “incidentses.”

7. roll - role. As a noun, a roll can be a small pastry you eat. As a verb, it means moving or turning over or around. Example. “He let the car roll down the incline into the ditch.“ Role is a noun which describes a part you might play in a film or in life. Example: “The role required him to exit the stage.“ or “I’m tired of playing the role of your wicked stepmother.”

8. I hope I don’t have to tell you that--unless you’re writing dialogue in the voice of an illiterate character--you should never write, “Me and my brother,” “Her and I,” “we was,” or “She don’t.“  But I often see writers use “myself” instead of “me. “ Don’t try to get fancy. Wrong: “She gave the book to John and myself.“ Right: “She gave the book to John and me.“ If John were gone, you’d say, “She gave the book to me.“ Wouldn’t you?

9. breath - breathe. Breath is a noun. Example: “He took my breath away.“  Breathe is a verb. Example: “It’s so hot, I can hardly breathe.”

10. “As“ clauses. (See my blog post, “Kiss Your ‘As’ Goodbye.”) Some writers have characters constantly doing two things at once. One book I judged for a contest contained seven such clauses on one page. The word was never meant to take the place of ‘while,’ or ‘when.’ Instead it’s supposed to compare things, like, “as white as snow.” Here are three ways to get rid of wrong “as” clauses:
1. Put the phrase in the beginning of the sentence.
2. Substitute “and” for “as.”
3. Separate it into two sentences.

This list is probably not complete, but if you eliminate these ten, your writing will improve, and I won’t groan when I read it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Many others have written about this, but I’ll put my two cents in just in case my blog post reaches a new writer who hasn’t heard about it yet. What’s the scam? A few years ago, PENGUIN BOOKS, now RANDY PENGUIN or PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, paid $116 million to buy Author Solutions Inc, the worst vanity publisher in the country, which charges thousands of dollars for publishing services which ought to be free or very cheap.

The company, which includes iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, Trafford and others, targets inexperienced writers who want to self-publish but need help. The fees ASI charges are bad enough, but these authors get no promotion for their work, and therefore sell few, if any books. WRITER BEWARE, and PREDITORS & EDITORS , have warned about using ASI, but many beginners are still unaware of the risks. Now, with the (former) prestige of the Penguin/Random House name, these neophytes think they’re getting published by a large company, when in fact, they are not.

Why did PRH buy ASI when it could have used those millions to offer better royalties to their authors? Some think it was because ASI, which had been in business for years, had a mailing list of new writers that PRH wanted to use.

Others say that they saw the money ASI was making on the backs of the uninformed, and wanted to get a share of that. As Gail Ryan commented recently, “They’re happy to be unethical as long as they make a buck.” And another, “To hell with decency if there is money in dealing with the devil.”

Besides using the PRH name, ASI has added more tricks to its arsenal, which are designed to further fool the unwary. 1. They use fake-informational websites to offer advice, which then only recommends Author Solutions companies. 2. They use social media to profile “publishing consultants,” who are actually ASI employees. 3. They require authors to provide testimonials about how great ASI is before they will publish their books, even when said authors have already paid the fees.

There are hundreds of horror stories by authors complaining about  ASI publishing without permission, incorrect royalty statements, failure to pay royalties, harassing phone calls, and books with errors made by ASI, which the authors had to pay to correct.

“How do they get away with that?” you ask? Let’s hope they won’t for much longer. There is a class-action lawsuit against them for deceptive business practices already. Yet, public outcries are still necessary to halt the seemingly never-ending flow of uninformed writers who fall into their trap. So it’s up to us who are aware to spread the word. By the way, PRH isn't the only one of the Big-5 which has a self-publishing (read Vanity) press. Simon & Schuster has Archway, for example. Why would anyone want to deal with those when they so blatantly allow this scam? I won’t. I don’t work with unethical people. And, judging by the many authors using small presses or Amazon, I'm not alone.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


My title this week and the following paragraph are from the May 12th issue of the Christian Science Monitor.

“If any place should set the standard for good grammar, it ought to be the English city of Cambridge, where the university’s venerable stone walls preserve centuries of the world’s highest learning. So, when the public caught wind of a little-noticed rule passed by the Cambridge City Council to drop apostrophes from future street signs... the pedants took to the streets, some literally.”

The Council’s rule dropped apostrophes from street signs “for more effective public service,” but was bombarded with so many questions, accusations, and, especially e-mails, that they eventually retreated. Their reasoning, however, makes sense. In a world of texts and 140 character “tweets,” where punctuation can be misread by computers, but especially on street signs, apostrophes seem out of date and unnecessary.

The well-known bookstore, Waterstones, dropped their apostrophe in 2012 and was also criticized. “If you can’t get your own language right...” said some, “it’s a slippery slope.” Others felt Cambridge has “a reputation to maintain.”

Whatever happens across the pond in the future, my quarrel is not with writers dropping apostrophes, but with their increasing them incorrectly. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see plural words with apostrophes that don’t belong there. If you want to turn the singular word “writer,” into the plural, “writers,” you don’t spell it “writer’s.” It was merely laughable when a grocery store sign read, “Apple’s For Sale.” Now, so-called literary types are dropping them into words like confetti at a party.

No, no, no, my fellow authors. Plurals get no apostrophe. Save your strength and your printer ink by remembering that grammar rule. Unless you want to turn the word into a possessive, such as, “The doctor’s bill arrived,” (the bill of the doctor), no apostrophe is needed to make “doctor” plural. “The doctors (not doctor’s) arrived at the site.”

In 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names removed apostrophes from signs here, but where is the outcry against adding unnecessary and incorrect apostrophes to the rest of our written language? Am I the only person who notices and cringes?