Sunday, November 8, 2009

Robert's Rules III

Commentor writer-maven Marlene chimes in with a few more writing pet peeves. TG was relieved to have passed muster (to measure up to a particular standard) when correcting his mistake with the passive voice in the original Robert's rules blog, which can be found two down from this one. Let's hear from Marlene.

Ouch, Marlene! But you are quite right, and TG hangs his head in shame. It should have been: “Robert, write in if you feel wronged..., Others, send us your tips..." At least I think that's correct. Marlene?”

Marlene writes:

Yes, you are correct! In the interest of credibility, I should mention that I too am a professional writer, and also teach writing to college journalism students.

They get tired of my constant hammering about the passive voice and other favorite nit-picks, such as:

- don't use ``over'' and ``under'' when you mean ``more than'' or ``less (or ``fewer'') than''

- don't use ``that'' when you mean ``who''

- don't use nouns as verbs (such as ``impact,'' or ``network.'')

I know much of the above is quickly becoming common usage (as my students so often tell me) and eventually may become acceptable. But it still is not acceptable in my classroom - or in my own copy! (if I can help it.)

Having recently completed a graduate degree, I became crazed with the frequent use of passive voice (as well as the use of first person) in academic scholarship. (A decades-long career in newspaper journalism made me sensitive to both.) I vowed to respect syntax in my own dissertation, while striving to make it reader-friendly. It was quite a challenge! I could go on and on about academic writing - but that is for another day, and another (non-thriller topic) blog.

OK, Marlene, rest assured that TG will never agin use the passive voice. Listen up, thrillerwriters, think about it, what place does “passive” have in our work? None, exactly. Oh, and Marlene, lets watch the overuse of the exclamation point!

So let us bid a fond goodbye to writers tips and usage. At least until someone else out there sends in their very own favorite peeve.

Oh, what the hell, TG can't resist one more rule from Robert. This one is about those morons you see in Starbucks, the ones with their laptops, writing away, or whatever the hell they're doing. Here's Robert...

Starbucks is where writers who want to be seen in the act of creation go, who treat writing as if it were some sort of performance art. They want to be admired, they want to be soothed by the ambient noise and the occasional glance from an attractive patron. They want to be asked, “What are you working on?” so they can sit back and talk about it.

When if they really and truly wanted to be undisturbed they'd stay home in the first place, make a cup of Folger's instant (for about a nickel) and concentrate.

I know the problem. I know the temptation. Nobody wants to lock himself up in a room and write. Neither do I. Most days I trudge into my office like a guy on a chain gang. It's lonely in there – even the dog goes downstairs. And it's scary – I know I'll have no one to amuse me but me, and what if I can't think of anything all that good? Sometimes, at a total loss, I just stare out the window at the guy in the apartment across the way, he's got a plasma screen TV the size of a picnic table, but lately, I've noticed, he's taken to lowering his blinds.

Still, it's in my own little office that the actual writing gets done.

In solitude. In silence. With no cappuccino machine in sight.

And no living witnesses to the act of creation.

When I go to Starbucks it's to reward myself for doing a good day's work.

Never mistake Starbucks for your office – and leave your laptop at home.”

We've all seen these people. OK, confession time. Once TG decided to take his laptop to the coffee shop and give it a try. I mean, it looks so cool to be working away while hogging a table. It was ridiculous. Too much noise, too many distractions... well, Robert has already said it better.

If anyone has written anything decent while sitting at a Starbucks, TG would like to hear about it. Chime in. We promise to be open minded. Really.


1 comment:

  1. Marlene just couldn't resist adding one more peeve.

    Inconsistencies in singular/plural pronoun use. For example: ``When a student doesn't understand their mistakes, it really annoys me.'' What's wrong with that sentence?