Bonfire night and Halloween will be over by the time you read this. [And yes, I do know that the proper spelling is Hallowe’en, but the internet doesn’t cope well with apostrophes, so I’ve had to use the non-apostrophe spelling variant.]
Bonfire night, for all its somewhat gory associations, is at least a British tradition.
But Halloween? That Trick Or Treat abomination that seems to be everywhere? Rant time.
Less? Or fewer? This Pedantique-Ryter post is dedicated to that Disgusted of Chelsea (no names, no pack drill) who had this exchange on Twitter recently, after shopping in Marks & Spencer:
Disgusted of Chelsea:
My faith in @marksandspencer is shattered, I tell you, shattered. Their ad at checkout:
“Less worries. More sandcastles.” AAAARGGH. M&S
Is there anything we can do to help? DoC
Very kind but am in shock. Civilisation tottering.
Ideally change wording to “fewer worries” or “less worry”?
Probably not cost effective? M&S We’re sorry you don’t feel we’ve got our ad right.
We’ll share your comments with the team. Thanks DoC It’s like a needle under a nail to me.
Team could try Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage?
Civilisation tottering? Well, maybe DoC’s irony went a bit far there, but Pedantique-Ryter admits to feeling the needle under the nail, too. Fewer? Less? Are they interchangeable? If not, how and when should they be used?
Read on to find out the Pedantique-Ryter answer. Continue reading →
Do you use exclamation marks? Often? Maybe too often??!!!
Some readers HATE exclamation marks
Exclamation marks used to be all the rage. Once.
But tastes change and, nowadays, some readers count exclamation marks and scream abuse on all the social media platforms if they think an author has used too many. Quite a few of my clients — including bestselling authors — have suffered at the hands of the exclamation mark police. And many have sworn, as a result, never to use an exclamation mark again.
Last time, I gave you four whomexamples from the sainted Georgette Heyer. I said the number of mistakes was somewhere between zero and four.
And the answer? ONE. But which one? And why? Read on to find out.
Do I have to use Whom in written English?
Written material can pose difficult questions. If you’re emailing your mates, no one will care. If you’re writing your thesis or a letter to the pedantic godmother who will (you hope) leave you money in her will, you probably don’t want to make mistakes. They could distract your reader from what really matters, like giving you the top marks you deserve. So follow my tips if you want to be sure you can get it right when it matters. Continue reading →
Re-reading some of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels recently — Dame Isadora snagged me as the minion to do the research for her blogs because she, being a Very Important Personage, had Better Things To Do — I was struck by how often Heyer brings her lovers together at the very end of her novels, sometimes on the very last page.
Heyer might give us a chaste embrace. She might even give us a fierce kiss or two. And she often adds a shared joke.
But that’s about it.
What we don’t get in Heyer is a lovers’ wallow.
What’s a wallow?
I’d describe the wallow as a shortish section at the end of a love story where the reader sees the lovers together and passionately in love — both of them trusting and relaxed and happy. Sometimes the lovers are married, sometimes they have had children, sometimes they are simply enjoying each other.
It’s the Happy Ever After ending shown right there on the page for the reader to savour.
Some readers love a wallow. Some readers even feel shortchanged if a novel doesn’t have one at the end. But readers still love all those Heyer novels that don’t have the merest hint of a wallow. So…
Occasional Writing Tips from Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter : #2 English Daftisms: Do I practise in my practice?
Of course, as I type this, the spell-checker — in American English — is giving me a loud red underline to tell me that practise is wrong.
Well, no. Not in British English it’s not. And, funnily enough, on this side of the pond we tend to think that English is OUR language and that Brits make the rules and get the shiny star.
If pushed, though, Brits would usually admit that some British English is plain daft.
I’d say that the distinction between practise and practice is one of those daftisms. I’d add that license and licence are daftisms, too. (“Daftism” is one of my own words, by the way, a Pedantique-Ryterism! It can’t be any dafter than practise/practice.)
American English is much more sensible on this kind of distinction and just uses practice/licence all the time. That being so, American visitors are at liberty to skip to the puzzle at the end — unless, of course, they’d like to have a laugh at the daftness of Brits. If so, feel free to read on.
Occasional Writing Tips from Dame Isadora Pedantique-Ryter : #1 The Apostrofly
The apostrofly is a nasty but industrious little insect. She can lay her eggs almost anywhere — she’s not picky about nest sites, though she is rumoured to be fond of the greengrocer’s veg display — and her eggs hatch out into little black maggots that try to crawl all over a writer’s perfect pages.
There is, sadly, no easy solution. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use a can of insecticide and kill them all off?
One quick spritz of Miracle Apostroflee and all the incorrect apostrophes disappear from the page while any missing ones are inserted in exactly the right places.