Are you a give-a-shit writer?

Look, I get that writing a book manuscript isn’t easy. I know it takes countless hours of your life and it can drain your brain like nothing else. If writing were an easy feat, every person would do it. But that’s no excuse for sloppy manuscript submissions. At the minimum, you should have punctuation in  your manuscript, as well as paragraphs. Who the hell thinks having NO PARAGRAPHS in a manuscript is a good idea?!*

(*Interrobangs are so much fun to use, aren’t they?)

Please, respect your editor and publisher. Don’t send them a manuscript that’s laden with errors and half-assed efforts like missing quotation marks (really?). Does a person who never uses quotation marks realize that dialogue requires such marks, or were they too damned lazy to bother with it in the first place? I’m betting on the latter.

While you’re at it, why don’t you run a cursory spell check so it appears you made an attempt to check your work in some small way before you shunted it off to your editor or publisher? Yeah, that would be nice. Oh, wait. Is that too much to ask? For many so-called writers, it is. Learning the craft of writing is SO last century, isn’t it? I mean, who has the TIME? *insert hair flip*

You can always tell the difference between writers who sling together a manuscript in hopes of selling a bunch of books to make a wad of cash versus a writer who takes the craft of writing seriously. The latter will obsess over every. little. detail even after the manuscript is out of his or her hands. In fact, once the book is published, the caring writer will still regret not making even more changes before the book found its way onto the bookshelves. This type of writer gives a shit. 

And the slapdash writer? This is the kind I want to strangle (not really, but the angry emotion is there). Well, that writer doesn’t give a damn about much of anything. They’ll serve up a pile of prosaic poop and expect their editor to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Who needs to know anything about spelling and grammar, right? The editor should fix all of it, so why does the writer need to know the difference between their/there/they’re? Who has time for figuring out and learning homophones, right? This type of writer gives no shits…at all. They’re the type who will fling crap at a wall and then expect others to turn it into a Picasso. If you’re this type of writer, you’re an asshole. Yep, I said it because it’s true.

The funny thing is, once writers who don’t give a shit have their books published, they’re shocked to learn they’re not outselling J.K. Rowling. Take it from me: these writers almost always go out of their way to tell you how they are the next big thing in the literary world and how all their books will be bestsellers.

Conversely, the writer who gives a shit hardly, if ever, allows those words pass his or her lips. It all leads back to thinking of writing as a craft and something you do for your entire life, as opposed to something you do on a lark to see if you can rake in money so you can brag about it to your Aunt Martha at Christmas time.

Writers who care will write no matter what. Most of the time, they want to earn a living with their words so they can keep writing as a career instead of being stuck in a hellish cubicle doing something they absolutely hate. They cannot NOT write. It’s not possible. Writing is not just what they do, but is an essential part of who they ARE.

People who masquerade as writers only give a shit about writing when they can get something superficial out of it. You won’t find these types at literary meet-ups or discussing the wonders of Shakespeare or Murakami. They won’t know who Jack Kerouac is, nor will they know the difference between David Sedaris and David Copperfield (he’s an author, right?). Because, heck, they probably don’t read much. Reading is for boring people, you see. They may even brag that they haven’t read a book since high school or college. They aren’t concerned with the importance of literature OR the art and craft of writing. They’re concerned with the potential for fame and quick cash to use for their next casino trip to Las Vegas.

It pains me to say it, but the people I’ve described in the previous paragraph are still considered writers. If you write, you’re a writer. But not all writers are the same. This type of writer never earns my respect, nor will they ever. They use writing like it’s little more than a White Chapel whore for their personal pleasure. They use it, wring out what pleasure or benefit they can, and then toss it to the side with nary a backward glance. They don’t truly care about books, writing, literature, authors, readers, or anything of the sort. It’s all about what’s in it for them — that’s it. They’re users, not givers.

Do me a favor, will ya? Strive to become the type of writer who gives a shit, not the kind who doesn’t. If you don’t have the proper respect for books and writing, find another hobby. We need more givers and fewer takers. Which one are you?

You’re a major news site. Act like it!

When major news sites frequently misspell words and regularly misuse punctuation, I worry about the future of literacy. Are these companies too cheap to use proofreaders anymore, or have they simply stopped caring? This is a worrisome problem that grows with each passing day. The dumbing down of society is occurring at an alarming rate. It’s one thing to misspell or misuse punctuation on FB during casual conversation. It’s quite another to make egregious errors on major news sites.

Know your semicolon!

For the love of all that’s holy, if you aren’t sure know how to use a semicolon, please don’t. Yes, semicolons are sexy (at least I think they are). Yes, semicolons are exotic (in my world, at least). Yes, semicolons are sophisticated (of course they are!). However, semicolons are NOT for the faint of heart.

To avoid making yourself look like a rank amateur, do your homework on the semicolon. Research it, learn about its usage and practice using them. Only after you have a working knowledge should you consider using it.

Otherwise, if you submit a manuscript that’s riddled with misused semicolons in place of periods and commas, your editor will be one unhappy camper. Take it from me.

Misuse an apostrophe, lose a limb

Dearest Submissive Scribes,

Today (well, tonight) I’m in the closing stage of 10K Day for Writers, a wonderful event hosted by Milli Thornton, a dear friend and colleague of mine. I’m liable to get close to 7,000. That’s not bad considering I didn’t even begin till this afternoon.  I’m incredibly nocturnal, so my work days begin around 12 or 1 p.m. and end anywhere from 3 to 6 a.m.  It’s punishing, but I like it! *wink* Oh yeah — speaking of kick-ass Milli, she’s the author of Fear of Writing, which is a book all you musing minions need on your shelves. Go buy a copy — now 😉

Now, to the subject at hand:

If there’s one thing that makes me wanna beat people to a pulp, it’s a misused apostrophe. I’m so rabid about this error that my poor husband will go to great lengths to avoid using any apostrophes. He would rather do that than suffer the resultant bitching that would commence should he use one incorrectly.

On any given day, I spat expletives at the sight of any number of signs around town that sport misused apostrophes. Some signs, like the pawn shop up the road, actually have the audacity to misuse more than one apostrophe on the same sign! Be still my beating dark heart! What are these people trying to do, kill me from shock? One misused apostrophe on a sign is a travesty; more than one misused apostrophe on the same sign is a catastrophe!

Using apostrophes correctly isn’t rocket science. Most of you know this, but some of you don’t. And for those of you who don’t, bend over and take your punishment right now! *whack whack*! There. Now, shall we get back to business?

Here are several tips for using apostrophes. There are others, but this’ll give you a generous taste to get you started. You’ll have to beg for more — or find them out yourself!:

1. Apostrophes are used in contractions. Simply place the apostrophe in place of the letter you’re taking out. Example:  you’re* = you are.

*not to be confused with “your,” which many cretins on the internet seem to do these days. SCREAM! Look at any Facebook or MySpace profile and you’re sure to see a plethora of examples. Especially accompanied by flashy graphics guaranteed to make you hurl. GAG!

2. Apostrophes are used for singular and plural possession. If singular possession, put the apostrophe BEFORE the “s.” If plural possession, put the apostrophe AFTER the “s.” This trips a lot of people up. Boy’s is ONE boy; boys’ is MORE THAN ONE boy. Got it? Simple and easy. What’s the problem?

What’s that, you say? What do you do if the noun ends in an “s” already? Well then, you can simply add the apostrophe, followed by an additional “s.” An example would be: Jones’s computer. This depends on the style guide, however. Some styles want that second “s” after the apostrophe, while others will tell you to leave the apostrophe after the first “s” and forego the second “s,” like this: Jones’ computer. Ask your editor and/or consult your assigned or preferred style guide for the correct preference.

3. Apostrophes are NOT used for the plural of a name. Example: The Smiths own a rabid Koi fish. (Yeah, I know there’s no such thing. Couldn’t resist.)

4. Apostrophes are used on possessive nouns before the use of an -ing word (known as a gerund). Example:  Lynda’s yammering gets on my nerves!

5.  Apostrophes should be added, along with an “s,” at the end of singular compound nouns. Example: Her sister-in-law’s riding crop is wicked. For compound plural nouns, state the number or amount before the noun, then add the apostrophe and follow with an “s.” Example: Her two sister-in-law’s bondage outfits are exactly alike.

6. Apostrophes are only used on the second person’s name if two people own the same thing. Example: Bill and Barb’s hot tub offers loads of fun!

7. Apostrophes are used in it’s ONLY if you mean to say “it has” or “it is.” There is NO apostrophe used if you use its as a possessive pronoun. Example: The cat looked like it had an evil smile on its face.

For a more in-depth view into the beloved apostrophe, visit these sites:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/621/01/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe

http://www.write101.com/sample.htm

http://languagerules.wordpress.com/2006/10/02/apostrophe-obsessions/

Do I have an apostrophe fetish? You bet I do. I dream about apostrophes with cherries and whipped cream. And nuts. Lots of nuts. *evil grin* Seriously, the apostrophe — along with the semi-colon — is one of my favorite punctuation marks. In fact, I’d rank my first five thusly*:

1. Apostrophe

2. Semi-colon

3. Question mark

4. Exclamation point

5. Colon

Why is the colon near the bottom? You tell me. I just work here. Sometimes. On occasion. When the mood strikes. Meh.

* did I have to use that pretentious word? Oh yes. Yes I did.

Time’s up, my pretties!

Until next we meet, keep whipping those words, sentences and paragraphs into shape!

The Writer’s Dominatrix

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For glaring examples of apostrophe abuse and how to avoid it, visit these sites:

Apostrophe Abuse: http://www.apostropheabuse.com/

Americans Against Apostrophe Abuse: http://stopapostropheabuse.com/

Apostrophe Protection Society: http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/

Apostrophe Abuse on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apostropheabuse