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  1. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    Worst Pet Peeve as a Reader?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Walking Dog, May 17, 2017.

    I read science books. We live in an exciting era of such technological and scientific discovery. Scientists are eager to share information by writing books. New books are coming out all the time. Without question, scientists have command of vocabulary and grammar. And many are good writers. Unfortunately, I have developed an aversion (if not neurosis) to a frequently abused phrase found in many science books. The more I see the phrase, the more it wears on me. If it happens twice on the same page, the book is disposed. The phrase has several iterations: that is, that is to say, in other words. Here’s an example of how the phrase is used: I vibrate different thicknesses of strings tuned and stretched on a plank of wood to induce a musical, auditory feedback, that is to say, I play guitar. This example is silly, but you get the idea.


    The reason the use of this phrase annoys me so much is because the author is using it to say the same thing twice. Either the author lacks the confidence in their ability to explain things correctly the first time, or they believe the reader to be intelligently deficient. Either way, it’s an assumption on the part of the author, and something I didn’t ask for. I’m not a dummy. Write it once. Write it the best way first.

    So what do you think? A little too grumpy? Any pet peeves to share as a reader?
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2017
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I read a lot of non-fic science and I haven't noticed that, but that's the thing about authors' pet phrases: you don't notice them until they're used once too often and then every one shouts off the page like a mosquito buzzing in your face.

    So yeah, pet phrases are definitely a pet peeve.

    Mine include:
    • Misused commas, especially comma splices. Not generally an issue in professionally-published books, but I read a lot of unpublished stuff.
    • Epithets for characters whose names we know (like suddenly calling Jane "the woman" when we know she's called Jane, because the author is worried about saying Jane too much).
    • Non-said dialogue tags. Same as pet phrases: I don't notice them if used sparingly, but once I notice them the author seems like a kid doing their creative writing assignment.
    • Authors who describe all non-white characters by their race ("an Asian man") but would never describe someone as "a white man".
    • Flowery descriptions in sex scenes. "His velvet sword plunging into her moist depths" is not, and never will be, sexy.
     
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  3. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    An emphatic YES to all of these, as far as I'm concerned.

    I'm also not a fan of a long stretch of dialogue that's not attributed often enough—preferably with action or descriptive beats that help to set the scene, rather than some 'imaginative' replacement for 'said.' If I struggle to keep track of who is speaking, I soon lose interest in the story.
     
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  4. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    This, and even moreso with names that are either too similar (does your story really need to have Jane and Jean and Jen?) or, and this is mostly aimed at SF/F, names that are needlessly long/complex/unpronounceable to remind us we're not in Kansas anymore.

    Another one that gets me, and this can be unavoidable, is an absence of currency conversion. I don't need to know exactly how many US dollars your credits or yen or rupiah are worth, but it drives me nuts when I read (especially in period fiction) "He had five pounds, three shillings a year for assisting the rector at the parish church," with absolutely no other indication if that would buy a sandwich or a house. I've lived in three very different currencies in my life. In the first (US dollars), five bucks will get you a fast food lunch. In another place, that same meal (McDonald's) was about three and a half million Turkish Lira (the old ones, before they cut off the zeros), and today I spent about 700 Japanese yen. Something as simple as hopping on a city bus or buying dinner can do a lot to establish the rough value of your monetary units.
     
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  5. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That's a very good point but I wonder (hypothetically, since I don't write historical OR fantasy) how an author would convey that without it feeling shoehorned in for the reader? I suppose the character could think "What a pittance!" or "What had I done to deserve such riches?" but you still wouldn't know the modern equivalent, and there's always the possibility that the character's "pittance" is a decent wage.

    Maybe something like, "If I lived frugally, I could buy a pleasant house in two years with such a wage." ?

    (I know this is why you said it can be unavoidable. I'm just pondering.)
     
  6. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    Well, the original reason for it to be unavoidable is that the books were published a long time ago, but I've seen modern works that do the same thing.

    As for pittances, from the Wikipedia article on Beau Brummell:

     
  7. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that Beau Brummell quote shows one of the big challenges of converting money through time - we'd also have to convert expectations, somehow. Like, if 800 pounds converts to $67K, that means one Regency pound comes to about 85 modern dollars. Which means that Regency workmen were making about $4420 a year.

    How do we convert that to modern terms?
     
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  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale "Cue the artillery" Contributor

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    This is a problem even when converting from one nation/region to another. Talk of extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $2 a day, is just nonsense in much of the more modern world. I know it is extreme poverty, but where I live, it wouldn't be possible to get more than about 500 calories of any sort for $2/200 yen. To go back to my Turkey reference, however, in the late 90s it was possible, in Istanbul, to get a lamb sandwich on a big-ass baguette for something like 80 cents. So there's always going to be problems with making these sorts of conversions, but I think it's good for writers to try and drop some hint in if money is going to be an issue.
     
  9. Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's silly, but strange names. I get that calling your MC John if you're writing high fantasy (a genre I don't touch anyway) is unbelievable, but there seems to be a trope among amateur YA and fantasy writers of coming up with the most original names for their main characters.
     
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  10. Lifeline

    Lifeline Out of the Night Supporter Contributor

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    Worst pet peeve is a story without end. When book after book gets written without an end in sight. When I get the impression that the author just wants to milk the reader. Cliffhangers at the end so that the reader gets compelled to buy the next installment. I don't like to get forced to something. In terms of actual writing, when defining scenes get glossed over. I made this mistake once and the lesson stuck with me.

    I don't mind names, I get used to them pretty soon. I don't like it if there are too many POV characters, but that maybe a symptom of my own close POV. Everything else is negotiable, and, if the author has a good command of language, can be set aside.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    Unless it's James Clavell writing about "peerless parts," "jade gates," "sacred sacks," "bald-headed monks," and "the clouds and the rain." I got on a kick where I said jade gate like ten times a day until my wife told me to shut up.

    From Noble House:

    "Ayeeyah, you mean a nudie film? Oh! Let me know when you set the production, I might take a point or two. Venus Poon naked! Ayeeyah, all Asia'd pay to see that! What's she like at the pillow?"
    "Perfect now that I've educated her. She was a virgin when I fir-
    "What joss!" Smiler Ching said, then added, "How many times did you scale the Ramparts?"
    "Last night? Three times - each stronger than before!" Richard Kwang leaned forward. "Her Flower Heart's the best I've ever seen. Yes. And her triangle! Lovely silken hair and her inner lips pink and delicate. Eeee, and her Jade Gate...her Jade Gate's really heart-shaped and her 'one square inch' is a perfect oval, pink, fragrant and the Pearl on the Step also pink... " Richard Kwang felt himself beginning to sweat as he remembered how she had spread herself on the sofa and handed him a big magnifying glass.

    "Here," She had said proudly. "Examine the goddess your bald headed monk's about to worship." And he had. Meticulously.
    "The best pillow partner I've ever had," Richard Kwang continued expansively, stretching the truth. "I was thinking about buying her a large diamond ring. Poor Little Mealy Mouth wept this morning when I left the apartment I've given her. She was swearing suicide because she's so in love with me." He used the English word.
     
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  12. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Active Member

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    Another for long, or unpronounceable names. Even some authors that I really like fall into this trap, it's like you can't get away from it. I don't have a problem coming up with original, and pronounceable names, never have. I read it back to myself and make sure it's understandable, and they are very rarely long. If I do want a long name, I'll make it a last name that no one has to worry about, or give a shortened version that makes sense, but it still doesn't have to be impossible to pronounce. I'll never understand this, but I think it might have something to do with the author not thinking about ease of reading, and just focused on coming up with something unique.
     
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  13. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Oh where to start with this one. :P Contributor

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    Plot demands. If it didn't come up before, it can't happen now.
    I hate it when stories literally pull things out of their asses.

    Series over a Trilogy. Are you afraid of endings?
    No? Then you don't have the slightest clue on how
    to write one properly.
    Also at book 4 when the continuity starts to fall out
    the bloody window. Hello! You can't change that
    now, when clearly in book 2 it was (add some important
    element). Must have forgot I wasn't suppose to notice you
    can't keep the 'facts' straight in your own damn made up
    universe.

    A minor gripe. Little extra sub-plotty things that boldly
    lead off into the abyss. If it is not relevant to character,
    world, or plot development it shows you are just padding
    things out to make it longer. The elephant smoking hash
    on Tuesdays has absolutely no bearing on the story.
    Write a short story detailing the life of the Hash smoking
    elephant another time, he is clearly scenery in the bigger picture.
     
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  14. Walking Dog

    Walking Dog Active Member

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    Actually, another pet peeve of mine is when people use the word "to" when they should have used "too", like I did in my opening post. Unfortunately, I can't edit it. :eek:
     
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  15. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes you can. Just hit 'edit' under that post. The only thing you can't edit is the title of your post ...without help from the mods. But anything else in the post is something you can edit.
     
  16. ajaye

    ajaye Contributing Member

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    The edit button actually times out when you're new (not sure when it becomes a fixture - whether it's a time thing or number of posts thing). I remember spending ages looking for that elusive button, swearing I'd seen it before, somewhere :) .
     
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  17. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stereotypical characterizations being portrayed as The Truth.

    I think 25 is the number of posts you need too unlock unlimited editing?

    I am not sorry ;-)
     
  18. Commander Caty

    Commander Caty Member

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    Oh my God, blonde hair being described as yellow. Dude, it's freaking blonde. Just say blonde.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
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  19. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    Particularly in Romance: The sexually very experienced man and the virgin woman who has to be "educated" in the art of love. :blech:

    That's why in my recent WIP the man is super virgin and the woman... well she is also, but she compensates perfectly fine with hornyness and eagerness to experiment. :-D
     
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  20. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributing Member Contributor

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    Epithets, as in when a character whose name is known is referred to as "the blond man", "the petite woman" or "the burly fireman". Absolutely guaranteed to make me run screaming from a book in a nanosecond.
     
  21. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The woman makes a good point.
     
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  22. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The womans make good points.
     
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  23. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributing Member Contributor

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    In my last set of edits one of the notes was to remove the word "fluttering" as a descriptor of one of my character's uh...orifices during sex. I believe the exact quote from her was I would pick a different word. 'Fluttering' gets made fun of a lot, and fluttering assholes especially are mocked all over the place, like heaving bosoms.

    Dammit, another mainstay from my fanfiction days set adrift to the sands of time. :superlaugh:
     
  24. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributing Member Contributor

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    The fish headed writer and mustachioed artist were knowledgeable indeed.
     
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  25. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Contributing Member

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    How would an asshole flutter? Was it flying around the room or something?
     

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