Contradictions, Your Style, and "Fad Advice"
I’ve heard the advice about using descriptive verbs in the place of adverbs a lot lately. For example:
He ran quickly.
She gave him the papers angrily.
She thrust the papers into his chest.
I see the wisdom of this because the language is more concise. A good verb choice can also take on the workload of adverbs in many cases.
I have also heard lately that any of the more descriptive verbs for “said” are gauche, purple prose, amateur, etc..
Now, I’ve got to wonder—because the same people who give the former advice to writers are likely to give the latter—why this disparity occurs.
If she ordered or crowed or snickered or murmured, aren’t those words stronger and more descriptive than the vague, albeit utilitarian ”said”? And which advice is right? Which advice should writers take when it comes to dialogue tags—use descriptive verbs or use only “said” and “asked”?
I may not have a point here, but if I do, it’s this: advice from writers about writing is flawed. It pulls from the style and preferences of the writer giving the advice, and is therefore stupendously subjective. A writer can give you advice in one breath that will firmly contradict the advice in his next.
Beware, my fellow writers, of those stating their opinions as fact, especially if they fail to include why they have that opinion. One writer’s style choice is not and should not and can not be the style choice of another. The words we use may be the same, but the way we choose the wield them is not.
Please do not give in to what I call “fad advice”—advice which is not so much bad as it is a trendy opinion. Your style is your style, and the only person who should be making judgment calls about your style is you.
Switch up importance.
Using “—” makes a person pause, forcefully considering what’s after the incomplete or complete thought.
Using “(” and “)” makes a person skip over, considering what’s inside the parentheses half-heartedly and ends up regarding it as nothing.
Using “,” makes a person read over, fully considering what’s inside the commas as equally beneficial to the sentence.
Adding “—” to the beginning or ending to your name could make you feel important, even if you don’t know it. Adding “(” and “)” to your name could make you seem reserved—it’s there for whatever purpose, if it’s read, then it feels special. Adding “,” to your name could make it seem like a command, a continuous fragment/phrase, or sometimes, if something’s added after it, equally interesting.
“ This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”—Gary Provost, quoted in Roy Peter Clark’s (terrific) Writing Tools:
Ok, I am so pissed off. I can’t deal with our generation and the generation younger than us. People don’t understand the importance of grammar,syntax or spelling. It’s so crazy how stupid most of are. I know I am NOT a reader however, I know the difference between their/there/they’re or your/you’re/yours. I get there is a difference from proper english and computer english but do you think that most people differentiate between those two languages? No. I can’t imagine being a teacher today. Seriously, the papers children write are probably horrible. I can see the essay saying, “Ur da bestest!” or something ignorant like that. When I have children, I have to teach them the difference between real english and computer english and when to use each other. Sorry, this post was triggered by one of my little family members. She used the word, “affect” instead of, “effect” and it really irked me beyond belief because she thought was hot using the wrong word without even knowing it.