Grammar

Exclamation Points!!! Avoid or Embrace?!

I love using exclamation points! Don’t you? How about interrobang sentences?! Finally, I think we should bring those back, don’t you?! And not just in dialogue, but in narrative! Finally, shouldn’t readers just really ought to be able to keep up with run-on sentences, no matter how complex, or whether or not they stay on topic, and I wonder how many people could diagram a sentence that’s simple, not to mention complex or run-on, but do they even teach diagramming sentences in school today, because they just really need to because students will learn the parts of speech if they are really taught how to diagram a sentence!

Sometimes I type like I talk, so of course all of my manuscripts are fascinating! Take the word just! I use it a lot in speech so what’s wrong with using it even more in writing?! Just is a really lovely word that just moves the conversation forward in just the right manner, doesn’t it really?! Really is just another great word that is just really underappreciated and really just should be used more often! The word really really puts an emphasis on any word that comes after it, so we just really need finally to start a movement to encourage greater use of this neglected word!

Finally, I just really need to talk about adverbs! Of course, once a writer has mastered the art of using the word really, the use of other adverbs may seem inconsequential! Sometimes many adverbs can be combined to great effect! The squirrel didn’t just run, but the squirrel really ran quickly! Notice the nuance of really here. The squirrel didn’t just run, but really ran! And quickly!

Finally, remember typing class?! Did you type the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog?”

Why stop there, with a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet, when you can enhance your writing with, “Finally, the quick brown fox with a shiny coat just really jumps frantically over the lazy but lovely white Maltese dog who badly needs grooming but her totally deadbeat owner consistently runs out of money and has limited grooming skills and what’s a quick brown fox doing jumping over a dog, anyway; is this happening in someone’s back yard, or did the owner take the Maltese on a hike in a local national park or what?! I mean, does this scenario sound true to life at all?!

Notice what a great improvement has been made to the sentence! Now, not only can you practice typing, but the sentence begs the reader to ponder the situation with the animals and owner, plus the wonders of nature! Believe me, this expanded scenario gives the creative writer enough information to write an entire novel! Or a nonfiction tome on meditation!

And finally, please be advised that as a writer, I, Tamela Hancock Murray, have never ever, ever used too many exclamation points, too many adverbs, too many instances of really, or just, or finally! Seriously! Well, okay, if I did, I went back through the manuscript and took 90% of them out. Editors everywhere have thanked me.

Your turn:

Do you have a favorite excess word that pops into your writing?

How about punctuation?!

What are some tips you can offer that can help writers identify and delete excess words and breathless punctuation?

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Still Wanted: Writing that Sings! (What Karen Ball is Looking For)

Anyone who has jumped into the waters of agenting knows they’ll be asked one question, over and over and over:  “What are you looking for?” Well, now that I’ve got a couple of years of this amazing work under my belt, let me build on what I said when I started. Back then, I said I was looking, first and foremost, for books that glorify God, then for writing that sings, that speaks to the heart and spirit, that uplifts and challenges. Well, that’s all the same! But there are a few clarifications I want to make.  First, here’s the not so good news:

What I’m Not Looking For

Children’s & Middle Grade Books: As much as I enjoy reading these books (that’s one of the only perks to never having had children—I get all the kid’s books!), I am not representing them. It’s not that I don’t see the need. It’s simply that I’m not experienced with these kinds of books. My work lo, these many years in publishing, has been with adult books. Now, I have worked with Young Adult fiction and nonfiction, but I already have some great clients in that category and am not, at present, looking for more.

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Tools to Tackle Grammar Gaffes

Oh my. We all have our peccadillos when it comes to English, don’t we? If I addressed them all, we’d be here til next year. So I’ll just give you the cheats…uh, tips I use most often. —Don’t be afraid of me. Poor ol’ me has been sorely maligned, as …

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When Trying to Sound Intelligent Backfires

So, I’m at a writers’ conference—a professional setting, yes? With folks who are clearly well educated, especially about the use of words, yes?–and this is what I hear: “Just give Jim and I a call, and we’ll talk it over.” Cringe. Then came a recent commercial on TV, where a …

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Wordsmiths of the World, Unite!

Did you know you’re a wordsmith? If you’re a writer, you are. A wordsmith is defined by Webster’s as a “craftsman or artist whose medium is words.” That, my friends, is you. Which is why I’m coming to you today and asking you to have mercy on your readers. (Yes, …

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Editing Etiquette

Writers and editors have a love-hate relationship. Okay, sometimes it can feel like a hate-hate relationship. Writers all know they need to be edited, but getting the manuscript back with those edits can be more painful than passing a kidney stone. And editors know they need to respect the author’s …

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