Sometimes people say things that sound so wrong, my hackles rise and a growl forms in my throat. I’m not talking about political opinions or religious doctrine. I’m talking about the crazymakers. In writing and conversation, there are words or phrases that either don’t fit their context, make no sense or are plain incorrect. Most of the time little boo-boos aren’t such a big deal, but now and then one turns up that gets under your skin. That’s a crazymaker. This is not to say I never make mistakes in conversation; everyone does, and I’m sure I’ve flung a crazymaker in my day. In conversation, I can forgive almost anything. When it happens on paper, I want to beat the writer. Or the editor. Or maybe both of them. These are the kind of mistakes that bounce me right out of a story, which is the last thing a writer wants his reader to feel. I imagine everyone has a crazymaker or two – here are a few of mine.

1. Simple/simplistic
They don’t mean the same thing. “Simple” means “easy to understand”. “Simplistic” means “oversimplified”. They are not interchangeable words. Although it did make me giggle when I heard announcers on holiday infomercials crowing about how “simplistic” their great new kitchen device was.

2. stocks/stockade
A character in one of my new books was placed in the stockade, then subjected to villagers hurling rotten vegetables at him. The problem is that a stockade can be a fort or a military prison, but the thing that held people so they could be assaulted with tossed salad was the stocks.

3. “I thought to myself…”
Of course you did. Unless you’re telepathic. The next time I hear this in conversation, I’m sorely tempted to say, “You were thinking to yourself? I was thinking to my husband…”

4. “like, totally”
If your young adult novel is set in America in the late twentieth century or beyond, it’s perfectly acceptable for the characters to say this to each other. It’s part of common parlance, even if it does make my skin crawl. But when your novel is set in a fantasy European feudal city, the characters should not sound as if they’ve been hanging at Hot Topic all day. I never again want to read a book in which the apprentice thief says to his noble patron, “I’m, like, pretty good with locks, and I can run totally faster than the soldiers.” (And yes, I did recently read that. In a published novel. *shudder*)

5. Misspellings of “Y’all”
It’s a contraction of “you” and “all”, which means the apostrophe goes between the y and the a. It’s not complicated. Unless you’re one of those writers whose characters are all named things like Hin’deka’ther’ea and Sho’jax’pagal’o, in which case you’re clearly suffering from apostrophelia, a rare disease of the hands that forces the right ring finger to hit the apostrophe key too often.

Okay, I’ve been a grouch long enough. Feel free to chime in with your own crazymakers!


18 comments to Crazymakers

  • bren

    Misty i have a question that is not about Crazymakers ( I know I make tons of them.) I am going to make a trip to N.C. to see my sis. is there a pleace I should not miss. I am in Santee Caly so it is going to be funning to see all that green.

  • Your and you’re. A mistake on a billboard for a hospital nearly make me crash my car.
    “Cut the wait. Your gonna love us…”
    Hugs, girl! And thanks for the kind phone call today!

  • How about “throughout the entire book/play/poem/novel/film”? A phrase my students use to pad out a line. If it’s throughout, then OF COURSE it refers to the entire book/play/poem/novel/film. Arggg.

  • Bren, I don’t live in NC. I visit there occasionally, but I’m a SC resident (which is a pretty brave thing to admit, considering the shenanigans of our local politicians the past year!) Are you going to be in the mountains or on the coast? Or somewhere in the middle?

    Faith, my gonna loves the hospital? *laughs*

    AJ, you reminded me of another one – “Little did she know what was about to happen.” And its cousin – “If only he’d guessed what was hiding around the corner.” It seems to be showing up quite a lot in YA fiction lately, and I really hate it!

  • If only the author had known (throughout the entire writing process) how hard Misty would fling his book at the wall…

  • Here’s one that pops up in non-fiction a lot but, on occasion, in fiction as well (one of my English profs beat this into our heads): “It is interesting to note that…” Six useless words. Of course, it’s interesting — otherwise, why the heck are you telling me?

  • I’ve seen quite a few posts of this sort, although it’s the first time I’ve seen the term “crazymaker” (a joke on “haymaker”?). I still find them funny, especially when I see some less common complaints.

    3 doesn’t quite fit, though. I see it in oppostion to “I said to myself” which I would interpret as “out loud”, whereas “I thought” means in your head.

  • When I read this post I thought to myself that your like totally making it simplistic for me too grasp. I mean, like its totally clear that ya’ll’re really crazy about teh same stuff that makes me wanna put people in a stockade and throw rotted apples at they’re fourheads……………;)

    And yeah, I go completely bonkers over the your/you’re thing, as well as its/it’s, their/there/they’re, whose/who’s, and all those others. I find myself getting irritated whenever I see these in a post.

  • Tom Gallier

    I’ve found it easier (requiring virtually no thought from me) to just write in my stories “your/you’re” and “its/it’s” and “their/there/they’re” instead of the correct word. That’s for the editors to fix, which is their/they’re/there job.

  • Oh, I also saw the your/you’re mistake on a tattoo recently. Tattoos – You’ll be wearing it for a long time. Why not make sure you’re getting your grammar correct? 😉

  • bren

    Sorry Misty wrong Carolina I will be outside Raleigh. I plan on visiting family in Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee,Georgia and florida on the way. Taking the 40 all the way across. As for the words you are taking about I am the one that told David that I have a reading and write problem and I say thank god for spell check and the dictionary. I have to check almost every word but I love to read and write. I am writing three diffrent books and love all three stroies. I bet you would have to toss mine against the wall. I know I have miss some of There/teir and though/ thought.

  • Hmmmm. Tom, I hope you’re kidding. That’s not the editor’s job at all. The editor’s job is to help you improve your book/story. Your job is to give him or her as clean a manuscript as possible, so that rather than dealing with the stuff that you should be doing, he or she can focus on the important issues, like character, plot, pacing, etc.

    As for the crazymakers, I have too many to count. I have one though that isn’t written, it’s spoken: The word is “height”, rhyming with “kite”. It is not heith, ending with a “th” sound. Drives me nuts.

  • Robin

    Funny–I use my right pinky finger to type apostrophes. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.;)

    I think all my favorite crazymakers have been covered above. Show-Not-Tell is a big one for me, though. I hate it when the picture in my head stops.

  • #5. I had never thought of “yall” as a contraction before. I’ve always viewed it as the missing plural form of “you”, and so have spelled it “yall” to more closely match the singular form of the word.

    You are right, of course, but I’m going to have a hard time remembering to spell it “y’all” now.

  • Bren, since you’ll be outside Raleigh, you should try to have lunch or dinner at The Joyce. The curry fries are amazing! And depending on when you’ll be travelling, you can try to attend one or two Renaissance faires.
    Have a great trip!

    Atsiko, “I said to myself” is acceptable because I could also say to someone else. “I thought to myself” is redundant, since, as I mentioned, there’s no one else to whom I can think. *smile*

  • Richard

    “Irregardless.” An unfortunate blending of the the words ‘irrespective’ and ‘regardless.’ I usually view it as a double negative, like “de-thawing.” You want to “de-thaw” something, put it back in the freezer.

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” ~~Inigo Montoya

  • Squeak

    Oh man, Richard, I say that all the time. I know it’s wrong, but I like to see how squirms and who doesn’t. Considering how difficult it has been to restrain myself from throwing it out there in more professional settings, I think I may have to give it up.

  • Here’s one that just struck me.

    “MomentarilY” It’s the adverbial form of “momentary” meaning of a brief duration. “Momentarily” thus refers to the brevity of an action: “the light shone momentarily.”

    In otehr words it means “for a moment” NOT “in a moment.” Somebody will NOT be with you “momentarily.”

    I realize standard US usage of this is (confusingly) ambiguous but it makes me nuts.