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.
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.
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!