Tag Archives: Linguistics

What the… Oh My Gosh, Oh No, Oh Crap, and whatever…

Final edits can be maddening, can’t they? As I go through my list of overused words, I always find new things that make me giggle.

My current giggle-a-thon is coming in the form of teenage explicatives.  They sound perfectly right in-context. “Oh my gosh, you are not going to do that!”

Buy when I ran a search on “Oh” and my screen lit up with pretty highlights—I realized how many of my main character’s dialog lines start with the word “Oh”.  It’s funny really.

The good thing about using the search feature to ferret out these little problem is you can look at each instance outside of the frame of the narrative.  It’s much easier to edit when you are not getting “caught up” in the story.

So, at the moment I am in final edits for Fire in the Woods, and I am removing a good portion of the “Oh my gosh”, “Oh my God”, “Oh crap,” and of course, the every-so intrusive “umm”.

Of course, I am leaving in a few for color, but I’m trying to cut my repetition down to once every ten pages or more. (Quite a feat at times.)

How do you search and destroy over-used words and phrases?



I need some help with something. Got a minute?

I’ve run into a conundrum.  It’s kind of a good conundrum – betas are loving Fire in the Woods… until they get to one point.

I partly expected the responses:

“This is confusing, but if no one else says anything, ignore me.” And “This is distracting.  Is there another way to do this?”

So, this is my problem.  Fire in the Woods is told in “First Person” (the “I” Point of view)

There is a large sequence where people around my main character are speaking another language, and she can’t understand them.  To keep the continuity of the story, I wrote the whole sequence in English.  Then I went back and translated it.

I figured there would be some people who wanted to know what they were saying, so I subtitled it.  I also figured people who wanted to stay in Jess’s confused POV would not even glance at the subtitles.  So far, this seems to be backfiring.

So, this is my question:  How should I handle this scene? I don’t want to keep saying over and over “they spoke in their weird language” or something like that, but I obviously can’t leave in all the foreign dialect.

Have you ever seen something like this done well in a published work?  Have you read a passage where characters are speaking another language, and the POV character doesn’t understand them?

I have an idea what to do, but before I do a lot of work and screw things up, I’d like to see an example of someone doing it WELL.

Any suggestions?


Annoying Words, and a Lesson about “Trendy Words” in your novel

Every year, Lake Superior State University releases a tongue in cheek list of words that are misused and overused and have become generally useless in the English language.  Here is the list for 2011:

LSSU’s 2012 List Of Banished Words

1.                               Amazing

2.                               Baby Bump

3.                               Shared Sacrifice

4.                               Occupy

5.                               Blowback

6.                               Man Cave

7.                               The New Normal

8.                               Pet Parent

9.                               Win The Future

10.                            Trickeration

11.                            Ginormous

12.                            Thank You In Advance

To see lists from previous years, visit lssu.edu/banished.

I have to admit that I must have been living in a box, because I haven’t even heard most of these.  I’ve heard baby bump, but that’s been around for years.   Amazing has been around, too…  but I don’t see either one as a problem.  Pet parent?  Is that a dog lover or something?

I guess everything in the news is about “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy Philadelphia”.  There were notes about people now using “occupy” in slang, but I haven’t heard it (Although I spend all my time in a boring office building)

“Thank you in advance.”  What?  Are people thanking people they meet in the street before a conversation?  I’ve only seen this in the closing of a query letter.

There are a few words that have crept into my house this year that I am completely fed up with.


There is nothing epic about your origami project not folding correctly!

  Please stop saying seriously.  This is one my husband picked up from somewhere.  Every time he sees something he doesn’t like (which is often with three children) he says “Seriously?”   Frequently it is combined with “Come on…  Seriously?” It was okay the first ten times.  All of the sudden it has become a bad habit.  It makes my skin crawl.  And my kids are starting to say it.  I realized this was a larger social phenomenon over Christmas when I heard my older brother say it.  Ugh.

What makes you hear a stupid word, even if it’s misused, and start adding it to your own vocabulary?  Does it make you feel cool?  Is this about an acceptance factor?  I guess it’s like cursing.  If you are around it all the time, it inches in to your normal speech just because it is familiar.

The neat thing about language is that it is constantly evolving.  The items on this list, like “Occupy” are relative to the social and political issues of the year.  That is what makes words so cool.   Next year, (hopefully) no one will even remember the words on this list.  I just pray that Seriously and Epic disappear with them.

As a writer, you should take care to note things like this.  For instance, I read a beta recently where a teenage character said “Epic Fail”  (I nearly puked).  Anyway… what happens is this seriously 🙂 dates your novel.  Be very careful using speech that is “trendy”.  It may be good for your “voice”… but think about this…

You finish your novel.  You query it for a year.  Even if you are lucky and get a contract right away, it could be 1-2 additional years before your novel hits the bookstores.  The “trendy voice” is now dated, and your target audience won’t be able to relate.

Similarly, if you self-publish— yes… you are getting your novel “out there” while it is still trendy.  But what happens in a year?  Do you still want to be trending upwards?  Of course!  Do you want people thinking “Oh, this is so last year!”   Hmmmmm.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

My suggestion is to be very careful of dating your dialog by being too trendy.  Trust me.  In three years, no one will have any idea of the significance of “occupy”… or worse.  It could mean something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

If you are writing for magazines, though… GO FOR IT.  Magazines are immediate, and a one-time read.  After that month (or whatever the publication period), no one will be able to purchase it anymore.  When writing for magazines, feel free to be as trendy as your genre can stand.

What words annoyed you last year?