He said, she said

He said, she said.

He said, she said.

I have read that writers are advised to stick to the basic word said while writing dialog, rather than trying to be "overly creative" with alternatives -- because said is good enough.


Hmmm......That sounds like another writing rule that simply has to be broken.


I've read novels and listened to books on CD in which every time a character speaks, the word said is used. It's a chosen style that seems to work, at least in small doses.  But for me, it sounds too repetitive when page after page, and chapter after chapter uses said over and over and......


"I'm going to the store," he said.

"Remember to get some milk," she said.

"I'll get 2%," he said.

"We should stick to skim milk," she said.

He said, "Good idea."

She said, "Hurry back."


Said, said, said – a bit monotonous.  Even the attempt to break the monotony, by putting that word near the front of the last two lines, rather than at the end, doesn’t really help.  The word said is so overused that a recent Wall Street Journal article summarized one teacher’s opinion that it (and other over-used words) should be banned.


I don't plan to ban the word from my writing.  Instead, I usually opt to replace said with other more descriptive words to make the prose less repetitive and to help set the tone and mood.  For example:


"I'm going to the store," he announced.

"Remember to get some milk," she called.

"I'll get 2%," he offered.

"We should stick to skim milk," she advised.

He mumbled, "Good idea."

"Hurry back."


I say, "Better."


Enough said?



That bug's/bugs'/bugs me!

While there are many other kinds of errors to be found during editing, one that can be particularly hard to find is the errant apostrophe.  It's so easy to skim right over its misuse.

And it's so easy to not realize that its (oops -- it's) missing:

* diggin in the dirt --> diggin'

* mendin the fence --> mendin'

* wishin' this punctuation lesson would end.

But there are other occasions where this popular punctuation mark gets abused.  For example, until is often shortened.  It appears that the alternative till is correct -- it is a version of the word until, though I always think of till as "plow the soil."

Then there is 'til, the abbreviated version of until.

But I've seen other variations that really bug me:

til (no apostrophe in front -- punctuation police please take notice)

'till (mmm....curious)

•  and til' (someone knew it needed an apostrophe -- just didn't know where to put it).

Well, back to my editing, looking for those errant apostrophes.



Trilobite fossil (2.5-inch Flexicalymene meeki) from Kentucky: a big "bug"

Trilobite fossil (2.5-inch Flexicalymene meeki) from Kentucky: a big "bug"

Paragraph Breaks

Breakers on shore of Lake Michigan

Breakers on shore of Lake Michigan

I've always appreciated short paragraphs -- just a few lines long.  They're easier to read and digest.

Some apparently prefer a long paragraph writing style.  Maybe it's intentional, or perhaps it's just the natural way the person writes.  For me, very long paragraphs that fill page after page without a single break and discuss multiple topics are difficult to read.  Often they contain an expanding cast of characters and scattered quotation marks, with the verbiage becoming so convoluted and confusing that the reader loses track of who said what, and the reader also begins to lose track of the story line and loses focus on the purpose of the paragraph.  Yet the prose continues for page after page without a single break and meanders from one scene to the next, losing the connection to the plot and begins to read like the ramblings of a writer who has lost his way and can't bring himself to get to the point and move on to the next point.  And when it is time to stop reading for the night, where do I put the bookmark since there is no break anywhere?  So I cram it between two pages knowing that tomorrow I'll have to re-read big chunks of that paragraph to try to get back into the flow of the story, or simply surrender and never finish reading the book, though I feel a sense of loss in not finishing because the story actually seemed good.... blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah........

I am certainly not a writing expert, but do know what I prefer to read.  So if you are inclined to write very long paragraphs, please, for the sake of your reader, consider using




Posted on December 1, 2015 .

Who Wrote That?

Sedona, AZ

Sedona, AZ

I'm busily editing and revising the draft of book #7 in the Nathan Hale Parker series.  In the process, I often find sentences that raise the question, "Who wrote THAT?!!"

The sentences are grammatically correct, every word is spelled correctly, and they fit with the story line.  But I couldn't possibly have written THAT!  And certainly not THAT way!

Did autocorrect do it?  Or some virus?  Probably.  I'm sure that as soon as I close the document for the day, something invades my manuscript, randomly rewriting entire sections.

Well......perhaps not.  Perhaps I am actually guilty of creating that awkward phrase, or choosing that questionable wording.  So, I dutifully re-write the phrase, the sentence, the paragraph, the page, or maybe even the entire chapter.  When that still doesn't feel right, start over.

For me, this is the YUCKY part of writing.

But eventually, it begins to feel better.  Yet I know that once this "heavy" editing phase is done, there's still another round (and another, and....).  When it's over, hopefully, all of the THATs infesting the flow of the story will be gone.  I can dream, can't I?

It would certainly help if there were radar or sonar or "wordar" that went BZZZZZT! and boldly pointed to each and every one of the THATs.  And let's add yellow highlights with bold pop-up windows that scream FIX THAT!!!!

But, nope.

To the best of my knowledge, the current state of the art in computer word-processing technology does not encompass an application that can automatically discover, or recommend corrections to, the phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters of a manuscript that might, in the opinion of the reader of the manuscript, be considered inappropriate, politically incorrect, awkward, or similarly deficient in quality.

Wait a minute!!  Who wrote THAT?!!


Posted on November 23, 2015 .

Fortunate autocorrects?

While the autocorrect electronic tool has likely saved me from many typos in my writing, it is equally responsible for introducing random new ones.

Take for example a recent email update that I send out to the clan.  I intended to use the term cul-de-sac.  That phrase mysteriously autocorrected to cup-de-sac.  Not a big deal, especially since it spawned a series of humorous responses.  Cup-de-sac: now there's something that can hold water.  And Well, that's really not my cup of tea.  And For lunch, can I please have the half sandwich and cup-de-sac?

But some autocorrects can be more "flagrant".  When my wife was traveling on I-75, she sent a text message on her progress when she stopped for lunch.  It consisted of a single word: bludgeon.  What?!

Almost immediately, another message appeared with the word buffoon.  I respectfully submit that I am not one of those!

The final text read Bluffton.  Now that made sense.  Bluffton is a town on I-75, about 140 miles north of Cincinnati.

Yet even this flagrant example of autocorrect had value.  In addition to the enjoyment of re-telling the story, I used it in one of my novels: Running to Cover.  One of the cities in the book actually has a neighborhood called Bluffton, so "bludgeon a buffoon in Bluffton" became a line in the story.  So that was a fortunate autocorrect -- that double fortune cookie received at a Chinese restaurant probably helped.

Anyway, beware of those unexpected autocorrect topographical....topical geographical....typographical errors.



How Much Would/Wood....

A lot of wood is being chucked in Ohio and surrounding states.  Because the emerald ash borer is wiping out huge stands of native ash trees. 

Gazing at a forest, I find it easy to pick out the dead ash: their leaf-less skeleton limbs dot the horizon.  If only typos in a manuscript were as easy to spot as those ash borer victims poking up through the forest canopy.

But, alas, typos tend to be more elusive: that stray comma, the missing quotation mark, an extra space between words, or the wrong there/their/they're. Ware/wear/where are they hiding?  Finding all of them is sometimes just to/two/too much to bare/bear. 

Digressing a bit, let's look on the positive side of disappearing ash trees.  We did see more woodpeckers in the yard: they apparently developed an appetite for ash borers, though perhaps too late to save the species.  There are fewer leaves to rake in the fall.  And all the dead trees have been a boon to the tree-trimming and firewood industries.  Mounds of wood are being chucked and stacked for winter heating, such as the huge piles created from the 23 trees that were cut out of the neighbor's yard.

So, before the winter would/wood-burning frenzy begins, whose/who's going to clean out the fireplace flew/flu/flue?