Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Things That Bug Me~Tanya Hanson

by Tanya Hanson

..".as I recite my verses for the King...my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”  Psalm 45:1


As a high school English teacher, I forbade my students to use the word “things” in their writing. Things, I told them, are the tidbits found at the bottom of my purse. Find something better. Do you mean items? Reasons? Descriptions?

Well, I’ve got such a disparate list today that the word “things” just works. My apologies.

1. When did The Oxford comma, or serial comma, become optional? You know, the comma before the word “and” in a series of three or more? There’s a huge difference between “I love kale, fennel, and basil.” and “I love kale, fennel and basil.”

In the first example, I’ve got three distinct tastes. In the latter, “fennel and basil” become one unit, like macaroni and cheese. Don’t they?

2. In my reading, I’m coming across far too many books with massive introductory clauses and phrases NOT separated by a comma from the main sentence.

a. When Samuel received a full-ride scholarship to MIT and decided to attend the Massachusetts school he never imagined how homesickness would derail him.

b. After the fall Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise.

Read a. and b. out loud and you'll "hear" where the commas should go.

3. Enough about commas. When did we graduate high school? Where’s the from? When-where-why did it become “the thing” to eliminate? I’m reading this more and more and gnashing my teeth.

4. And let’s consider gone missing. Now, missing can be either an adjective or the present participle of the verb miss.

Correct:   The missing boy is my neighbor.
Correct:   My neighbor boy has been missing for two days.

Therefore...isn’t “gone missing” ungrammatical and awkward? Used like that, I can see missing isn’t an adjective or a verb form and certainly isn’t a gerund. Like, I've gone fishing. Or maybe I’m “missing” something...?

Whatever genre we pen, the craft of good writing has got to be as important as our story. And yes, I know our language is dynamic. It changes even as it stays the same. That’s why we can still read Shakespeare although the footnotes make it easier.

But...what writing bug-a-boos are you seeing that bug you? Whether you’re a reader, a writer, an editor, or all three, what “things” make you groan or grab for a red pen?



Seeing Daylight releases this Friday. It’s the seventh book in my Hearts Crossing Ranch series about the “hills and valleys of faith” experienced by the eight siblings of a Colorado ranch.

Sixteen months since the senseless death of her husband, attorney Rachel Martin fears the future. Cutting back on her law practice and returning to her childhood home at Hearts Crossing Ranch has given her son all the attention he needs, but she aches to strike out on her own. Finding love again is the last thing on her mind...until she meets Brayton Metcalf.

A successful businessman, Brayton blames himself for the plane crash that killed his wife and injured his daughter Adelaide. When he brings "Addie" to Hearts Crossing Ranch for therapy riding lessons, he is drawn to Rachel Martin right away, even as she backs off. She too wrestles with the loss of a spouse under unusual circumstances.


Brayton finds he must whittle away at her doubts as well as put his own guilt to rest. But his hasty business decision affecting the Martin family endangers Rachel’s trust. Can renewed faith bring them to true love? Can they heal from lost spouses enough to see daylight once again?

Facebook: Tanya Hanson, Author
Twitter: @TanyaHanson

Tanya Hanson is multipublished in several genres including inspirational romance. Her heroes are always cowboys! A California native, she lives on the central coast with her fire-fighter hubby where they enjoy a happy home, good health, exciting travels. Tanya describes her son and daughter as the best "thing" she's ever done...and her two little grandsons as the halves of her heart.

43 comments:

  1. The "thing" that bugs me is that when the sentence should say who. "People that came to my party." In my opinion, it should be "People who came to my party." That refers to a thing, an object, not to people. I could be wrong, grammatically, but I'm sticking with it regardless :D

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    1. I'm with you, Tammy, and no, you're not wrong. I don't think. :)

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    2. You are so right, Tammy, and I get bugged by it, too. I'd even rather read "who" for animals LOL. ("I've got a dog who..." :)

      Thanks for the comment.

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    3. Hi Sandra, indeed, she is correct. Thanks!

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    4. Yay! I'm not alone! I'm also bugged by people who use "that" when they should use "who."

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  2. Yikes, I'm almost too scared to comment. LOL

    Commas give me fits. Thankfully, I have a reader and a critique partner who are great with them.

    My pet peeve is misspelled words. I see more of them in print each year.

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    1. Commas are a fitful "thing", Terri. You've got me chuckling. Oh, misspelling? Like grizzly when they meant "grisly"? There is something to be said in a negative way about auto-correct. Which is what I hope happens and that people aren't too lazy to look up a word in the dictionary. Sheesh. Thanks somuch for posting!

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  3. :shudders: Commas are so not my "thing" (lol), but I'm totally with you on #1 & #2. What happened to the commas?? :)
    Oh, and I can't wait to dig into SEEING DAYLIGHT, Tanya! Wishing you a happy launch week!

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    1. Dora, thanks so much; your support humbles me. I hope you like it...it was a difficult topic (widowhood) after nearly losing my husband,..I so get you abouat commas, but the hold grade-school trick, about using when when your voice naturally halts, is a good one.

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  4. I know, Tanya! Numbers 3 & 4 drive me crazy. Another is the word, "disrespect." When on earth did it become an verb? It was bad enough when my students used it, but now the media has adopted it, too. Ugh!

    I agree with Dora, SEEING DAYLIGHT sounds wonderful and I love the cover!

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    1. Oh goodness, Angie, my list of bugaboos is actually longer than what I picked for today today because I didn't want the post to be too long. But yes, disrespect has me grinding my teeth. Also "absent" when they mean without! Sheesh....:

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  5. All those bug me, especially number four. Why can't people just say "disappeared?" This bugs me too: queue. Huh? Why can't we say the good ol' American word "line?"

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    1. Laughing out loud, Sandra, Try explaining "queue" to a seven year old. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Oh, that comma used for items in a series - I just can't seem to leave out the one before and. I always used the rule: When in doubt, leave it out. But, in my role as editor, I see commas used so often that I've experienced comma coma! Maybe it's a former English teacher thing! Thanks for your post!

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    1. HI Paula, I hear ya, fellow-English teacher. I do think "when in doubt, leave it out" is a great hint, but there are sensible uses for it, too. Especially when a sentence is so long because LOL extra-long sentences are off-putting. So glad you stopped by.

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  7. OH! The serial comma. Drives me crazy too. I still think it has to be there, but yes, it's become optional. Not sure when that happened!

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  8. Hi Susan, I do think it needs to be there, too, Fortunately my editors so far are letting me get away with it. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  9. My editors always change my who, to that, -- the boy that came to my party... Yes, I agree. I don't get it. Why isn't it who? We speak that way, don't we. Great bugaboo blog, Tanya. Love your cover. Will be picking up your new book!!

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    1. Hi Charlene, well, it is who LOL. I guess editors can be wrong. I know style lists change...but "that" is simply dehumanizing LOL. Thanks for the post. Xo

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  10. I'm not a grammar expert but what bugs me is errors in text messages or facebook posts LOL! I mean in a book there are bound to be a few typos but seriously folks, can't we use what we learned in everyday messages... to instead of too is one of the worst ones!!

    JMHO of course. :-)

    Great post.
    PamT

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    1. Hi Pam, oh, and misspellings, too. And don't get me started on who/whom. Makes perfect sense if one thinks it through. Grrrrr.

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  11. Hi all, Zoe M. McCarthy here. I have two. 1. I understand in England towards is the norm and in the US toward is preferred. I dislike towards, even though I saw I used it once in my manuscript. 2. I cringe every time I read "proverbial." That one grates across my nerves. Best wishes, Tanya, on Seeing Daylight.

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  12. Hi Zoe, our English writer friend Clare said she tried to comment but it failed. I was so interested in her take on things. I do know whilst is used over the pond instead of while. ..

    And I hate "between you and I." Grumble. Heard it on Longmire just last night.

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  13. And this is why Mrs. Hanson was an EPIC English teacher in high school. Whoops! Started a sentence with "and." Naughty, naughty.

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  14. Aw,Randi...thanks for stopping by...and for the kind words...,oh, yes, I am guilty of that, sigh. Sometimes I even sneak a sentence fragment into a story. Horrors! 😉 But never a "very." Hugs....

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  15. Hi Tanya, coming from my previous life in the legal field, the comma thing (LOL) drives me crazy, too. From a legal standpoint if a suit was filed for lets say damaged commodities and they have three crates each of apples, oranges and peaches (without a comma) then they have only 6 crates, instead of 9 intended. Great blog that should give us all food for thought. Hugs, Phyliss

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    1. Phyliss, thanks for the awesome information there. I so hear you! That third comma makes perfect sense! xo

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  16. It also bugs me when people leave out or misuse commas. I'm pro serial comma!

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    1. Same here, Dawn. That little swooshie thing IMO really changes the meaning of a series if it's left out. Thanks for stopping by.

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  17. I find myself hitting the -- button more and more. I know it's the spork of written English, but I loves me an em dash. ;)

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    1. I love it, too, Sam. And i'm falling for the three little dots... I don't think I'm getting lazy, either. It just fits sometimes. Thanks for stopping by today! xo

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  18. Tanya, I've found prepositions disappearing right and left, too, and the practice drives me crazy. I've had editors remove the "from" from between "graduate" and "high school." "Of" is another word folks love to omit: "I jumped out my skin" or "I slid out the car." **grumble**

    Regarding the serial or Oxford comma: Writers with backgrounds in journalism are likely to leave out the comma before "and" in a series unless the series requires the comma for clarity. Omitting the final comma is AP style, to which most newspapers still adhere. (Probably harkens back to the days of hot type, during which every letter or symbol had to be set by hand, thereby increasing production costs.) Magazines, on the other hand, often use the Chicago Manual of Style as their bible. Chicago encourages the serial comma. Throw in book publishers -- who often use Chicago coupled with their own in-house style guides -- and it's a wonder those who write in two or more of the aforementioned areas don't wander around in a perpetual punctuation fog. :-D

    Speaking of commas... When did it become de rigueur to surround names with commas no matter where they appear? "Author, Tanya Hanson, is at the blog today," for example. GAH! Just shoot me.

    It's good to know I'm not alone in grammar and punctuation hell. :-)

    HUGS, sweetie!

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    1. Hug backatcha, my dear Kathleen. I do know about the Chicago and AP Styles...my daguther majored in journalism. I base my premise on Warriners, our textbook LOL. But I still think the "fennel and basil" is a unit, not two separate things, unless you use the comma. I agree, GAH. xo.

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    2. Duh, that's supposed to be daughter....grrrr. Dumb typo.

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  19. Tanya, thank you for voicing my concerns. I still use the Oxford comma and will continue to do so. Who decided it was passé? Whoever it was, they were wrong! Your new book cover is lovely. Congratulations.

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    1. Wrongo bongo fur sure. I still use it and to my knowledge, my ed's let me. Nicola Martinez, editor in chief of Pelican Book Group designed the cover. She's a genius. Thanks for your comments today and for stopping by.

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  20. I've spent half the day trying to get here. At last, I used the search tab.
    I'm a comma criminal. I remember the rule about a comma before "and" in college English, but after seeing that many writers weren't obeying the rule, I thought I must have misunderstood the rule and stopped using it. Thanks for clarifying the rule. I'll be more mindful of its use in the future. It's good to have these reminders. I don't want to be a grammatical calamity.
    I wish you great success with your upcoming release, Tanya.

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    1. Hi Sarah, well, as you, there is a bit of controversy with it LOL.but I'll be using it. Thanks for stopping by, xo

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  21. Commas, and spelling, and who's, oh my! Yeah, I'm with you on all of them. The story sounds great, Tanya!

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  22. Thanks for the chuckle, Donna. Goodness, whosese/who's and the there/their/they're...I think I'm back in ninth grade LOL.so glad you could stop by. Xo

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  23. Since I've read it this way so many times, I'm sure I'm wrong but I hate the phrase 'He peed himself'. I think it should read 'He peed on himself'. Now I bet you're wondering what I'm reading in which this phrase is often used! My mother hates the word irregardless. I agree.

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  24. I struggle with the Oxford comma because most of my writing life has been in journalism. Journalists ditched the Oxford comma years ago to save space in print. Kind of dumb now, but old habits die hard.

    As for setting off those clauses and phrases, I read somewhere that if it is more than four words it needs a comma, and if it is less you can leave the comma out. IDK.

    Biggest pet peeve? Misused homonyms. This year's winner, used to describe a farm: "...and there was a chicken coup." It was repeated more than once in the book. I couldn't stop laughing. I also couldn't finish reading the book.

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  25. Good points and I have several writing errors that bug me -- misspelled words, misplaced commas, confusing punctuation and the tendency by some to still cling to two spaces after a period.

    However, I'm on the opposite side of the fence where the serial comma is concerned. I worked as a newspaper reporter for years and we never had any problem with readers being confused with series of three or more that didn't have the Oxford. If I wrote "the streets were lined with red, white and blue," people had no trouble picturing flags and patriotic streamers. No one thought I meant "red and aqua."

    I think it is, more often than not, completely unnecessary. Maybe my brain is different but I honestly don't see how it helps. Or, for the most part, how not having one could cause a problem.

    The word "and" is perfectly capable of doing its job -- to connect things while separating them. No, not having a comma doesn't magically make fennel and basil one thing because everyone already knows they are two. Just like saying I went to the movies with Joan and Ellen doesn't make people wonder if Joan and Ellen are one person.

    In my opinion, writers cling to the Oxford because making it a rule makes writing easier. Instead of determining whether it is needed for clarity, they just use it always, whether it's good for the sentence or not. But our non-writing reader friends wouldn't miss it. Really. They don't care.

    The biggest problem this has led to is it's making writers lazier when it comes to the use of the comma. Now they're getting thrown into the oddest of places. "I went to, the store, with Jack, and Diane." It's exhausting.

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