Happy Friday, everyone!
After spending most of the week trying to cram my brain with as much material as humanly possible before my exams start on Monday, I’m kind of in the mood to complain 😁 Most people in my offline life have already had to listen to me whine about why I didn’t start revising sooner and how there is just so much left to learn, so I thought: Why not take it one step further, and air some grievances on here as well?
Because when it comes to writing, I have opinions!! Even something as simple as a misplaced comma can leave me fuming. And since I know I’m not the only one who loves a good bookish rant, I thought I’d share some of my biggest writing pet peeves with you today! Here are ten things that, while probably relatively minor, annoy the heck out of me whenever I come across them… 😤 I hope you enjoy!
1. Using “you and I” when it should be “you and me”
Seriously, how hard can it be?? Do you say “She gave the book to I“? Obviously not! So what on Earth makes you think it’s okay to say “She gave the book to you and I“, huh? Or things like “Between you and I, I think this is a good idea“? MISUSING “I” THIS WAY IS NOT A GOOD IDEA!!!! Really, English has so few instances of case left that it really shouldn’t be that hard to use them correctly! As someone currently learning Russian, which has six cases, I feel absolutely no pity.
Even worse, this mistake is has permeated every aspect of society to a frightening degree. It’s everywhere! In literature. In TV shows. In pop songs. One of the most overplayed songs in Germany right now is MEDUZA’s Paradise, which I absolutely detest due to its inability to have a grammatically correct chorus 😡
2. Weirdly gendered emotions and facial expressions
Despite having read about “male smiles” in more Sarah J. Maas books than I can count, I still don’t see the point of them 🙈 What in the world is a male smile?! What makes it so profoundly male? Why is its owner’s masculinity so important that you feel the need to mention it showing in smiles every few pages? I mean, with the amount of smut these books have, it’d be kind of hard to forget these guys’ sex. We kind of see a lot of biological evidence…
But it’s not just Sarah J. Maas who does this. Seriously, keep a look out. There are masculine furies, boyish grins, and feminine graces everywhere 🙄
3. Constant pop culture references that are clearly only there to show how up to date the author is with current “youth culture”
“Terry gets her next musical request from the blond girl, Kelly. She wants a song called “ME!” by Taylor Swift because it empowered her in some way, blah, blah, blah.”
Christine Riccio: Better Together, p. 92
“Blah, blah, blah” is the perfect phrase to describe my thoughts on authors’ oversaturating their books with pop culture to the point where the references take up what feels like more space than the actual storyline. I mean, at first, I thought it was kind of relatable and endearing to see that some of my favorite characters also loved Harry Potter. But now it feels like a prerequisite for a successful YA contemporary novel is mentioning the protagonist’s Hogwarts house at least twenty times and name-dropping a bunch of songs that everyone will have forgotten ten years from now anyway.
Sure, it’s nice to give us a feel for the time period these books are set in, but if a novel starts to sound more like fan mail to your favorite artists than a story, something went wrong!
4. Forgetting accents, umlauts, and other diacritics in loanwords
Look, English – I get that a nice way to enlarge your vocabulary is to steal words from other languages, but please, please, please, at least make sure your writers take the time to spell them properly!
You have no idea how absolutely ridiculous things like “doppelganger” and “uber-mensch” look to us native speakers 😨 An “A” and an “Ä” are not the same thing! “U” and “Ü” represent two completely different sounds! And I’m sure my French neighbors will agree that fiancé(e) without the accent looks absolutely horrendous and that façade has a much nicer ring to it than facade…
5. Breaths people didn’t realize they were holding
“The breath I did not realize I was holding rushes out as I pick up the parchment.”Tomi Adeyemi: Children of Blood and Bone, p. 46
I don’t really think I need to explain this one. The book community has unanimously stamped breaths characters didn’t realize they were holding off as one of the most annoying things in literature. I mean, HOW CAN YOU NOT REALIZE YOU WERE HOLDING YOUR BREATH??? How can generations of characters be this stupid? It is beyond me. And yet, the line still crops up in about every second YA novel, so, for the sake of completeness, it obviously had to go on this list.
6. Sentences whose sole purpose seems to be to summarize what was said in the preceding paragraph
Thankfully, extreme cases of this one aren’t as common as some of the other things on this list. After all, a good editor should probably catch them before a book is even published. Still, sometimes, instances slip through, and end up sounding something like this:
“XX’s eyes were red. The sheets of the bed were in complete disarray, tissues scattered across them. In the middle of all the chaos sat XX, sniffling. XX was sad.”
WOW, YOU DON’T SAY! After all that showing, we readers obviously don’t possess enough brain cells to piece these clues together, so thank you for telling us! We are eternally grateful!
7. Obnoxious speech verbs that result from authors desperately trying to avoid using the word “said” too often
“I think it can get very annoying if you use verbs other than ‘say’ in your dialogue tags too often,” Naemi proclaimed.
“Really?” exclaimed a reader of her blog.
“Yes, that seems strange to me, too,” interjected another. “After all, we were already told in elementary school that we shouldn’t repeat ourselves too often in our writing.”
“Exactly!” concurred the first reader. “Using ‘say’ all the time is just way too repetitive,” he chortled.
“The thing about ‘say’, however,” Naemi explained, “is that it is almost invisible. While using verbs like ‘snicker’, ‘proclaim’, ‘guffaw’, ‘deflect’, ‘giggle’, ‘implore’, or ‘beseech’ all the time eventually gets ridiculous. It distracts from the dialogue itself! Seriously, isn’t this example the most annoying thing ever?! Just use ‘say’ or don’t use dialogue tags at all, if it’s evident who is speaking! Forget those elementary school teachers; too many colorful verbs of speech can be extraordinarily annoying!”
8. Insanely long and insanely strange descriptions of non-white characters’ skin colors
Kai Choyce really hits the nail on the head with this tweet 🤣🤣🤣
I mean, surely more people agree that it’s kind of strange if the African American sidekick gets a five-page description about her skin being the color of dark chocolate or of coffee with a dash of cream in it, whereas the klutzy white protagonist only gets a one-liner about her being pale! I can’t be the only one who thinks this is just a teensy bit racist, right?
9. Sentences that are so long and grammatically complex that you need to read them about fifty times to understand what the author is talking about
“We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales, we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, performing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable – Yes, Judith, Bon, Henry, Sutpen: all of them. They are there, yet something is missing; they are like a chemical formula exhumed along with the letters from that forgotten chest, carefully, the paper old and faded and falling to pieces, the writing faded, almost indecipherable, yet meaningful, familiar in shape and sense, the name and presence of volatile and sentient forces; you bring them together in the proportions called for, but nothing happens; you re-read, tedious and intent, poring, making sure that you have forgotten nothing, made no miscalculation; you bring them together again and again nothing happens: just the words, the symbols, the shapes themselves, shadowy inscrutable and serene, against that turgid background of a horrible and bloody mischancing of human affairs.”William Faulkner: Absalom, Absalom!, somewhere (I’m not reading it again to find out the exact page number!)
Yes, Faulkner, I added this one just for you. (And Thomas Mann, a little bit. But mostly you. 😠) I am still traumatized by Absalom, Absalom!‘s writing style and am honestly in awe of myself for even managing to finish it.
Even if some English professors disagree with me, I stand by my opinion that making your book notoriously difficult to read is NOT a mark of great brilliance, but a mark of horrible writing.
There, I said it. 😇
10. Bold, italicized, weirdly formatted, or otherwise “special” words in (mostly) fantasy books
I already mentioned this one in the bookish pet peeves post I wrote ages ago, but since it’s writing-related and so infuriatingly annoying, it’s going on this list, too.
Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to come up with weird fonts for words that are unique to these worlds?? Seeing them constantly distracts me from the story! And if these concepts are supposed to be normal for the characters, why do they deserve special attention? We don’t randomly print, say, Breakfast, in bold, italicized font every time we use that word. And we don’t randomly capitalize it, either. So why do it with words from fantasy worlds, huh?
Anyway, I think that was probably enough ranting for one week 😅 I need to save some energy for exam preparation!
Still, let me know down below whether you agree with me on any of these, or whether there are any horribly annoying writing-related things I forgot to put on this list! I would absolutely love to know what your biggest bookish pet peeves are 😊 Let’s rant some more in the comments!!