Writing Pet Peeves: 10 “Quirks” I Find Mildly Infuriating

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 😑

Please tell me I’m not the only one offended by this overload of grammatical incorrectness!!

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 πŸ™ˆ 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 πŸ™„

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 “Γ„” are not the same thing! “U” and “Ü” represent two completely different sounds! And I’m sure my French neighbors will agree that fiancΓ©(e) without the accent looks absolutely horrendous and that faΓ§ade has a much nicer ring to it than facade

5. Breaths people didn’t realize they were holding

β€œThe 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. πŸ˜‡

10. Bold, italicized, weirdly formatted, or otherwise “special” words in (mostly) fantasy books

I absolutely love the Septimus Heap series, but the way the type is set never fails to drive me nuts. I mean, look at all those bold words! πŸ˜³πŸ™ˆ

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 πŸ˜… 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!!

25 thoughts on “Writing Pet Peeves: 10 “Quirks” I Find Mildly Infuriating

  1. Riddhi B. says:

    Wow, this was a very ranty post! I have gotta say that there are certain things that I have had in the book I am writing- like the pop culture references (There aren’t so many, but yes they are there) and the replacing of the word ‘said’.
    But the points are really good, I have got to say! Amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely Moi says:

    These things anger me too; I can’t begin to comprehend the reason for people preferring prolonged and drawn out passages, they must be off their rocker! I completely agree with everything you said in this post, Naemi; it enthralls me to know that people all around the globe share my dislike for these loathsome “quirks” that writers seem to use increasingly and might I add that long sentences with an abundance of words that don’t add anything to that particular sentence; excellent post as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      🀣🀣🀣🀣 This comment seriously gives Faulkner a run for his money! But in your case, I’m inclined to think the length is parodic genius, rather than incredibly annoying πŸ˜„ Normally, though, yes! What is the need for all the superfluous words that contribute to nothing other than making a work of literature, which is already complex enough in and of itself, a meandering entity of thought and philosophy, even more interwoven, so that our poor feeble minds are neither able to cope, nor appreciate the beauty that underlies these masterpieces of sentences; truly, as someone who loves to write herself, an aspiring author, I comprehend it not.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Line says:

    You needed to release some frustration obviously πŸ˜‚ I don’t agree with everything but a lot. I think pop culture references have a fine line. I don’t mind them unless it gets too excessive, but I also need them to reference stuff that has stood the test of time in some capacity. Like Star Wars or something like that. Not something that became popular last year because you’re not sure that’s going to matter 3 years from now.

    I must say I relate more to your rant about accents and umlauts since MΓ₯neskin became a thing. No, it is not “Maneskin”!! I read it like that in my head every time the “Γ₯” is turned in an “a”, and it sounds awful! And I know people don’t have that letter on their keyboard but please just copy it from somewhere!

    Also, I think I’m the only person who doesn’t mind when people don’t know they’re holding their breath πŸ˜… I do that quite often because of my anxiety so I guess I’ve always seen it as a natural reaction to scary situations.

    You not wanting to read Faulkner again to find the page number πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Of course 😁 After being very frustrated by my lack of Russian knowledge and horrible referee decisions, it was time to vent some steam πŸ˜€πŸ˜…

      And I completely agree with you on the pop culture references! I also like them if they’re used in moderation, and if they refer to something that is sure to mean something to people for a long time. Like Shakespeare πŸ₯° Or Lord of the Rings 😊 Or also Harry Potter, but only if it’s evident that the reference is there to actually add something to the story rather than it only being a “quirky detail” that doesn’t really give the reader a better feel for the characters… I feel like I’m doing a really bad job explaining this, but pop culture references always seem to be either really awesome or really terrible πŸ˜…

      Also, yes! I can’t see “Maneskin” and not read it as “mane-skin”, which has me thinking of decapitated lions rather than moonshine. You know, kind of like those weird rugs they used to have in aristocratic houses for people to trip over… MΓ₯neskin looks so much better! Though I’m sure I’m pronouncing it wrong anyway πŸ˜…

      And your thoughts on breath holding are actually really interesting! I have never come across someone who said this was actually a thing. I have zero stamina, so the moment I start holding my breath, I notice, because I’ll start gasping for air like a lunatic πŸ˜‚ But maybe I’ll have to rethink my thoughts on the realisticness of this. Still, that line is so overused that nothing can convince me it’s good!

      Finally, I’m obviously not rereading Faulkner. One time was more than enough for me πŸ™ˆ I’m seriously questioning why so many people think he’s brilliant. Looking at five-star goodreads reviews, which pretty much all start with some disclaimer that people who hated this just weren’t able to comprehend Faulkner’s brilliant writing, I think it might just be because saying they liked it makes them feel very smart. I have no other explanation, because reading that book was pure torture. There were some nice messages, but nothing can redeem that writing style for me πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ

      Liked by 1 person

      • Line says:

        Yes to everything you said about pop culture references. I understood what you meant 😁

        And don’t worry about pronouncing MΓ₯neskin wrong. No one can say it and I’ve started finding it more funny than annoying πŸ˜„

        And about the breathing, I don’t think I full-on stop breathing but I’m just doing it very, very shallowly because my body freezes and you know, you need to move a tiny bit to breathe. And since I’m in full-on panic mode in my head, I don’t notice it until I really need that air, like if I need to speak while feeling this. It’s not exactly what characters are feeling when that line is used but I’ve always felt it was close enough to not be weird to me πŸ˜…

        I just love your Faulkner rants πŸ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

        • abookowlscorner says:

          I guess that makes sense, then. I’ve gotten close to the not breathing stage a handful of times in situations where I felt really anxious, but that doesn’t happen very often and then I am always very hyperaware of needing the air and that I should probably breathe soon.. So I do end up suddenly gulping awkwardly for oxygen, but I am never not aware of needing that breath but just too preoccupied to take it, if that makes any sense πŸ˜… But I think I understand what you’re trying to say!

          I’m glad you appreciate the rants 🀣 Faulkner traumatized me for life, I guess, so sometimes I just need to vent about him again.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Nehal Jain says:

    Wow, what a rant! My day just got a whole lot better πŸ˜‚. I have become a new sucker for your rants, so we need more of these!! That notoriously long sentence by the way, started pretty fine but then I slowly lost my mind and just gave up bothering to even read it full 🀣, I mean, does the author even understand what he wrote!? I loved the part where you were all- β€œthe thing about β€˜say’ however”, says naemi 🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      😁 Well, I’m actually hoping not to have too many things to rant about in the near future, but you never know… πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Maybe you’ll get lucky! πŸ˜‰
      And OMG, all the sentences in that book were like that! I kept falling asleep before I reached their ending; it was horrible! Although I can attest to the fact that they actually do start making sense once you start looking at them more closely – it’s just that you have to read them at least twenty times before you understand anything πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ I now have no inclination whatsoever to read more Faulkner any time soon πŸ™„
      I’m glad you enjoyed my dialogue, though! 😁


  5. ahaana @ Windows to Worlds says:

    omg naemi! last year our english teacher got so annoyed with us, and gave us the whole you & i lecture (as well as showed us a similar infographic), so you can be certain that it’s never leaving my head πŸ˜‚ omg sarah j. maas with her male smiles and “mates” is so annoying ahhh. also please tell me i did not just read mayonnaise coloured hands 😭 what sort of description is this (love that tweet btw hehe).

    okay i could go on forever but then my comment would be too long again, and i’m honestly too lazy to type more, but i agree with everything omg you always write THE most relatable posts πŸ˜‚ love this!! πŸ’•

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Hahaha, I definitely approve of this English teacher of yours! 🀣 The “you and I” thing is one of my biggest pet peeves ever and I just can’t help but go around correcting people whenever I hear or read it πŸ˜…πŸ˜ And omg, yes, the mates are almost as bad as the male smiles πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ But somehow I still can’t stop reading her books! They’re so addictive, even though parts of them are objectively terrible πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚ And that tweet is so hilarious I couldn’t not share it!

      And aaahh, I relate to your laziness so much πŸ˜‚ I know my comments are always super long anyway, but if I reacted to everything in people’s posts that I found interesting, I’d be here forever! But I’m really happy to hear you think my posts are relatable rather than, say, deranged… 🀣 Thanks for stopping by, Ahaana πŸ’™

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lesserleaf says:

    Good luck for your exams πŸ™‚
    I hate the “you and I” thing as well, and basically everything else you ranted about except the Faulkner bit (although it’s funny). I remember quite liking Faulkner and Thomas Mann when I read them. But afterwards I always needed a lot of crime novels, or scifi, or fantasy, or whatever to recuperate πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Thank you! The first one wasn’t too bad, so hopefully, the others will be okay as well πŸ˜…
      And I’m glad you could relate! Though I’m very impressed by you actually enjoying Faulkner. I wanted to fling that book across the room the entire time I was reading it πŸ™„ And I’ve only read “Tod in Venedig” by Thomas Mann but actually enjoyed it despite the long sentences. So maybe Thomas Mann does it better, German is more suited for that type of thing, or I just haven’t come across the truly horrible cases yet… But I definitely know what you mean about needing recuperation novels! 🀣


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