Monday, June 28, 2010

Consistency is the Key

One thing (one of many, actually) driving me mad about finishing up this book is finding the correct ways for grammar, punctuation, etc. I swear, when I was a child, rules on these subjects were constantly drilled into us... never end a sentence in a preposition, use a semicolon to join independent clauses in compound sentences that do not have conjunctions such as and, when giving possession to a name that ends in s always use s' versus s's unless the name is one syllable (Charles would be Charles's vs. Charles'), etc. Not now.

I've read books that made me crazy with their choice of punctuation and style. Crazy. I admit it. I'm a grammar snob, and I like it the old way. I think we've become way too complacent. We give people autonomy in choosing their style versus simply following the rules. I found it particularly frustrating when I wanted to find a rule and couldn't find two sites that would agree. For instance, in Word, ellipses are corrected to be three periods strung together in a tight space immediately following a word. My editor, however, said it should always be word_._._._word. Always. Yet every book I pick up seems to choose a different rule on this.

Then there is the glorious Em dash. I find it a very effective tool in writing, but certain fonts make it look like a hypen which is so confusing. So do you change the font to accomodate or simply use other punctuation to avoid the Em dash altogether. Oh, and there's another one. There is altogether (I find that altogether appalling) or all together (All together the kids sang the song), but I guess there is never an alright, as it should always be all right.

At least in my mind there is this controversy. It seems other authors simply choose their style and as long as they're consistent, they are right. I could barely get through Cormac McCarthy's The Road because of his style. I couldn't get past it being wrong. I constantly had a pencil in hand in the beginning correcting it until I realized at the very least he was consistently wrong. Wrong, of course, being my own determination based on high school Language Arts. Seems nowadays it is more art than science.

I guess I should relax (yes, on so many levels). I think the WORST thing any author could do is be inconsistent in what he/she chooses versus being technically incorrect. But I don't want my choice in its blatant incorrectness to be distracting.

What's an author to do?

By the way, I spend longer editing these posts than I do writing them. ARGH!


Beth said...

what about those of us who have given up on capital letters? i think i might be too scared to email you anymore...

Bach said...

Oh, no... I'm totally relaxed about emails, just my literature. :-)

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Whatever you do, be consistent. That way your copy editor can search and destroy stuff s/he doesn't like.

(Spoken as an editor who's mucked about with serious inconsistencies.)