Category Archives: grammar

He Said and Then She Said and Then He said but Then She Said…

he-she-saidWriter’s Note - Reset Sunday will be back this week so watch for it….

This is one of the problems most writers face within the first couple of manuscripts they produce…the “he said/she said” problem. Now most of you are wondering if this is a column about dialogue and it is but it is more to the point about “saying”…

We have all read those books where the author feels the need to tell you who said what in every line of dialogue. I am here to tell you that you don’t have to do that. If your story is well written, you’re your reader should be able to follow a simple conversation without all the handholding. The only time a writer should have to point out that he said or she said is in the very beginning when you are defining who the conversation is between. Then using he said or she said leads the reader to the characters part of the conversation. After that, in a conversation with just two people using he said and she said is adding words to your word count that you don’t need and it makes your story sound like it was written by a 2nd grader.

Having said that, let’s talk about another closely related dialogue issue…using the word said ALL….THE….TIME. There are hundreds of words that a writer could use to convey that there is a conversation going on and many of those words serve the dual purpose of also setting tone. You don’t want your characters to always just “say” something…sometimes you want them to acknowledge, add, admit or affirm something. What about allege, agree, announce, argue, articulate, ask, assert, aver, avow, bark, beg, bid, bluff, bluster, boast, brag, butt in, challenge, chant, chime in, chirp, cite, claim, command, comment, communicate, concede, confess, confide, contest, continue, contradict, convey, correct, declare, defend, deliver, demand, deny, disclose, divulge, echo, emphasize, encourage, enquire, exclaim, explain, express, gripe, groan, grumble, grunt, imply….whew…we could go on forever. You can say something but wouldn’t it be more fun to growl it or convey it?

I understand that we have all been conditioned to he said and she said but at the end of the day when your reader is turning those pages you want him/her to be drawn in by the excitement of your story and that includes how your characters communicate. So go back over that manuscript…are you he saiding and she saiding too much? Use the hundreds of other ways to convey how your characters are speaking and bump it up a notch. Your readers will thank you and your manuscript will sound like it has been written by someone other than the author of the Dick and Jane series.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Posted by on March 11, 2023 in grammar, Writing


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There Are No Rules - Get Over It!

Rule bookWho ever said that rules were made to be broken was probably about to get grounded by their mom when they said it in a fleeting defense for some moment of idiocy. However, they were not far off, especially when it comes to writing.

I have been writing most of my adult life in some form or another. Because I have always had a pen in one hand as I carried on there has also always been some publisher or editor standing just over my shoulder espousing “rules”. It’s been quite annoying at times. When I was younger, I would listen, nod my head obediently and then change my behavior to fit the “rule”. Well, I’m pushing the 50 mark now and you know what I have learned after all these years? Rules be damned…(most of the time)

The “rules” tend to change with the venue in our line of work. I recently had a magazine publisher who thought that the “AP” in AP style meant “ass protection” (I kid you not) so he wanted his writers to be sure of their facts and ensure that his ass was protected. You just have no idea how hard I laughed about that one on the drive home from our first editorial meeting. Just a few days ago I had a blogging client tell me that they wanted me to always, always spell out the time in columns. Yes, as in one o’clock…all I could do was shake my head.

The “rules” of writing have literally left the building in terms of any kind of consistent “style”. Lost is the art of “AP style”. (for those of you still scratching their heads, AP stands for Associated Press and no, I have no idea who made them the style nazi’s…most of us just rolled with it through the years) Also lost is the art of proper formatting. With all of the new printing options, e-book, traditional, digital…formatting is a whole other evolving aspect of the publishing world. (It’s often hard to keep up) Let’s face it, we, as writers, are now in a profession where there are no real rules, only moments of clarity provided by often bi-polar editors and publishers who change their eating hands for fun.

So what is a writer to do in a world where the road signs change so often that the only thing you know for sure is that you are lost most of the time? The answer is simple, always read the guidelines. Every publisher has them; that set of rules whose reason for existing is known only to the guy who actually owns the publication. And once you have read those guidelines, follow them, no matter how stupid they are. I know, I know…it’s hard but it has to be done if you want to work for those publishers. Sadly there are more of them than there are the ones who follow the “rules”.  I have had to swallow a lot of really stupid styles over the years but I have also made a lot of money off those same publications.

I do realize that the writer in some of you seasoned writers wants to stand up on a desk top and demand that the publisher/editor adhere to the AP style or at least something close but don’t do it…you are wasting your breath. Get your head out of the rules fellow writers…cause there are none…there are just crazy editors/publishers who believe that they are “right” and no amount of arguing will change their minds…BUT…if you shut up and write, there is money to be made and your revenge will be in knowing that, in the end, the publisher is the one who ends up looking stupid. You just need to move on to the next assignment.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Getting Back to the Basics OR Don’t be a Zombie Smorgasbord

zombie-tv-dinnerAs a writer I have had a lot of people give me advice over the years. Some of them have even been other writers… You would be shocked at how much advice about writing I get from non-writers…(or maybe you wouldn’t) People have told me things like, have a backup plan in case the writing thing doesn’t work out. (I love how it’s a “writing thing” and not a job…I wouldn’t tell a cop to have a backup plan if that whole “cop thing” didn’t work out) I’ve also been told to make sure that I listen to every reader who has advice for me about a story…like I’d have time to write if I did. And I’ve been told to drop the writing hobby thing in general. Gotta love folks with good intentions and no brains…you know what I call that… a disappointing zombie smorgasbord…

Despite the good intended people I have had some very good advice from writers I have crossed paths with along the way and some of it I have even used. (It is important to note here that just because someone gives you advice, it doesn’t mean you have to actually take it…just listen and use what you can.) Some of the best advice I have gotten has to do with the basics…those concepts that should be a given but we all somehow forget them in the grand scheme of things. So today I pass that advice on to you and even suggest that you consider printing them out and pinning them to your wall.

  1. Avoid passive voice
  2. Use active verbs
  3. Know your characters
  4. Make sure your story is worth telling
  5. Eliminate the words that aren’t needed – most adjectives and adverbs

These are the basics when writing a story and if you can always remember them they will save you time and grief down the line.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Posted by on January 9, 2023 in Edting, grammar, Inspiration, Writing


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Grammar – There’s a Mistake for That…OR It’s a Moo Point…..

I have a friend who likes to point out my grammar mistakes. She will take a look at the galley copy of a manuscript and point out each and every grammar mistake she sees…even the ones that the typesetter makes, (And that happens by the way, which is why it is so important to actually read those galley copies) and then hound me about making the mistake “ever again”. My friend is not a writer and she spells grammar – grammer….which in and of itself is annoying. Here’s the thing though I do actually pay attention to what she says. (shhhhh…don’t tell her that though….)

Grammar mistakes can make a writer look stupid especially if they are simple mistakes. Let me add though…it happens to everyone, just like spelling mistakes. Science has proven that most people’s brains see the first and last letters of a word and their mind automatically fills in the middle. This is why those Facebook posts where they say you are a genius if you can read a note that is written with the letters jumbled…don’t feel special…most of us can do it too. Grammar mistakes are different than spelling mistakes though because there is no out for that one. If you constantly make grammar mistakes, you just aren’t paying attention.

Here are a few of the popular grammar mistakes we all make….(yes I said “we all”)

Who and Whom  - Who hasn’t had this argument around the dinner table.  “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun but for some folks this word is interchangeable with “whom”. “Whom” is an objective pronoun and is used when the pronoun acts as the object. Which one you use depends entirely on the sentence.  Which brings me to….

Which and That -This is a common one. “That” is a restrictive pronoun and “Which” introduces a relative clause. Writers often screw these up but if you are editing like a good little verbiage monster, you will catch it on the go-round.

Lay and Lie  - I screw this one frequently. “Lay” is a transitive verb and requires a direct subject while “Lie” is an intransitive verb. (no object needed)  The most common way writers goof this one up is when he/she uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” but meant to use the intransitive past tense of “lie”.

Moot  - So very many people misuse this word. I don’t use it anymore since a “Friends” episode where Joey says that something is a “moo” point…it’s like a cow’s opinion…it doesn’t matter…I love that and began using that instead of moot from then on.

These are just a few of the common grammar mistakes that writers make; there are tons of others. The best advice I can give you on these is to make sure that you edit. Personally, my brain makes these mistakes often because I am writing not editing…and my brain…well….it trips on itself all the time. So makes sure that you do your editing in order to catch these and other grammar mistakes. If you don’t some well-meaning friend will piss you off by pointing them out when the book is released and by then it will be a moo point…like a cow’s opinion…it won’t matter.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on December 4, 2022 in Edting, grammar


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When Analogies Go Bad - She had a Deep, Throaty, Genuine Laugh, like that Sound a Dog Makes before it Throws up….

Analogies….oh how so very bad they can become. I have to admit, I have had a few bad ones work their way into a manuscript from time to time too. They can be stealthy these little examples of really bad writing. As a writer we really have to pay attention to what we are comparing to what.

An analogy is supposed to enhance a story, give it some breath. Her heart fluttered like Monarch Butterflies lighting on nearby flowers….or he was overcome with a tsunami of emotion… Yes they do still sound a bit hokey when by them selves but in a moment of really passionate writing the right analogy is key to conveying the mood of the scene.

But what happens when they go bad? Here are some examples of really bad analogies…

  • He was as tall as a 6 ft. tree
  • From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7 instead of 7:30.
  • She grew on him like e Coli on room temperature Canadian beef.
  • Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  • His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  • He was as fast as lightning, but twice as stupid.
  • The computer was up and down like a hooker’s panties.
  • The nuclear missiles exploded across the face of the earth like there was no tomorrow.

AND one of my favorites….

  • Herb sat by his window and watched in roughly the way that an average potato, despite having 7.5 times as many eyes, wouldn’t.

Why oh why do people not read through these and realize how bad they are? The truth is we live in a world that requires instant writing and so many times the writer isn’t actually reading his/her own stuff. In the world of self-publishing this can be so, so bad. So my advice for today is, if you choose to use analogies, do so wisely. Make sure that you read them out loud to both yourself and to someone else. I have a nifty little app that will actually read my stuff to me so I can hear first-hand how stupid something may sound. Trust me…you don’t want to be the guy who writes…”The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease”…people will remember that and not in a good way….


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Posted by on November 29, 2022 in grammar, Writing


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If I could look it Up I Could spell it and I Wouldn’t Have to Look it UP!

Don’t you sometimes hate writing advice and all of the little dumb things people say that are supposed to “help” you be a better writer when the person who is advising is a non-writer? I know I hate it and mostly because the people who feel the need to give me writing advice are often not even smart non-writers. If you are a plumber I am certainly not going to tell you where to put your wrench….unless you try and give me writing advice.

I’ve decided to share some of the non-writer writing advice and things that people say to me that gets under my skin. Some of it is so stupid that all you can do is laugh. It makes me think about how many school English teachers have screwed up would be writers saying things like these to them.

  • Look it up – This is perhaps the mother of all stupid things that people say to those who are challenged in the spelling department. Now I am a decent writer but I suck at spelling. (just ask my spouse) If I come to you and ask you how to spell a word and you look at me and say “look it up” I’m probably going to throw the nearest small animal at you. (Note – I’m mad at the cat right now, he ate my tuna sandwich) Let’s be honest, to look it up I’d have to know how to spell it right?
  • Don’t Over Write – No, not as in the checking account, they really are talking about over writing. So often I will muse over being tired and some yahoo non-writer nearby will look me straight in the face and say, “maybe you are over writing”…really? Do you think that’s how it works? For Pete’s sake….I can’t over write….how would one determine at which point they have “over written”?
  • Find your favorite writer and copy them – No, don’t do that…if you do you run the risk of getting into all kinds of trouble. I’m sure that what the non-writer means is emulate their style, but that isn’t what they say. Copying your favorite writer is a real quick way to find out what plagiarism is. (and jail time…)

These are just a few of the jewels of advice I get from my non writer friends that make me want to unfriend them in the face. (Can you do that, can you unfriend or dislike a person publicly? Have I been on Facebook too much lately? Perhaps….) My point is, and I do have one, you are going to get advice from everywhere and for some reason those who never pick up a pen seem to feel that it is their mission to advise you on your craft…try not to kill them.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on October 11, 2022 in grammar, Writing


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Five of the Scariest Grammatical Errors

Once again, in honor of Halloween month, (and for me it is a month long celebration) I have something that scares us all as writers. If you have ever published a book than you understand what a “galley” copy is. The galley copy is sent to you by the publisher just after your book is typeset into book format and you, as the writer, as supposed to look it over, make corrections to the mistakes and send it back. Anyone who has had a galley copy knows exactly how bad one of these suckers can be. It can be absolutely maddening how many mistakes are made during the typesetting process. But the scariest part of getting a galley copy is that, for some unknown reason, it tends to showcase your grammatical errors, especially the stupid ones.

Nothing makes a writer feel dumber than to discover a mistake in copy that has already been set. It happens to me while writing this column. (blog…whatever) I publish a column and almost immediately I find four or five mistakes that I should have caught on the read through. I fix the mistakes but not before I have an all-out panic attack that at least a million people saw those mistakes and are laughing hysterically at the idiot writer who used “your” instead of “you’re”.

So what are the five scariest grammatical errors in my mind? Here they are, in no particular order and all equally able to make me feel like a kindergartener who just got caught eating the paste.

1. There vs. Their - “There” is used as a reference to a place (“the dead body is over there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no dead body”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun.  This word is used to make “it” someone’s as in “that’s their dead body”.  Nothing makes me feel dumber than mixing these two up even if it is just an auto correct issue.

2. The Dangling Participle - I used to have a t-shirt that said, “Watch out, I Dangle Participles”, my spouse made me stop wearing it because little old ladies in the grocery store would scowl at me. The dangling participle is a common writing mistake. It screws with the flow of your writing. It also can lose the reader because it mucks up your meaning.

3. Your vs. You’re - Okay, I heard the collective groan ripple through the crowd…I know, this is frustrating.  It seems simple, “your” is a possessive pronoun and “you’re” is a contraction for “you are”, how hard can this be? Yet almost every writer gets lazy and makes this mistake.

4. Affect vs. Effect - This is one I mess up all the time. It is one of those sets of words that I have to stop and think about before using. I hate it.  “affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. It’s still a writer’s tripwire. The kicker is that even if you use it correctly, I guarantee some of your readers will stop reading your book for a second and get hung up on trying to figure out if you used the right word. (I confess, I do that all the time…horrible huh?)

5. It’s vs. Its - This is another one that makes me stop and think or the spell check/grammar thing in my word processor will catch it. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” and “its” is a possessive pronoun. Sadly, it seems like such a small word wouldn’t give you so much trouble but I am pretty sure that the verbal voodoo priestess of old cursed us to make some of these silly mistakes in order to keep us humble.

So there you have them, my five scariest grammar mistakes. I’m sure that you could come up with your own five but these are the ones that sometimes keep me up at night. So stop dangling those participles because their affecting your writing will have an effect on whenever you’re trying to make sure that your novel is trying to say during its initial appearance into the new world of readers and remember it’s important to not allow the grammatical errors get you because their spooky when you find them in there…(oh and also watch out for those run-on sentences….)



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on October 10, 2022 in grammar, Writing


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It was a Cold, Rainy, Windy, Dark, Chaotic, Scary, Long, Destitute Night

Adjectives are words that describe or modify another person or thing in the sentence. WAIT! Let me repeat that… adjectives are words that describe or modify another person or thing in the sentence. You know something interesting? Despite having repeated it twice here and a zillion times in school, there will still be writers who get it wrong.

The fat professor, the lugubrious lieutenant, a rock-solid commitment, a month’s pay, a six-year-old child, the unhappiest, richest man; these are all great examples of how adjectives are used. So why then do some writers either over use them or just plain don’t use them correctly at all? When I was a kid I hated English. (come on all your writers…admit it…you did too….) But Adjectives were easy…they were the one way I could assure that I didn’t completely bomb a test. (I hate Adverbs by the way)



Some adjective mistakes that writers make:

  • Relying on adjectives and adverbs to cover up a weak scene
  • Over using adjectives
  • Under using adjectives
  • Not everything you write needs to be described in intricate detail
  • Using adjectives within dialogue – i.e. “I told him that her bright colored dress matched her dreamy eyes.”

These are just a few of the ways writers goof around with adjectives and I am sure that some of you can come up with even more examples.  The point is, adjective use is writing 101, if you think that you need a refresher course…you probably do. I understand the temptation, I enjoy describing stuff too but you don’t want your reader to get into your book and have their minds filled so full of adjectives that they can’t think. (or enjoy reading your book)

Once in a while it is a “dark, stormy night” but at other times you can “hear the crack of thunder and feel the sting of the rain as she felt her way through the unseen world of night”….it all depends on what works and if it belongs. Adjectives are fun…I get that…but they can get away from you too. In the future be mindful of how you use adjectives and remember, sometimes you really can say more, with less.




© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on September 6, 2022 in grammar, Writing


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Don’t Count Your Words Constantly, Instead Make Your Words Count

We are word counters, us writers. At some point our work lives or dies by the number of words we have invested into a story. Publishers and editors have their reasons for needing to hit that special magic number. Sometimes the word count matters because of space allotted, sometimes it is all about the length (because in books sometimes size matters….lol) and still, other times, the word count is important because that’s the way we get paid. No matter what the reason, if you are a writer, you have one eye on the word count all the way through your work most times.

Here’s the thing though…we have to be careful when watching that little word ticker. If we aren’t, our stories could fall victim to something akin to the verbal flu…just as too many antibodies can make you sick, so can too many words or too few words…or keeping count in the first place. Okay, hold on now, before you tilt your head, and in your best Scooby Doo voice, ask, “huh”…let me explain.

While we should watch our word counts we need to make sure that we, as writers, don’t become obsessed with it. It is an easy thing to find yourself mired in. You are writing along and with one eye on the word count, suddenly you become concerned that you are short verbiage so you start adding stuff in, only it’s crap, because it doesn’t fit, because now you’re writing isn’t about the story but about making sure that you have enough words to make the count. OR you notice that you have too many words and so now your story is getting choppy because you are cutting it in places you shouldn’t, again trying to make that word count. Either way, because you have an eye on that word count, your story is in real trouble.

So how then do we ensure that the word count monster doesn’t take over the planet of your story? It’s simple…stop watching it. Granted when you are finished with your story you do have to revisit the word count so that you can at least hit the target but, at least if you wait until then, you have a finished story to work with and you are not filling or cutting in a haphazard way. Work on making your words count while writing instead of counting them as you are writing; if you do, your story will be all the better for it.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on September 2, 2022 in Edting, grammar, Writing


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Will Work As (I mean, For) Food….

I am not a grammar Nazi. Let me repeat that…I am NOT, in no way, absolutely, without a doubt, not a grammar Nazi. Do you know why? Because I screw up too… There is nothing worse, in my book, than a person who goes around picking out other people’s mistakes just for the sake of pointing them out. Point out something that I have done wrong and you’d better be forthcoming with how I might fix it because otherwise, you are just being plain mean.

I do understand that some people can’t help it, like retired school teachers but even those little old ladies will send you their take on how to fix what they are pointing out. My point is this…correct if you must, edit if you are driven, opin away but at least come back at me with some advice on how to fix the problem. It takes some of the hurt out of the pointing out if you at least pretend that you are trying to help. (And not just being a grammar bully)

I think that it takes a very brave soul to put themselves out there as a writer. You are literally slitting your veins and bleeding out your personal self all over the words that you publish. You should be commended for even having stepped in front of that truck because sometimes, it runs your behind over. So don’t let the grammar Nazi’s of the world get you down. For Pete’s Sake pay attention as best you can to what you put out there but if you make a mistake, correct it and move on. Unless of course you are a newspaper editor and you write the headline, “Mayor has dyed” thinking that it is kind of funny when you meant his hair…but most people picked up the phone and called City Hall thinking the Mayor had actually gone to the great beyond. Including mind you, his wife….oops. (True story…wow did I get in trouble for that….)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on September 1, 2022 in Edting, grammar


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