Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Kathleen on Cowboy, Horses, and Words Words Words

Alright, folks, between you, me and the gate post, its time for you to get on up off of that couch, go to the book store and get yourself a copy of COOL HAND HANK, officially on sale today.

But before you go, tell me what's wrong with the preceding sentence. Or maybe you'd rather tell me after you get back. That's okay, too, because about the only thing that isn't wrong with the sentence is the basic suggestion.

A couple of months ago I did a post about punctuation or usage, something to do with grammar--a game that is, for some of us, a fine alternative to watching the Superbowl this year. We did have fun with that post, didn't we? Even stirred up a little controversy. Love that. Because I'm under the gun deadline-wise, my mind is on words, words, words. Let's play that game again. Oh, and it's late, and my mind is mush, so if I make any glaring mistakes herein, it's purely an oversight.

So what do you have for corrections? I started with alright because it's my current pet peeve. Yes, yes, some will say that you see it in print so frequently that it must be acceptable by now. Uh-uh. Alright is not all right. It's two words. It's just like already and altogether, you say? No, it isn't. All right is two words.

Between and among. Between is only allowed two pieces of bread, one on either side of the filling, which is between the two pieces of bread. Three or more pieces of bread make a club sandwich, and you're dividing the filling among those pieces of bread. I need to invite some of these TV talking heads over for lunch and show them how it works.

Get on up off of that couch might work in dialogue, but we don't pile up the prepositions if we want to be grammatically correct. I hear off of a lot lately (a lot--always two words), and it's fingernails on the chalk board. Is it correct in any instance? Can't think of one. Oh, yeah, there was a missing apostrophe in that sentence, too, wasn't there? The bedeviling it's. I was thrilled to see that my granddaughter had a worksheet on apostrophes last week--fill in the blank with the correct choice--and she got them all right. Second grade! There's hope for the future, folks.

By the way, I'm all for idiomatic dialogue. I want my dialogue to read the way my characters would talk. I'm using more "eye dialect" than I used to. More fragments. Breaking lots of those old rules. But grammar serves a purpose, as does punctuation. I'm always checking my construction, looking things up, trying to make the best use of the tool that is language. What do you think? What difference does "good grammar" make? Any pet peeves or bugaboos you care to share?

COOL HAND HANK is the third but not the last of my series set in Montana and South Dakota. Hank is a rodeo medic and a friend of Zach Beaudry's--the banged-up bull rider you met in ONE COWBOY, ONE CHRISTMAS. Like Zach, I fell in love with the Drexler sisters and their struggle to expand their sanctuary for mostly "unadoptable" wild horses. When cool Hank meets feisty Sally Drexler at Zach and Ann's wedding, he's intrigued by the whole setup, too. But he's met his match in Sally. Check out my website for a taste of Chapter 1.

27 comments:

Deb said...

Hi, Kathleen. I can sometimes be a grammar fanatic, too. I'm a 5th grade teacher and the one phrase that really bugs me is----

"Can I BRING my science book to Mrs. D?" (Or some other object, etc.)

I have gone over the bring/take phrasing a zillion times. BTW, we are also working on the CAN/MAY phrasing, too! :)

Have a GR8 day!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Deb, it took me a minute on the GR8. I was trying to get Ground Hog outta that.

As an editor, do you have a problem with outta, lotta, bringin' and takin' in dialogue?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Speaking of GR8, who knows what NIMBY means? Just heard that one from a taking head. I was feeling pretty knowledgable, having recently explained POTUS and SCOTUS to my younger, hipper sister. Now I can add NIMBY.

Helen Brenna said...

You're going to hate me for this, but I hate grammar and do the bare minimum. I'm quite sure I get all kinds of stuff wrong and I use fragments like crazy.

Can I be like Nora with her head hopping and claim that paying too much attention on the correct punctuation will mess with my muse? :) Pretty please??

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, Helen, I could never hate you. Since you're so much younger, I might have to scold you, but hate? Never. Did you know that surveys show--okay, this was years ago, but I'm still a believer--that the most unpopular class among high school students is English, but English teachers consistently rate as the most popular teachers?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, and those fragments, Helen? They're fine in pop fiction these days. I use them a lot, and when I started out, I didn't. It's all about the storytelling voice.

I've also heard Nora say that you shouldn't break the rules unless you understand them, and I know you understand them. I do think it's important for people who are role models where language is an issue to be aware of standard usage and apply the rules when it counts. I also think it's a lifelong learning experience. Language is a tool. Using it effectively is a skill. We're all about improving our skills, cradle to grave, right? That's one of the things that makes life interesting. That's what I tell the children, anyway, be they my own or someone else's.

But it's never personal. That's why kids like English teachers. We're always encouraging them to talk and to write. And then we try to help them do it better. We're big confidence builders. Seriously.

Kathleen Eagle said...

One more "Oh!" I make lots of mistakes. I wasn't the best speller back in grade school, and I still check, check, check.

For all the times my sermonizing on this topic has come back to bite me in the butt... hmmm. I wonder if anyone's ever thought of selling butt armor? There must be a market for it. Can't you just see the infomercial?

Playground Monitor said...

NIMBY = Not in my back yard.

My biggest pet peeve is folks who make a plural by adding an apostrophe and s. I saw a sign recently that read "No refund's allowed." I wanted to rip it off the wall and mark out that apostrophe.

Another is your and you're. Just how difficult is it to understand the difference? Apparently, it's very difficult.

Marilyn

lois greiman said...

Kathy, love the title, love your writing. Congrats on the wonderful new book.

But, you know, alright is in Webster's dictionary. That said, I don't know nothing bout no grammar. I should probably take your class at the Loft.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Thank you for making the dictionary point, Lois. I also know that spell checker doesn't flag alright. Doesn't matter. All right is two words. For now, it just is. I don't have my Webster's handy at the moment, but it probably says something about alright being non-standard. Someday it will probably be standard. Someday human beings will only have 4 toes on each foot. Okay, the former will precede the latter.

Remember when we used to say "Ain't ain't in the dictionary"? And then we found out it was, and we said, "See! See! See!" Sure, we use ain't, but how do we use it? That's the key, isn't it?

Yeah, okay, I'm on a mission. We don't use alright in print. I know, I know. But I'll go down fighting. And when we speak it, it's always all right.

Virginia said...

Love the cover of your new book! I can't say anything about good grammar because I don't use it my self. I think the characters should use the grammar that goes with the character. If he is a cow poke use cow poke grammar.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, yeah, Marilyn, I know the urge. The apostrophe in what's meant to be a plural on a public sign really makes me want to...well, go inside the store and offer to make a correction. Your and you're is an easy slip-up when you're writing, but we need to keep after that one, too. Onward and upward!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Absolutely, Virginia. Dialogue should be natural, and it should suit character, region and culture. One thing I want to be careful about is stereotyping. There's a fine line sometimes.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Notice the way I left out the comma between "region" and "and" in that last comment of mine. In my mind, the comma is there, according to the old commas in a series rule. But publishers have been taking it out, so I'm adjusting. (See, I can do this.) I was told once that it's all about saving ink. I tell myself it's part of going green.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Meant to mention, your trip to the store will be even more worthwhile if you grab copies of Betina's MANHUNTING and Lois's CHARMING THE DEVIL while you're there. And you can get Michele's WICKED ANGELS for your electronic reader just by clicking the cover in the sidebar.

February weather certainly lends itself to cocooning with a stack of great books.

Playground Monitor said...

See... I was taught you could put in that serial comma or not. You just had to be consistent. So I consistently leave it out. LOL!

Marilyn

Cindy Gerard said...

Fun post Kathy. I know that I too break many grammar rules but the key, as you mentioned, is in the KNOWING that you're breaking them. Doesn't make it alright (sorry, couldn't resist) but it is important to have a grasp on the basics. One of my biggest problems remains, lay, lie, laid, lain and I finally taped the definition of effect and affect on my monitor so hopefully I don't get THAT wrong any more.
Congrats on the new release! Looks incredible!

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Love the cover of your book, but I love any cover with Nathan Kamp on it!

I will admit to having a terrible habit of switching tenses in my sentences, thankfully I have my school teacher hubby to steer me the 'correct' way.
I try not to get to hung up on grammar, I would go crazy otherwise!
Though, 'Their and there' make me wring my hands.

Deb said...

Checking back in...

Kathleen, I'm from Iowa and we Iowans have a bad habit of leaving the g off of some -ing words when speaking. So, I guess when it comes to speaking, I am not good about correcting spoken grammar because I tend to do this myself.

Sorry about confusing you with GR8; it's a teacher-kid thing. :)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oops, Deb from Iowa, I don't know why I was thinking our own Deb Dixon when I said "as an editor." Your picture was right there in front of my face. Cute picture, too. I often do the lopped off g in dialogue when I hear it that way in my mind's ear. It's a regional thing for many of my characters, too. But I pay attention as I revise and often change some of them. You want to give a sense of sound without pulling the reader away from the story by making something like that stand out.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Karyn, I didn't know who the model was. Thanks for the name. I've heard of Nathan Kamp, too! I used to request certain cover artists, but I've lost track since one of my favorite artists died. He did many of my Silhouette covers.

Nathan fits my image of Hank perfectly, and I love the pose.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Cindy, I've always had trouble with lie and lay, and it's the kind of rule you just can't break. Editors will generally clean it up, but I'm embarrassed when I get that line edited ms back and see that, dang it, I did it again. I'll bet I've checked that one a gazillion times over the years, and I still can't be sure I have it straight.

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, I'm a lot more of grammar freak than I ever expected I'd be. I guess it's working with words so much. . . when I hear someone ask "Where's it at?" I want to attack somebody. The same goes for their/they're, hear, here, and your/you're. But the ones making me crazy lately are the total mangling of the language: ax for ask, and the total abandonment of prepositions like to and from, and then the maddening double negatives (ain't got no). Then there are the arbitrary addition of prepositions, as in: "get on up in". And even my own grown and highly educated kids occasionally make me homicidal with gems like "Steve and me were going out for a drink."
Aghhhhhh . . . does it ever end.

Betina Krahn said...

See, you got me so riled up, I forgot to congratulate you! Way to go Kathy! I LOVE this title and cover. . . can't wait to read "Hank."

Helen Brenna said...

Kathy, you can scold me any ole time you'd like.

ArkansasCyndi said...

You hit my one of my pet peeves with word #1 - ALRIGHT....ARGH

Will get getting my hands on your book ASAP. :)

Anonymous said...

Love all your books...being from SD and the area of the state where the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary is located--I have a correction...It's Dayton O. Hyde not Douglas o. Hyde.