Writers, Don’t be basic. Run-on sentences are a turn-off just like your parents throwing away your porn

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Writers, Don’t be basic. Run-on sentences are a turn-off just like your parents throwing away your porn
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We’ve all met them. The human at a party, in a line, or god-forbid sitting next to you in an airplane and they talk and talk and talk and don’t pause to breathe.

Do you enjoy those people?

Not usually.

Do you want them to shut the heck up for a half second?

Usually.

Well, writers, we hate to tell you all this, but we are guilty of doing this to our reader. Yes, you, writer, might be the annoying person on the plane talking about Aunt Sally’s hemorrhoids and all the fish you saw in Roatan during your five-day-long scuba adventure.

Don’t be those people. Periods are your friend. We can’t convince our thirteen year old this, but maybe we can convince you.

Periods are the enemy of your enemy: the run-on sentence.

What’s a run-on sentence?

It’s basically a sentence that connects two independent clauses without any punctuation or a nice sexy conjunction.

What’s an independent clause?

It’s basically this … an independent clause is so strong, so mighty, so full of awesome that it can be a sentence all by itself. It doesn’t need any help.

What’s a conjunction?

It’s basically the cruise director of your sentence connecting clauses or words or phrases and getting them all to chill out and hang together.

And then we have a comma splice.

The comma splice is a run on sentence with a comma stuck in there between those two independent clauses.

You want an example. Here you go.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks, I got a pumpkin spice latte, they put the wrong name on my cup, they were calling out “Rachel,” I had no idea, right, I just stood there and stood there and stood there, I was the only one left, the guy at the counter looks at me and says, “Rachel?” I said I am “Raquel,” it was totally cold.

So how do you fix this?

  1. Make those clauses into separate sentences.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks. I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup. They were calling out “Rachel.” I had no idea, right? I just stood there and stood there and stood there. I was the only one left. The guy at the counter looks at me and says, “Rachel?” I said I am “Raquel.” It was totally cold.

  • Use the magical semicolon sometimes instead of a comma.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks; I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup. They were calling out “Rachel;” I had no idea, right? I just stood there and stood there and stood there. I was the only one left. The guy at the counter looks at me and says, “Rachel?” I said I am “Raquel.” It was totally cold.

  • Use a sexy conjunction. We call these beautiful mistresses coordinating conjunctions or FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks and I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup so they were calling out “Rachel.”

  • Use another kind of sexy conjunction called the subordinating conjunction. These show a little-cause-and-effect or relationships.

Oh my god, I went to Starbucks where I got a pumpkin spice latte. They put the wrong name on my cup because they were calling out “Rachel.”

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Don’t run-on, don’t splice.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t run-in bark. The humans yell at you.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link.

LINKS MENTIONED IN RANDOM THOUGHTS SECTION

About the cow at McDonald’s

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Spotted-Cow-at-a-McDonald-s-drive-through-in-16417355.php

About dogs in the U.S.

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2021/08/10/1025596981/how-the-pet-revolution-unleashed-a-new-top-dog-in-america

About parents throwing away your porn

https://www.10tv.com/article/news/nation-world/parents-must-pay-son-for-throwing-away-his-porn-collection/530-36a06067-d27a-48a7-95ec-4646253e072d

https://people.com/human-interest/parents-ordered-to-pay-son-30k-after-getting-rid-of-his-pornography-collection/

Sea Snakes Humping and Three Principles of Good Writing

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Sea Snakes Humping and Three Principles of Good Writing
/

When I started being a reporter, one of my editors took me aside and gave me some candy and two books. One was the AP Style Guide, which is the manual for all the punctuation rules our newspaper followed.

The other was a book by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr., called The Elements of Style. My editor had met E.B. White who had a farm on the same peninsula that he did.

“This,” he told me, “is all you need to know.”

In that small book was a section called “The Elementary Principles of Composition,” and I’m not sure if it was all I needed to know as a writer, but I am positive that it was a pretty big deal.

So we thought we’d share three of those principles during this podcast. The first one is:

Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic.”

Writers blow this off all the time, but we shouldn’t. We especially blow it off with dialogue and that’s a big no-no.

Why is it a no-no?

Our brains are wired to think of paragraphs as a single idea or an action or a bit of dialogue. You don’t want to clump it all together because it gets confusing.

Sally smiled. “I love her,” Jane said. They each took a bite of calzone and gazed upon the manatee. Sally said, “Dogs are fun.”

You’ve got no idea what’s going on here really.

Sally smiled.

“I love her,” Jane said.

They each took a bite of calzone and gazed upon the manatee.

Sally said, “Dogs are fun.”

Now you do. Each new speaker always gets a new paragraph for dialogue.

Here’s another principle.

“As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning.”

They go a bit on and on about this actually.

And our third one for today is once again back to the passive voice.

“Use the active voice. The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive:”

They then give these examples.

“I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.”

This is much better than

“My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.

The latter sentence is less direct, less bold, and less concise. If the writer tries to make it more concise by omitting “by me,”

“My first visit to Boston will always be remembered,”

it becomes indefinite: is it the writer, or some person undisclosed, or the world at large, that will always remember this visit?”

S and W

We talk about passive and active voice a lot in another podcast episode. And we’ll be sharing more of these tips in our three week series, Strunk and Whiting It. No, that’s not really the name.  We have no name for it.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Allow yourself to take advice from the masters.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE.

Don’t be a schmuck.

RESOURCES AND ARTICLES MENTIONED

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/sexually-frustrated-sea-snakes-mistaking-24811140

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/man-claims-hotel-needs-ghost-24809705

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link.

Knowing When To Be A Writer Show-OFF

I ended up talking to some of my writers about this, this past weekend, so I thought I’d share it with everyone. It’s pretty fun stuff and a helpful thing to know.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” said novelist Elmore Leonard.

Sometimes writers fall in love with words, and that seems like a lovely thing, right? Words are writers’ commodity. Writers are word merchants. They deal in words, flinging around and ordering about on the page in the hopes of creating an army of sentences that become a story.

But sometimes writers (like everyone else) show off.

And that showing off makes readers go, “Blech.”

Readers who go ‘blech’ are readers who probably aren’t going to keep reading. No writer wants that because then their words and stories don’t have a chance to motivate or distract or move the reader. Plus, crap reviews.

In his book, Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark writes:

“Most writers have at least two modes. One says, “Pay no attention the writer behind the curtain. Look only at the world.” The other says, without inhibition, “Watch me dance. Aren’t I clever fellow?”

He likens these to understatement (the first mode) and overstatement or hyperbole (the second mode).

You don’t want your readers to be noticing all your writing adroitness and flourishes and showing off.

You also don’t want to be so underwhelming during really important moments that the reader shrugs and says, “Should I care that the universe imploded and Lassie died?”

Clark creates a little rule that he says works for him.

“The more serious or dramatic the subject, the more the writer backs off, creating the effect that the story tells itself. The more playful or inconsequential the topic, the more the writer can show off. Back off or show off.”

Here are a couple of examples where I’m writing about the same thing.

So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person.”

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her. I insisted it, actually.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 or so of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

Pretty understated, right?

Here’s me writing that flamboyantly.

It is the kind of day where people blossom into heroes in Boston and become a part of a legend, a story bigger than themselves, the day of the marathon, a day of heaving chests, heartbreak hills, strangers cheering them on for just moving forward, step by step, mile by mile, until the make it (or don’t) to the finish line. My friend Lori was one of those people—the hopefuls, the push-your-way-through-its, the runners.

While she was on mile eighteen or so, my daughter and I were having lunch in Cambridge before I’d leave her to the doldrums of college and head out to the race route, somewhere around mile 25.5.

Before I left, my daughter hugged me. She smelled of hummus and coconut shampoo, her windblown hair flinging itself into my cheek as she said, “I have a bad feeling.”

You see the difference, right?

How do you work on this in your own writing?

Look at other people’s writing. Newspapers are great examples of this. What stories are on page one because of how they are written versus how newsy they actually are.

Take one of your own scenes and rewrite it like it’s spare bones. Then rewrite it like you’re trying for a very flowery Pulitzer.

Read humor. Great humorists have really mastered the difference between hyperbole and understatement and use it so well.

I took this when I was running this week. It’s so beautiful here.

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.