Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Abused and Overused

Sorry about the fake post last night. Apparently, using the shortcut Control P to paste something in blogger doesn't work. It just publishes the post instead :) So, I had to copy and delete. Here's the real thing!

I like to critique. I don't even mind critiquing first drafts. Now that I've said it, there are things that shouldn't be in subsequent drafts. Not that they shouldn't be there at all but they should only be there if they're absolutely needed!

I'm certainly not the expert so I may be wrong, but I've come up with my list of Abused and Overused.

Parentheses or Brackets.
Em Dash.

Now, I'll try to break it down and cover everything before you all get bored. (Unless that's already happened. Shoot. If it has, take a break and come back in a minute :)) 

All my definitions are taken from Wikipedia.

An Ellipsis (...) is a mark or series of marks that usually indicate an intentional omission of a word in the original text. An ellipsis can also be used to indicate a pause in speech, an unfinished thought, or, at the end of a sentence, a trailing off into silence (aposiopesis). When placed at the end of a sentence, the ellipsis can also inspire a feeling of melancholy longing. The ellipsis calls for a slight pause in speech.

Parentheses or Brackets (([])) are tall punctuation marks used in matched pairs within text, to set apart or interject other text. [Parenthesis] contain material that could be omitted without destroying or altering the meaning of a sentence. In most writing, overuse of parentheses is usually a sign of a badly structured text. 

The Em Dash (--) is used to indicate that a sentence is unfinished because the speaker has been interrupted. Similarly, it can be used instead of an ellipsis to indicate aposiopesis, the rhetorical device by which a sentence is stopped short not because of interruption but because the speaker is too emotional to continue. The em dash is used in much the way a colon or a set of parentheses is used; it can show an abrupt change in thought or be used where a full stop (or "period") is too strong and a comma too weak. 

A Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas, the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. For example: "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphors compare things without using "like" or "as."

A Simile is figure of speech that indirectly compares two different things by employing the words "like", "as", or "than".[1] Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas metaphors compare two things directly.

An Adverb (-ly) is any word that modifies any part of speech or other verbs other than a noun (modifiers of nouns are primarily adjectives and determiners). Adverbs can modify verbsadjectives (including numbers), clausessentences and other adverbs.

An Adjective (descriptive word) is a word whose main syntactic role is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified.

Overuse of any of the "Abused and Overused" may cause more harm than good to your sentence or story. Adverbs and adjectives can clutter your sentence and metaphor's and simile's can distract from the original point. 

If you do use any of the above, make sure you use them correctly. Abusing them may lead to more confusion.

Feel free to use the "Abused and Overused" as you'd like through your first draft but make sure you cut them down to a minimal afterward. Less is more with these :)

Obviously, I don't apply the rules as strictly to my blog but we're more lenient here, right? Before I get carried away with other things such as commas and exclamation points, I'll stop talking.

Have a great week. Happy writing!


  1. Great post, Michelle. Thanks for breaking everything down. I do overuse some of those things, but I'm learning to avoid them! :)

  2. Wait, there's something wrong with ellipses... Crap!

  3. yeah, the ellipses problem tends to jump up in my writing. Hubs has a cow and goes circle-crazy when he reads my MSs. But he doesn't read YA, so I figure if I take out at least HALF of the ellipses that drive him nuts, I'm good. LOL!!!

    This is a great list. Thanks, Michelle! <3

  4. Yes, the adjective debate. LOL. I'm taking a class and after being beaten down about not using adverbs my instructors like. Just use a blasted adverb. That's one word not four to say the same thing. LOL. Just remember all rules mean sparingly not at all. :) Of course, I've always had a problem with taking things to the extreme. :) Great Post, Michelle!

  5. Big fan of the em dash, here. Sometimes, it's not that the comma is too weak, but rather too prevalent-- if you tend to write rather involved sentences, which I do. Ahem.

    As for ellipses ...

  6. The worst is when you see these in a published book. I recently read a book (NY Times bestseller) and the author was obsessed with similes. Everytime she described the city skyline I knew there was going to be some line about how the 'buildings stabbed the sky like daggers' or similar. Drove me nuts!

  7. Oh yes, dashes and ellipses. I fling them about like confetti in first drafts. And I tend to use too many commas. That's what editing is for, right? :)

  8. Parentheses bother me in fiction. When I see them, I think of research papers or essays. Maybe that's just me.

  9. I have too many ellipses (or ellipse?) in my WIP. My friend made me a Tshirt with three dots on it. It's hilarious. Seriously, I should probably figure out why my characters can't finish any of their thoughts.


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