I’m a curmudgeon, a pedant and the kind of cynic who is created out of the aging process. You may easily disagree with my rants (or even find them obnoxious) if you are sufficiently young to be neither a curmudgeon nor a cynic. Having said that I do remember that at age 20 I was just as curmudgeonly and pedantic as now, I was more obstreperous but far less cynical. One of my other pet hates is too much self-analysis so…
Some pet dislikes
Literary agents who don’t respond to submissions or queries. If they say they don’t reply unless interested, on their web pages, then fine; otherwise it is just downright rude to not respond.
Literary agents who don’t accept submissions by email or web form. What a waste of trees and cash to the Royal Mail. Do you really want an agent so far behind technology? In this day and age of tablets, e-readers and computers I can see no excuse for not accepting electronic submissions and saving us all a load of money. The growth of self-publishing via e-books and print-on-demand is bound to affect the viability of agents, I would have thought they should be taking stock on what the future holds and how they can justify themselves.
I believe that correct spelling and pronunciation are important. If you can’t spell correctly then you exhibit ignorance and/or sloppiness. If you can’t pronounce words correctly then you run the gauntlet of not being understood. There is no shame in not being able to spell correctly every word under the sun or not being able to pronounce every weird English spelling. But not realising one’s deficiencies leads to sloppiness and certainly is not a trait to which an author should be prone. Here are some of my favourites.
If you hear someone saying ‘everything went orie’ (or is it orey?) you might be forgiven for not quickly realising that they couldn’t pronounce the word awry correctly. I have heard this from an ‘expert’ reporter on BBC Radio 4.
I hate ‘decayed’ for ‘decade’ and this is becoming more prevalent. ‘Dec’ is a prefix indicating a ten is involved, e.g. Decalogue – the Ten Commandments or decimetre, a tenth of a metre, (admittedly the ‘c’ is sibilant, but the root is the same).
A really awful mispronunciation is ‘pronounciation’ – no such word, no such spelling.
You hear ‘restauranteur’ a lot – but as you can see there is no ‘n’ in restaurateur.
I loathe ‘could of ‘, ‘should of ‘ etc. for could’ve and should’ve. This all stems from an inability to understand the use of apostrophes. Plurals do not need apostrophes. If a plural noun is being turned into a possessive noun you add an apostrophe to the ‘s’, for example, if this web site belonged to the Stackpole family we would say it is the Stackpoles’ web site but if it is a singular noun being used possessively the apostrophe appears before the ‘s’ such as, Fred’s tie. Otherwise apostrophes are used as indicators of missing or assumed letters such as ‘could have’ and ‘should have’. Informally used in dialogue, for instance, these could become ‘could’ve’ and ‘should’ve’, the apostrophe standing in for the ‘ha’. Having said that I have seen both Raymond Chandler and Charles Dickens use ‘could of’ within dialogue. In a sense you can use anything you like in dialogue if you are trying to get accent across but I don’t really see the point when there is no meaning for ‘could of ‘ etc. and I can’t think of anyone’s accent or dialect phrase which uses ‘could of’ except some of the sloppy teenage language you hear today on television soaps. Whatever.
I have recently (September 2015) been trawling the Web for people offering review services and have been amazed to find web pages which contained gross spelling mistakes (or a lack of knowledge of the meaning of words). These were:
Except when accept was meant.
Preforming when performing was meant.
Cue when queue was meant.
Not something you want to see from a reviewer of your precious work.
There is no such word as ‘droring’!!!!! The word is ‘drawing’!