Archive for the 'Word Choice' Category

May 02 2010

A brief note on anyone vs. any one

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

The difference between “anyone” and “any one” is simple but frequently missed. “Anyone” is a synonym to “anybody,” so use “anyone” in a situation where “anybody” would also work. If anybody does not fit, use “any one.”

  • Any one of Jim’s girlfriends would murder him if she found out.
  • Anyone could have told Jim that having four girlfriends was probably an unwise move in terms of not getting murdered.

Also, please keep in mind that both are singular. “Jim’s girlfriends would murder him if they found out” vs. “Any one of Jim’s girlfriends would murder him if she found out.”

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Oct 28 2008

Don’t Overuse Exotic Substitutes for “Said”

Beginning authors tend to overuse “said bookisms,” which are words used to replace the word “said.”  For example, in the sentence “I’m ready!” he declared, declared is a said-bookism.


Using more than a few said-bookisms per page will probably make the dialogue feel melodramatic and stilted (“I’m hungry,” he uttered). Some common said-bookisms are potentially distracting because they aren’t actually a way to speak.  For example, “I knew you’d come back,” she smiled lazily conflates two actions: the speaking and the smiling.   No, she didn’t smile those words.  It would be clearer and probably more publisher-friendly to change the phrase to “she said with a smile” or give the two actions their own sentences.


Additionally, animal-sounds are unusually annoying.  It doesn’t take much of him clucking and her purring to sound absolutely ridiculous.

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29 responses so far

Oct 25 2008

Your Title is Bad, But You Can Fix It (Part 9)

Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.

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74 responses so far

Oct 08 2008

Invented words are painful

(Courtesy of xkcd).

Please don’t invent words when an immediate English translation is available.

3 responses so far

Aug 05 2008

My hero’s ready to Westinghouse someone. Is yours?

From “Thomas Edison, never shy about exploiting a situation to his advantage, especially if it could cripple a rival, therefore built the electric chair to operate on alternating current [the preferred system of his rivals]. By associating the Tesla-Westinghouse current with something as unpleasant as capital punishment, Edison hoped to turn public opinion his way. He even suggested replacing the new coinage, electrocution, with ‘to be Westinghoused.’ It never caught on.”

That invented use of “Westinghouse” is brilliant. Which words could you repurpose for your fiction?

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Aug 05 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Avoid These Meaningless Words

If you ever come across one of these words as you rewrite, please replace it with something more specific and spicy.

  1. Good
  2. Nice
  3. Alright
  4. Well
  5. Mean (adjective)
  6. Interesting
  7. Vivid (hat-tip to anonymous commenter)
  8. Of course (hat-tip to T3knomanser)
  9. Smart (hat-tip to Jacob)

Did I forget any words you love to hate?

6 responses so far

Aug 02 2008

Writing Tip of the Day: Don’t Mismarket Your Work as a Parody

When you try to sell your work to a publisher or readers, please do not use the word “parody” interchangeably with “comedy.” A parody imitates the style or plays on the conventions of an author/genre /work to make fun of it.  Most comedies are not parodies. There are two common reasons that authors may misuse the word parody…

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Aug 01 2008

Five More Mistakes First-Time Novelists Make (#41-45)

This short article will help beginning novelists avoid another five common mistakes that will usually cause publishers to throw out a manuscript.

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16 responses so far

Jul 14 2008

Don’t Start Sentences with Empty Interjections

When an interjection like “well” starts a sentence, it’s usually wasted space.  If you start sentences with any of these common offenders, double-check to make sure that they actually contribute something to the sentence.  Otherwise, please remove them.

  1. Well
  2. You know
  3. Oh
  4. Like
  5. Umm
  6. OK
  7. I mean
  8. Seriously
  9. Basically
  10. Yeah

4 responses so far