Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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You have got to be kidding —

Standardized language is all very well, but

“So you dealed with the farmer.”

instead of

“So you dealt with the farmer.” ???

I agree with Gary that the “standardized” version lacks punch and that it alters the rhythm of the sentence, but that isn’t why I hate it. Well, it is, but it’s not the biggest reason. The real problem is, it SOUNDS INCREDIBLY STUPID to any literate speaker of English.

I am happy to say that my copy editors have either never tried to do this to me, or else have always be cooperative in letting me Stet the verb back to the irregular form.

I also use “knelt” rather than “kneeled.” In fact, “kneeled” got underlined in red for me when I typed it just now. And again, no problem with my copy editors (who do a great job, seriously, I can’t believe they can spot that something on page 247 is inconsistent with something on page 17, but they do). But here I mean, I have never had a copy editor try to change “knelt” to “kneeled,” that I can recall.

I think Gary may be facing the (occasionally) dreaded “house style”, where the publishing house insists on some particular grammatical or stylistic trick which you happen to hate.

Top stylistic detail I dislike about a house style I’ve had to accept: capitalization of the first word after a colon. I like it the way I did it above and the way I’m doing it here: no capital letter, even if the preceding clause is a complete sentence. I get the rule, but usually it looks wrong to me. But whatever! Not that important.

Top stylistic detail I dislike about the writing of otherwise excellent writers: “All right” is TWO WORDS. TWO. WORDS. It is not “Alright.” That is important. I DON’T CARE if the dictionary has knuckled under to the barbarians. “All right” is ALWAYS two words.

And if you’re writing a book and you happen to disagree, well, do keep in mind what happens to me if I’m reading a book and I’ve fallen into the story and Our Hero fights off the giant furry white snake and then The Love Interest cries in horror, “Oh my God, are you alright?”

I flinch and fall out of the story, that’s what happens. And so does everyone who agrees with me, which is a lot of people, including many many people you probably hope will enjoy your book. Just guessing, but that is probably not what you want to have happening in the middle of the action.

And since everyone seems to agree that “All right” is fine and those who don’t mind “Alright” don’t actually object to “All right,” can we just please agree to always use the two-word version so that we can all be happy? Would that be all right with you?

All right, then. Good.

And no dealing playing cards when you really need to have dealt with that pesky farmer, either.

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