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Another show vs telling article

samuelmichaels

This one makes a point that sometimes telling is the right thing to do: http://www.tor.com/2016/07/14/showing-telling-and-the-limits-of-adaptation-an-orwellian-case-study/

REP

As the author of the article Robert Repino said, "My own interpretation of "show, don't tell" changed dramatically after taking a class taught by the short story writer Pamela Painter. Even some of the most vocal proponents of the rule, she told us, tend to violate it when doing so suits the story."

It sounds as if Painter is saying rules are made to be violated when it is appropriate to do so. I agree! I believe we place restrictions on ourselves by blind adherence to rules. However there are also times when one needs to adhere to the rules. Experience is usually a good guide as to when to deviate and when to adhere to rules -- or should we call them guidelines.

Dominions Son

@samuelmichaels

My main gripe on this topic is certain individuals who keep trying to nonsensically insist that indications of tone of voice or volume are "telling".

Crumbly Writer

The key, as always, is to understand the rules, so if you decide to break one to achieve a particular result, you know what you're getting into and what the ramifications are. Knowing how to do things gives you the freedom to flaunt standards.

Switch Blayde

@samuelmichaels

The problem arises when someone interprets "show don't tell" as "show, never tell."

I've never read an article that said show all the time. Well, if it's a 100% objective POV it's show all the time, but most people don't write that way.

Switch Blayde

@samuelmichaels

Just read the article. IMO, it's justification/praise for an omniscient narrator.

awnlee jawking

@samuelmichaels

There are dreadful examples of dialogue that merely tells rather than shows.


I can think of a number of stories I've read recently in which the authors have used protracted dialogues (I use the term loosely to include monologues) as an artifice to convey exposition. I consider it poor technique.

AJ

Replies:   samuelmichaels
samuelmichaels

@awnlee jawking

I can think of a number of stories I've read recently in which the authors have used protracted dialogues (I use the term loosely to include monologues) as an artifice to convey exposition. I consider it poor technique.


"As you know, Bob, ..."

Crumbly Writer

@samuelmichaels

"As you know, Bob, ..."

Or rather: "As you know, Bob, 2,370 years ago this Thursday ..."

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Or rather: "As you know, Bob, 2,370 years ago this Thursday ..."


As you know, Bob, 2,370 years ago this Thursday a meteor destroyed Rome...

awnlee jawking

@samuelmichaels

According to creative writing courses, it's almost on a par with: "I looked at myself in the mirror. Blonde hair, pretty face, 36C tits, small waist and flat stomach..."

Having said that, there are probably cases where those techniques are appropriate and do the job.

AJ

Dicrostonyx

Generally, when I've seen I've seen this and other rules of writing, the intent has not been to say that all writers must follow these rules, but rather they are used as a teaching tools for new writers. Most new writers, especially young writers, have the same sorts of problems with their prose: spelling and grammar errors, homophone mistakes, writing casually (making non-dialogue sound like dialogue), repetition, use of short or overly simple sentences, and a lack of character voice. There are other common errors, that's just off the top of my head.

Thus, the "rules" of writing are really just mnemonics intended as easy to remember counters to the most common types of error. "Show don't tell" isn't about passive voice or description versus action, rather it is intended to get the author thinking about how to describe a character or situation in a way that will evoke a reaction instead of telling the audience how they should react.

An easy example would be the difference between telling the audience that a character is intelligent, witty, or perceptive and actually portraying the character in that way. Too often, especially in amateur writing, the audience is simply told that a character is intelligent or witty, but the character has simple dialogue or acts in a normal way. Thus, "show don't tell" reminds the author that the character should be depicted as witty with clever dialogue, being quick on the uptake, or making connections which other characters miss.

Once an author develops the skills they can of course choose to ignore the rules -- because they were never really rules, they were just a way to help you develop your writing. One caution, though: many intermediate authors use "I'm trying something different" as an excuse for bad writing. Playing with the rules is fine if there is a specific reason to do so, but if an author's style involves routinely ignoring a specific "rule", that often indicates that they didn't develop the underlying skill in the first place and have confused a bad habit with personal style.

The problem with "show don't tell" is that it isn't always obvious that this is meant simply as a training tool, as it does sound like a clear style guide. So here's another "rule of writing" that better illustrates how these are just training tools: "never use contractions".

Although often associated with formal writing, avoiding contractions is generally taught as part of creative writing as well, but only as a way of breaking other bad habits. No one is really saying that prose should never include any contractions, especially in dialogue, but by writing without them you train yourself to think of the words in terms of their meaning, rather than the sound (such as "would of"). Not only does this help address common errors like confusing possessive with plural but it acts as practice for general grammar rules, producing a writer who is better able to deal with issues.

For this to work the author cannot simply write as they wish then remove any contractions during editing; the point is to train yourself to write without using contractions at all, then put them back in where applicable. Then, once any underlying bad habits have been identified and dealt with, the author can return to writing in a more casual style, hopefully without reverting to any bad habits.

tldr; : "Rules of writing" should only be consider as rules for teaching writing. Once you know what you are doing, and can make sound judgements about style, you should pay more attention to more complex elements like genre elements and construction of voice than to elements of basic style.

Ernest Bywater

@Dicrostonyx

Although often associated with formal writing, avoiding contractions is generally taught as part of creative writing as well, but only as a way of breaking other bad habits. No one is really saying that prose should never include any contractions, especially in dialogue, but by writing without them you train yourself to think of the words in terms of their meaning, rather than the sound (such as "would of"). Not only does this help address common errors like confusing possessive with plural but it acts as practice for general grammar rules, producing a writer who is better able to deal with issues.


This may be true, but it means the stories written without contractions, especially in the dialogue, sound extremely childish and stilted, and never flow freely.

Replies:   REP
Switch Blayde

@Dicrostonyx

Once an author develops the skills they can of course choose to ignore the rules -- because they were never really rules, they were just a way to help you develop your writing.


I would say once you establish the skills you will naturally show (and of course know when to tell).

As to contractions, today's genre fiction uses contractions in the narrative.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dicrostonyx


evoke a reaction


THANK YOU VERY MUCH for that simple phrase, but to me also words of wisdom from an old hand.

As a new writer I have read about 'Show, Don't Tell', and I can see why it is an important skill to develop, but there's always been this lingering 'But how?' in my mind too. That simple phrase looks like something I can use, in practice, to assess if writing is effective.

You also mentioned avoidance (rather than prohibition) of contradictions. This may be another thing that new writers can understand in principle, but have difficulty seeing in practice. Could you shower us struggling newbies with some more words of wisdom. Could you find some contradictions and explain how they can be modified to make creative writing more effective.

Replies:   Dicrostonyx
REP

@Ernest Bywater

I think that Dicrostonyx is talking about not using contractions in the papers turned in to the teacher as part of the training; not the stories that these neophyte writers will post for public consumption.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@REP

I think that Dicrostonyx is talking about not using contractions in the papers turned in to the teacher as part of the training; not the stories that these neophyte writers will post for public consumption.


I would hope they don't use them in college essays and assignments, but if writing a creative story, nothing can kill a character's credibility than making them sound like a ponce by having them always speak with proper formal English, and never a contraction.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  REP
Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

nothing can kill a character's credibility than making them sound like a ponce by having them always speak with proper formal English, and never a contraction.


I've said this before, but it needs re-saying. Almost anything is okay in dialogue. Run-on sentences and other bad grammar, contractions, slang, even misspelled words if that's how the character says them.

When someone says not to use contractions in fiction they're talking about the narrative (NOT THE DIALOGUE).

In the past, for 3rd-person (not 1st-person), the rule was the narrative was formal English, hence no contractions. But times have changed and we live in a more informal world. Pick up a book by Stephen King and you'll see the narrative filled with contractions.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

I agree 100%. If you create a character who thinks and speaks using contractions then it is proper to use them in dialog and narrative.

Yes, I know some consider that form of narrative to be dialog; I'm just using the definition that the thoughts are not being spoken to a second party.

Crumbly Writer

@Dicrostonyx

"Rules of writing" should only be consider as rules for teaching writing. Once you know what you are doing, and can make sound judgements about style, you should pay more attention to more complex elements like genre elements and construction of voice than to elements of basic style.

Excellent description, Dicrostonyx. I keep ranting about 'the rules of writing' even though I'm fully aware there are NO hard and fast rules. Viewing them as 'training mnemonic' help us see them as not only suggestions, but teaching aids to get us to stop and consider WHY they're called for.

@Switch

As to contractions, today's genre fiction uses contractions in the narrative.

By "genre fiction", you mean virtually all fiction writing other than those already stilted and awkwardly phrased?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

By "genre fiction", you mean virtually all fiction writing other than those already stilted and awkwardly phrased?


Popular fiction. Unless you're (not you specifically) writing literary fiction, it's probably what you're writing.

I saw this once: "Genre fiction is often controversially dismissed by literary critics as being pure escapism, clichéd, and of poor quality prose."

But it's what the masses want.

Crumbly Writer

The other question, beside pointing out that newbie authors need a new approach, is knowing how to apply it. As an example, I picked up on my overuse of the past-perfect tense (ex: "had" and similar verbs). I set about reducing them, then after some time, reconsidered, assuming after reading another article, that it's a "valid English usage", and went backwards, using it more freely. Now I'm revisiting it again. Switch pointed it out as a weak spot, so I started revisiting it, when I discovered how many I use which can easily be discarded without impacting the story at all, and removing the 'passive' verbs makes the prose more dynamic and stronger, rather than making it more difficult. That's a win-win in my book, only it's often hard to see from the trenches.

It's one thing to point out issues, it's another to learn how to implement them, and another entirely to learn when they're appropriate to use and when they aren't. I'm not sure I've figured any of these various learning techniques out yet. :( Still, I'm making slow but steady progress, getting better all the time.

Dicrostonyx

@Ross at Play

You also mentioned avoidance (rather than prohibition) of contradictions. This may be another thing that new writers can understand in principle, but have difficulty seeing in practice. Could you shower us struggling newbies with some more words of wisdom. Could you find some contradictions and explain how they can be modified to make creative writing more effective.


Well, the point isn't to write without contractions; as Ernest Bywater and Switch Blayde point out contractions are part of modern writing. The point is to practice writing without contractions in order to identify and address other issues. Think of it as removing distractions or returning to basics; alternatively, if you're familiar with tech. support at all, you could think of it as working in a clean environment (rebooting, shutting down excess programs, etc.).

The point of writing (temporarily) without contractions is that the apostrophe is used in two very different ways: it is used to connect two words as a contraction and it is also used to show possession. Similarly, an "s" at the end of a sentence is used in two very different ways: to show possession and to show pluralisation. If you simply write naturally, based on how the language sounds in your head, and you don't already have a very good grounding in proper grammar, it can be pretty easy to start making mistakes without even realising it.

If you look up common apostrophe errors you'll see most of what I call contraction errors. In cases where a contraction sounds like a possessive, the possessive generally loses the apostrophe, such as "your" and "you're" or "they're" and "their". When you add in the plural, though, you often see people write words like "their's" or weird constructions like "womens basketball" (without the apostrophe, that is pluralising a plural). Worse, a lot of people will use apostrophe "s" to indicate a plural which can drastically change meaning. You also occasionally see straight out spelling mistakes, like "has'nt".

Also referenced in my first post is the increasingly common "would of". This is a very good example of the issue, because you can clearly see the difference between sound and meaning. "Would've" is so common that most people only hear it in that form, so it is easy to forget that it is a contraction of "would have". Not only is this a contraction problem, it's also a tense issue. If someone gets used to thinking of that phrase as not including the "have", it's easy to make other errors, such as relying on simple past instead of past perfect.

If a specific author doesn't make these sorts of mistakes, they can completely ignore the "avoid contractions" rule. If someone does have these issues, though, the point is to remove as many uses of the apostrophe as possible from their writing, identify the underlying mistake, and deal with that. Once a person can write naturally without using apostrophes incorrectly, they should of course start using contractions again. In some writing exercises a student will be asked to write the story without contractions, put them in during editing, then submit both versions.

...

Other rules that are often overused and misunderstood are "don't use the passive voice" and "write what you know". I like both of these because the goal really is to be somewhere in the middle; following either of these too rigidly is a bad as not following them at all, and either extreme will lose you a lot of readers, especially with the latter.

The problem with the passive voice is that it is very easy to overuse it. The best example I can think of off-hand was one given by an English professor about her husband who is a sociology professor. In sociology, the goal is to distance the observer from the action so as to imply the least possibility of contamination, but this leads to phrases like "it has been observed that...". A reader of fiction, on encountering that phrase, should immediately ask "who observed it?". In fiction, it can be seen (now I'm doing it!) as a less cliché version of "it is said".

You might be able to get away with a phrase like that if using an omniscient narrator who is disconnected from events. Terry Pratchett uses similar phrases occasionally, usually to open a scene or in a footnote, as an entry to providing exposition.

In writing fiction, the passive voice is used to emphasise the event or recipient of the action (the patient) over the actor or major character (the agent). As such there certainly are situations where it is appropriate to use the passive voice, but it's really not something that should be a habit. Over use of passive voice removes the reader from the action, and weakens the impact of events. It is especially a problem in any story told in the past tense, as so many are, because it heightens the feeling that there is nothing really at risk.

As for "write what you know", this can go really bad in either direction. There are a few different interpretations of the phrase, but here I'm talking about the "I like X, so I'll write about X" version. Generally, an author should try to be as accurate as possible about any known thing which is not intentionally changed for the story. More simply, if you're writing a story on a given subject and get simple details wrong, then you're going to lose any readers who know more about the subject than you do. This is of course ignored if the change is part of your fictional universe, but it has to be clear to the reader that it was an intentional change not just a mistake.

So when Star Trek has faster than light travel, that's fine, because it is a necessary and accepted element of telling any space based story, but when Dr. Crusher talks about an organism being "half bacteria and half virus", it makes no sense. A virus is a bag of genes, it can't even replicate until it takes over a host cell; a bacteria is basically a very simple animal. The average viewer may not know the difference between those two falsehoods, but anyone who does know biology will.

The flip-side of "write what you know" is a good chunk of fantasy published between the mid-70s and the mid-90s. Even best-sellers and classics of the era often read like decent quality fanfic, and very few try to do anything new with setting, character, or story structure. The ones that aren't just fourth generation copies of Lord of the Rings tend to be "let me tell you about this really cool campaign I played, but don't remember all the details of". And yes, I'm being overly harsh, but there's a point to that.

If all you do is write what you know, you're less likely to produce anything new. Why should anyone spend thirty hours reading your story when they can just go back and re-read the original? On the other hand, if you screw up too many details, you'll lose a lot of readers who feel that you just don't have a clue. I've heard this described as a "believability budget" (similar to a special effects budget); readers will ignore a few errors, but everyone has a limit. Too many mistakes and you'll lose too much of the audience to sustain the story.

Better than "write what you know" would be "write what you want to know about". In other words, any significant element of your story which you aren't certain of should be researched, so make sure that you are writing on a subject that you want to actually learn about. If you don't enjoy the research then you'll tend to skip it, and that leads to mistakes. You can take that too far, since eventually you have to stop researching and actually write, but you can't skip that step.

No one's story is going to be perfectly accurate, but some mistakes are more glaring than others, and readers often can tell the difference between an intentional change and a mistake.

Dominions Son

@Dicrostonyx

If you look up common apostrophe errors you'll see most of what I call contraction errors. In cases where a contraction sounds like a possessive, the possessive generally loses the apostrophe, such as "your" and "you're" or "they're" and "their".


In my experience the single biggest problem in this area is its vs it's

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dicrostonyx


Well, the point isn't to write without contractions


Whoops! My BAD. And I mean 'MY REALLY BIG BAD!!!'

I misread your 'contractions' for 'contradictions', and checking the posts, it was my mistake.

I actually favour fairly frequent contractions, even in narratives.

But you've gone to great lengths to set out your opinions in detail. I will have to study them later, because the bloody mall where I'm accessing the internet turned the f**kin' lights out on me at 10:01 local time.

I always value your opinions, that's why when I thought you mentioned something entirely different (contradictions, not contractions), I was willing to stoop to sycophantic flattery to manipulate some effort from you. Sorry about that, but you'll find a compliment in all that if you look hard enough.

I must rush now, before the cafe takes my table away.

Your efforts are, as always, greatly appreciated :)

richardshagrin

And there are a few authors whose pen names are contractions. Jay Can't rell, for example.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dicrostonyx

This is essentially a summary of the lengthy post above by Dicrostonyx, with a few of my ideas added. My shorter version may help others, but I also want him to check this so I can be sure I have understood him correctly.

CONTRACTIONS

He noted contractions can easily be confused with homonyms for possessive and plural forms. They can quite tricky, especially with the possessive pronouns, and words with singular forms ending with an s-sound. I think I should refrain from writing any true accounts of things I did during my university days with a friend who was also named Ross - on the grounds that may put my editors' mental health at risk! Our other friends had no problems with us; I was always 'Grotty Ross'.

Authors who don't make these sorts of mistakes can completely ignore the "avoid contractions" rule.

For others who do have issues with these, it's best to write (temporarily) without contractions, and then put them in later during editing. Think of it as removing distractions, so that tense and plurality agreements, etc. can be checked first - things with a definite right or wrong - before applying your stylistic choices of how frequently to use contractions as one of the final processes before posting.

I can see another definite ADVANTAGE in writers delaying their placement of contractions until the editing process. Before adding them, the writer could make lists of what contractions each character uses, or does not use. The narrator must be treated as another character. One character may use 'would of', 'gonna' and 'dya', while their friend might remain more formal saying them. It seems it would be easier to give characters individual voices if all of their contractions were done at the same time.

I note that characters should not ALWAYS use the same contractions. For me the entire attraction of using contractions (most of the time) is SO THAT the meaning will be different when the full form is used. In everyday speech, "it's" and "it is" are NOT the same.

It seems ESSENTIAL to me that two forms of contractions are available when writing drafts. I'd suggest bold font to mean you want to keep the full form, for emphasis. I would use a font I otherwise reserve for headings for that purpose.

So to Dicrostonyx, thank you for your words of wisdom. I think WE'VE found something very useful for newer writers here.

ACRONYMS IN DIALOGUE

I suggested (actually I told) one author they can only use 'OK' if quoting it as it was written. I pontificated, 'Your characters may not know they are making the sound of a proper word in the language (okay), but they are, so you must write that.' I DID add that as long as they were comfortable with me stating this MUST be changed every time I see it, I will be comfortable with whatever they choose to do.

Even more curious was when the same author had 'OMG' in dialogue. 'Surely,' I wailed, 'nobody spells that out when speaking!" Her answer was, 'My nieces [similar ages to her characters] do spell out texting codes in speech all the time. They don't want adults understanding what they say to each other". I agreed that MUST then be a part of her characters' speech patterns, but fairly consistently.

I wondered after you comments about 'the increasingly common [abomination] would of'. I'm now inclined to allow that in dialogue. I can see that two characters who are close friends might be shown better with the more crass or working-class one using "would of" in dialogue, while the other uses "would've".

PASSIVE VOICE & WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW

Regarding the overuse of the passive voice. It definitely has it's place. In fiction it should usually be, 'The man was bitten by a dog', but I'd be confident John Irving wrote in The World According to Garp, '(The man) bit (the dog)' back in retaliation. In Watership Down, similar things would probably have been the other way around. Are others acting upon your characters without their consent? That question might get pretty tricky for writers of BDSM stories, but at least authors won't end up in goal like Boy George if get those answers wrong.

Dicrostonyx made some other points about instances where a passive voice may be a useful tool for an author. I will not attempt to summarise those, but suggest others read the original instead. There are times a writer wants their narrator to become a more distant observer.

I suggest the same for his comments on "write what you know", but note his suggestion it's better to "write what you want to know about", so you'll be less inclined to skimp on your research into subjects that interest you.

I'm very glad now I stuffed up my question. I misread 'contractions' as 'contra[di]ctions' and then thought I'd asked about something I already knew, but I ending up learning a lot from my little snafu.

Ernest Bywater

As a person who uses contractions all the time, and whenever I can in a story the only time I no longer use a contraction, and refuse to use a contraction, is the situation of contracting is onto the end of a proper name. I reserve the 's on a proper name to possessive because it can lead to reader confusion if used for a contracted is. I didn't always think this way, but do now. Thus Henry's or Anna's or John's is possessive only, now.

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

hey are making the sound of a proper word in the language (okay)


I've several dictionaries that say okay is not a proper word, but is another way of writing OK and so is O.K. However, despite what some people write Ok is not an accepted form.

There is no agreement on the entomology of the term beyond it having originated on the US East Coast and being an informal word of agreement. Due to the first recorded locations of regular use, and the migrant populations in that area, many believe it to have started as a misheard way of saying Och aye a traditional Scottish statement of agreement. Which explains why some spell it okay with the 'ch' changed to a 'k' and the two words slurred together.

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

ACRONYMS IN DIALOGUE


If an acronym is not a common use one shown in a good dictionary as being used around the world, include what it stands for or show it's meaning in the context of its first usage.

I spent years thinking IHOP was a disco dance club owned by Apple before a US author included it stood for International House of Pancakes. I had a similar issue with what a Micky D's was because it's not a natural fall out of the name of McDonalds.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

Thanks, Ernest. I'll take it as understood you were only talking about in the narrative, in dialogue it's the characters who choose when to use contractions.

I might consider going with REP for 1-POV, and try to use a similar voice in both their narrative and dialogue. The only niggling thought I have about that is: Would MC be consistent in their use of contractions? In conversations many MCs use contractions and bad grammar frequently. My thought is whether their voice when narrating should be a bit more formal, trying to replicate how they would sound if telling a long tale to an audience at an open mic night in a bar. The differences may be slight, but that's the idea I'd like to have in my mind.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Thanks, that was totally unhelpful. :)
So, entirely author's choice between okay, OK and O.K.
I will pass your information onto my author.
I'll add I hate anything other than 'okay' so much I'll always ask for it to be changed, but I'll be comfortable with whatever they choose to do.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

include what it stands for or show it's meaning in the context of its first usage.

For example, if my author's girls might actually say, "He broke up with me! QQ."
Should she write, 'He broke up with me! QQ. [more tears]' the first time that is used?

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

I'll take it as understood you were only talking about in the narrative, in dialogue it's the characters who choose when to use contractions.


Be it in dialogue or narrative, you need to be consistent with how you use them. Despite that there are times when I'll not use a contraction for an unusual reason, but that's rare.

With dialogue you have two other issue, one is the usage must fit the character, as you say, an English professor won't use the same contractions as a street kid. The other is when someone will drop the contraction for emphasis, in which case it's best to also use bold to show it's due to emphasis; example: Fred said, "Jack, you idiot, I did not say to pull the wall out now. I said it had to come out later."

Your idea of the open mic is a lot like mine of having the narrator telling the story while sitting around a campfire.

............

One thing I don't think we've mentioned, is it's a good idea to match the narrator to the main character or to identify the main narrator's background early in the story. In many of my stories the narrator is an Aussie (the MC often is too) and I keep getting people trying to tell me how things are called in the US. The point is, an Aussie in the US will still call them by what he normally uses, but you need to let the readers be aware of that without being too obvious about it.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Your idea of the open mic is a lot like mine of having the narrator telling the story while sitting around a campfire.

Wouldn't hecklers at a bar be a closer match to our 1-bombers?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

Wouldn't hecklers at a bar be a closer match to our 1-bombers?


I ignore them, like I ignore all insignificant gnats.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

I spent years thinking IHOP was a disco dance club owned by Apple


It's a major part of Apple's branding that they use a lowercase i. The Apple disco dance club would be iHop.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Capt Zapp

@Ross at Play

For example, if my author's girls might actually say, "He broke up with me! QQ."
Should she write, 'He broke up with me! QQ. [more tears]' the first time that is used?


While I have heard people that actually say things like 'OMG', 'IDK', 'LOL', and 'WTF' in conversation, I have never heard anyone say 'QQ'.

IMO, people who actually vocalize text-speak sound like uneducated fools.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Dominions Son

@Capt Zapp

IMO, people who actually vocalize text-speak sound like uneducated fools.


A given story could call for a character that is an uneducated fool.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

the situation of contracting is onto the end of a proper name.

I can't recall seeing that done in writing, but do accept that some writers use that form of contraction. When I stop and think about it, I can recall using that form of contraction in my speech.

REP

@Ernest Bywater

I've several dictionaries that say okay is not a proper word,


This is part of the process of expanding a language.

The Lexicographers who control the presence of a word in dictionaries are reluctant to add a newly coined word to their dictionaries, until the new word has gain sufficient public usage. It is us, the users of the language who create the words. However, it is the lexicographers who determine if the new words are sufficiently valid to be included in the dictionary.

REP

@Capt Zapp

I have never heard anyone say 'QQ'


I don't follow all these abbreviations, but I do know what the more common ones mean. QQ was new to me, so I had to look it up.

According to the Urban Dictionary, it started with people who engage in online games. The command Alt+Q+Q was used to exit a game. The gamers used QQ to tell fellow gamers who whined about things that they should exit the game instead of whining. It isn't clear how whining/crying about something evolved into a meaning of "Tears".

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

So, entirely author's choice between okay, OK and O.K.


It's always the author's choice, but I believe "okay" is what should be used in both dialogue and narrative.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

It's a major part of Apple's branding that they use a lowercase i.


And CMOS says it's okay to start a sentence with a lower case when it's the Apple product.

Dominions Son

@REP

It isn't clear how whining/crying about something evolved into a meaning of "Tears".


Seriously, you can't see that QQ looks like two eyes with tears?

Replies:   REP
REP

@Dominions Son

Yes I can. The Urban Dictionary did point out the appearance of QQ appearing to tears in someone's eyes.

My comment was about how the meaning behind QQ changed from whining to tears.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@REP

My comment was about how the meaning behind QQ changed from whining to tears.


That's my point, the fact that it looks like crying eyes, is probably how/why the meaning changed.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

It's always the author's choice, but I believe "okay" is what should be used in both dialogue and narrative.

I used to use "O.K.", but Switch convinced me to use "okay" instead. The thinking is, you spell things out in the narrative, so you'd use "okay". In dialogue, you write what the speaker says. Thus if they said "35th & Vine" (with the "35" in superscript), you'd write that she's they're (supposedly) referring to street signs. However, since "O.K." and "okay" are pronounced the exact same, and since using two form of the same word, I'd always use "okay" since you gain nothing doing otherwise.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

That's my point, the fact that it looks like crying eyes, is probably how/why the meaning changed.

Personally, "QQ" looks more like two guys peeing when seen from overhead. Females would look like a capital "O" with an umlaut.

By the way, why the hell use text when the currently universally accepted standard is emoticons?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dicrostonyx

Two days too late, I found a perfect example of contractions gone wild. This is from Garth Ennis' Preacher, issue 18 (October 1996): "See, we'd of done Murphy there an' then, we'd of had to do van Patten as well".

I've several dictionaries that say okay is not a proper word, but is another way of writing OK and so is O.K.


Despite it being controversial, I use "okay", since that spelling acts as a guide to pronunciation. There are a few authors whose use of textual oddities in speech really bugs me, so I consciously try to make dialogue as easy to sound out as possible.

'My nieces [similar ages to her characters] do spell out texting codes in speech all the time.


In this situation, and this is definitely stylistic, I would probably use either "O-M-G" or "oh-em-gee". It helps to inform the reader that the character really is using the letters, rather than the author being sloppy, and is more clear to international readers who may know the language, but not the slang. OMG is probably fairly universal, but not everything is.

For example, if my author's girls might actually say, "He broke up with me! QQ."
Should she write, 'He broke up with me! QQ. [more tears]' the first time that is used?


I would suggest that it would depend on whether the naration character understand the meaning, and how much personality the narrator has.

If the narrator has a stream-of-consciousness feel of speaking directly to the audience, I would say something like " 'He broke up with me! QQ.' I faintly remembered that as meaning 'more tears', and wondered how genuine her heartbreak was since she wasn't actually crying.".

If the narrator is personalised in a way that he or she wouldn't know the meaning, or if omniscient but not likely to explain, I might use a footnote or other include a glossary. Footnotes are tricky to use in fiction, though, and there are only a few authors who really do it well.

IMO, people who actually vocalize text-speak sound like uneducated fools.


They're adolescents, being educated is a work in progress.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dicrostonyx

I would probably use either "O-M-G" or "oh-em-gee".


When authors write "OMG" in dialogue I don't think they're character is saying the letters. How many people say "oh em gee"? So I write it either as "oh-my-god" or sometimes "omigod" if they're saying it real fast.

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp

@Switch Blayde

How many people say "oh em gee"?


As I said before, I actually know people who are not teens (one is almost 30!) that say "O-M-G", "L-O-L", "W-T-F", and several other 'texting words' in regular verbal communication. Almost makes me wish they would go back to surfer dude and valley-girl speech.

That would be like, totally gnarly dude!

On second thought, I would rather they didn't. :(

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

By the way, why the hell use text when the currently universally accepted standard is emoticons?


The text versions are also emoticons and in fact are the original emoticons. :-) and :-( go all the way back to 1982.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoticon#Antecedents

as to why use the text versions today? Many forums (including this one) still don't support graphical emoticons. :-(

Dominions Son

@Capt Zapp

s I said before, I actually know people who are not teens (one is almost 30!) that say "O-M-G", "L-O-L", "W-T-F", and several other 'texting words' in regular verbal


I've used "W-T-F" when in mixed company.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Capt Zapp


people who actually vocalize text-speak sound like uneducated fools.


Yes and No! The function of speech is allow your audience to understand you. I see no problem with them doing it amongst themselves - as long as they know they'll get a smack around the ears or be sent to their room if they speak that way to any adult.

@Switch Blayde


I believe "okay" is what should be used in both dialogue and narrative.


I strongly agree, but sadly, dictionaries say it is merely an acceptable alternative for 'OK' (Oxford), or 'O.K.' (Collins). It goes against my principles about what is correct, but I think I must accept it as an anomaly resulting from its unknown origins, as described by EB above.

@Dicrostonyx


In this situation, and this is definitely stylistic, I would probably use either "O-M-G" or "oh-em-gee". It helps to inform the reader that the character really is using the letters ... I might use a footnote or include a glossary


I'll suggest my author goes with her first instinct. If readers see 'O.M.G.' inside dialogue in the first few pages, they will know the character really is saying the letters. After that, whatever nonsense the characters say to each other can be defined inside brackets when first used, but best to add a glossary as well.

Were we really such pains in the arse/butt when we were young? Perhaps we were? A lot of my whinges do seem to have a deja vu quality to them.

One question. I notice you, CZ and DS all suggested 'O-M-G'. I have no idea why. Is there some stylistic convention I've never seen (or noticed) before, regarding the use of hyphens in dialogue?

One more question. Can you confirm the Earth has not turned upside down? Do you just write 'USA, UN and IBM' in dialogue when a speaker spells out the acronyms?

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

an acceptable alternative for 'OK'


Sorry if I wasn't fully clear earlier. O.K., okay, OK are all interchangeable - none of them are accepted as proper words by the dictionaries - the main point I was making before is OK is not short for okay - they're alternative spellings, is all. All three are informal words (kind of like slang) to mean all right or you agree. Thus you can use any of the three that suits you, as each are just as valid as the others. Whatever you choose, be consistent in its usage within the story.

I prefer OK because it takes less space and I don't have to worry about how and when I should capitalize it, because it's the same at the start of a sentence as it is in the middle and the end of a sentence.

Capt Zapp

@Dominions Son

I've used "W-T-F" when in mixed company.


I am old school and still say "What the heck", "Holy Cow", and other terms that I don't have to worry about using in mixed company or around impressionable youth, instead of using the more 'colorful' language that is so prevalent today.

Replies:   sejintenej
Capt Zapp

@Ross at Play

I notice you, CZ and DS all suggested 'O-M-G'


For the most part, I did not use the hyphens. I only added them as because the comment I replied to had used them.

With things that appear in all caps that are known to be acronyms, such as shown in your examples, we assume the reader is aware of that fact and that they will read them as individual letters. There are some that many readers may not recognize such as FIGMO, OMGIF, TANJ and TANSTAAFL that are actually read as words. Most military or ex-military will probably recognize the first two, while the last two will be recognized by those who read Niven.

sejintenej
Updated:

@Capt Zapp


I am old school and still say "What the heck", "Holy Cow", and other terms that I don't have to worry about using in mixed company or around impressionable youth, instead of using the more 'colorful' language that is so prevalent today.


I tend to use "Oh sugar" as a swear word in company - the emphasis explains it but it cannot be taken offensively.

As for all the other abbreviations and inventions, a few are internet-speak (LOL, ROTFL, FOAD, Merkin for example) whilst if you are ancient you might remember SWALK and the like. One of the few accepted in the best company has to be OK (however you write it) but most, such as QQ, are useable only to the few.
Then of course there are those wrongly abbreviated used like US which could refer to the US of M or even the US of A 'and there are probably more such US'es such as India

richardshagrin

@sejintenej

And an all time favorite USA, the Union of South Africa. Replace by a Republic, but it was there for a while.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

And an all time favorite USA


Some time after WW2, a city in Japan renamed itself "USA" so they could label exports "made in USA." Of course nowadays "made in Japan" indicates higher quality, but not back then.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

I tend to use "Oh sugar" as a swear word in company - the emphasis explains it but it cannot be taken offensively.

anyone remember "Holy Malarky!" (No hand-crafted emoticon this time)

Dicrostonyx

@Ross at Play

One more question. Can you confirm the Earth has not turned upside down? Do you just write 'USA, UN and IBM' in dialogue when a speaker spells out the acronyms?


The difference basically comes down to universality and acceptance. Terms like USA and IBM only have one usage, at least as far as the average reader will be concerned. I'm sure there are probably a few special interest groups with the same letters, but no one reading those terms today will be confused about either how to pronounce them or what they refer to.

Texting terms like OMG are different in several ways. First, they are fairly new, at least in general usage (the first known use of OMG in the modern meaning was in 1917, but it didn't catch on). Second, as this thread illustrates, there is a generational gap in how people read the term OMG.

Among people over about 30, OMG is a text only stand-in for the phrase "oh my God". When you see text including that phrase, you probably just automatically insert the full words into your understanding of the sentence. Clearer examples might be RTFM or AFAIK.

Younger generations, at least in some subgroups, have adopted the acronyms as words with their own meaning, as mentioned above. Some young people actually will say "oh-em-gee", and don't automatically translate it into "oh my god" in their heads. The acronym itself has meaning. This would be equivalent to a word like laser, where many people probably don't even realise that it is an acronym, let alone what it stands for.

So the difference for the author has to do with audience reception. If you are specifically writing for teens then you can certainly just use the acronym. If you're writing for a general audience, though, you have to keep in mind that different readers will interpret that acronym in a different way. If the character really is sounding out the letters, and you want it to be clear to the audience that that is happening, then you need to also spell it out at least once.

Alternatively, you could simply have the narrator say something like "While he would actually say the phrase when talking, he noticed that his niece always used the letters and didn't even really seem to realise that it was an acronym. She just spoke the letters as though it was a word with its own unique meaning."

In another generation or two, terms like OMG and LOL might well be common enough in speech that there would be no reason to spell them out. On the other hand, they may just disappear, either because text-to-speech will become better or because they (or the technology) will be replaced by something else. Right now, though, the terms are still in flux.

Replies:   Ross at Play  sharkjcw
Ross at Play

@Dicrostonyx

If the character really is sounding out the letters, and you want it to be clear to the audience that that is happening, then you need to also spell it out at least once.

Thanks. My author's characters do speak like that, so the question becomes how to make it clear to audiences who may not.
I think 'O.M.G.' inside dialogue will be clear to readers the acronym is being spelled out.
Perhaps that one is so universal it is not necessary to add '[Oh, My God!] after it is first used, but I think all other text-speak should be defined when it is first used.
Others may think LOL is already universal too, but there would be a lot of old bridge players who use that to mean 'a pair of little old ladies who are more skillful than you might presume'.
I think a glossary is also needed, just so readers know where to find the translation into text-speak if the meaning did not stick in their head the first time they saw it, with definition added.
My only remaining question is whether to style for showing spelled out text-speak should be OMG, O.M.G, or O-M-G. My advice to my author will be choose the style you prefer, then be consistent.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

My only remaining question is whether to style for showing spelled out text-speak should be OMG, O.M.G, or O-M-G. My advice to my author will be choose the style you prefer, then be consistent.


I prefer O-M-G (if the person is saying the letters) but could live with OMG. O.M.G. looks wrong to me.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I prefer O-M-G (if the person is saying the letters) but could live with OMG. O.M.G. looks wrong to me.

Same here. If I saw "O.M.G.", I'd likely start Googling abbreviations rather than think "Oh my God!"

sharkjcw

@Dicrostonyx

Had an aunt who used LOL at the end of a text saying that her husband was in the hospital. We asked why she thought it was funny. She wanted to know why we thought Lots Of Love stood for.

samuelmichaels

@Dominions Son

I've used "W-T-F" when in mixed company.


I heard people use W-T-F in a more-or-less professional context when they were truly surprised or disappointed, but didn't want to curse.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  REP
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@samuelmichaels


I heard people use W-T-F in a more-or-less professional context when they were truly surprised or disappointed, but didn't want to curse.


Other than LOL, I've never said out the letters.

In mixed company, if I said anything, it would be:

What the...!

REP

@samuelmichaels

but didn't want to curse


I have often wondered why the substitute for a curse word, which means the same thing, is acceptable in polite society when the curse word is unacceptable.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

I have often wondered why the substitute for a curse word, which means the same thing, is acceptable in polite society when the curse word is unacceptable.


It goes way back to when all curse or swear words and phrases involved deities and were really oaths calling on or abusing a deity. In polite society you couldn't actual call on a deity in an abusive manner in public without getting into major troubles with the various forms of heresy laws - but a substitute that left out the deity saved you from being charged for using God's name in vain. This eventually morphed into avoiding the worst words in any oath or curse, and continues to this day, due to social inertia.

Replies:   REP  samuelmichaels
REP

@Ernest Bywater

Thanks. I knew a lot of that but never made the connection.

What I was actually thinking about was Samuelmichaels statement about the use of W-T-F instead of cursing by saying What the Fuck.

Several years I shocked my family by saying "Oh Fuck!" in a rather loud voice. I rarely curse so it had a major impact and I most definitely got everyone's attention.

When every fifth word out of someone's mouth is a curse word, cursing has little or no impact on the listener.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@REP


When every fifth word out of someone's mouth is a curse word, cursing has little or no impact on the listener.


I learned that many years ago, and early in life I adopted odd phrases that didn't get you into trouble with the law while getting people to stop and think about what you said - like Five flaming flying fish fly fast causes people to have WTF moment about what I said. Then with watching Red Dwarf I started using Smeg and Frak a lot.

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp

@REP

When every fifth word out of someone's mouth is a curse word, cursing has little or no impact on the listener.


If every fifth word out of someone's mouth is a curse word, I don't even bother to listen to what they have to say. It would be like having to dig through a turd trying to get the corn.

Capt Zapp

@Ernest Bywater

Then with watching Red Dwarf I started using Smeg and Frak a lot.


Never used Smeg, but have used Frak and Felgercarb from watching the original Battlestar Galactica.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@REP

:) Bloody hell! Aussies always use bloody every fifth word, every bloody time. Its had no bloody impact at all on bloody listeners. We just love bloody well doing it.

samuelmichaels

@Ernest Bywater

It goes way back to when all curse or swear words and phrases involved deities and were really oaths calling on or abusing a deity. In polite society you couldn't actual call on a deity in an abusive manner in public without getting into major troubles with the various forms of heresy laws - but a substitute that left out the deity saved you from being charged for using God's name in vain.

Even without the heresy accusations, making use of terms of faith in a curse was considered shocking. "[God] damn it" was considered to be a literal prayer to God to damn the subject of your curse. Aside from being blasphemous, there is no worse thing to wish, and could only be appropriate in extremis, when the target of the curse deserved eternal damnation.

Minced oaths (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minced_oath) were a common way around this.

Replies:   REP
REP

@samuelmichaels

Minced oaths (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minced_oath) were a common way around this.


My thoughts are that a minced oath is essentially the same thing as stating a blasphemous oath if the listener knows that the minced oath represents the full blasphemous oath. I believe that is commonly called circumlocution.

Isn't the speaker just a blasphemous by stating a minced oath, as the speaker would be by stating the full oath? Shouldn't the listener be just as offended by the minced oath, as they would be by the full oath?

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I have often wondered why the substitute for a curse word, which means the same thing, is acceptable in polite society when the curse word is unacceptable.

You mean like "Oh, fudge!" Somehow, your boss is less likely to get upset than the alternative.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Crumbly Writer

your boss is less likely to get upset than the alternative.


True, however my remark is about why we are accepting of "Oh, fudge!" when we know the speaker means "Oh, fuck! or some other expletive."

Ernest Bywater

@REP

True, however my remark is about why we are accepting of "Oh, fudge!" when we know the speaker means "Oh, fuck! or some other expletive."


because, in many cases it isn't actually an oath, just an exclamation sound d by the person. that's why we now have cuss words and oaths as separate things in many case.

Capt Zapp

@REP

when we know the speaker means "Oh, fuck! or some other expletive."


Maybe the speaker DIDN'T mean that. Perhaps that was just their way of saying "Well that didn't go as well as I had hoped." Why do we always assume it means an expletive? It is all in how the listener interprets what they think they hear.

Replies:   REP
sejintenej

@REP


True, however my remark is about why we are accepting of "Oh, fudge!" when we know the speaker means "Oh, fuck! or some other expletive."

Your boss (or innocent great aunt) can't get upset about the word "fudge" even though they THINK they know what you mean but use the other F word and there are grounds for the old heave-ho.

REP

@Capt Zapp

DIDN'T mean that


I was responding to the scenario defined by CW.

REP

@sejintenej

People get upset with others all the time based on their assumptions. Remember, in such a situation the boss in using his situational awareness to evaluate what is happening. If he decides Fudge was a replacement for Fuck, he might get very upset depending on who you are talking with.

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

Your boss (or innocent great aunt) can't get upset about the word "fudge" even though they THINK they know what you mean but use the other F word


That just made me picture a guy with a sweet tooth, who has something go wrong on him on the factory floor. He says, "Oh fudge," in a very emphatic manner, and his boss turns around to say something, only to find the guy slipping a piece of fudge into his mouth while offering some to his boss, while he says, "When things go wrong I find it good to have a piece of fudge to help me think. Want some?"

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

That just made me picture a guy with a sweet tooth, who has something go wrong on him on the factory floor. He says, "Oh fudge," in a very emphatic manner, and his boss turns around to say something, only to find the guy slipping a piece of fudge into his mouth while offering some to his boss, while he says, "When things go wrong I find it good to have a piece of fudge to help me think. Want some?"

I prefer whipping my dick out and saying "When things go wrong, I like to have a good fuck!" (which accounts for why I no longer have a job!)

sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

He says, "Oh fudge," in a very emphatic manner, and his boss turns around to say something, only to find the guy slipping a piece of fudge into his mouth while offering some to his boss,

When the job went south he simply did a messy workaround or fudge.

awnlee jawking

@sejintenej

Your boss (or innocent great aunt) can't get upset about the word "fudge" even though they THINK they know what you mean


Sorry boss, but I refuse to share a hotel room with that fudge-packer. ;)

AJ

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Sorry boss, but I refuse to share a hotel room with that fudge-packer.

Boss: You wish you could catch a fudge-packer like that, instead, no one wants your pudgy straight ass!

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