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Software to Analyse the Frequency of Word Use in Text

Ross at Play

Is anyone aware of any free software that analyses the frequency of use for all unique words in a large block of text?

We all know the problem. We all have our 'go-to words' – the ones we tend to select, without thinking, in almost all situations where it's possible to use them. And it's very hard for us to recognise our own go-to words - they seem so natural to us.

If the basic software is free I could probably develop a package using Excel that is simple enough for others to use and produces results tailored to the specific needs of authors of fiction.

If the software is not free I could not produce something useful to others. If I did anything, I'd find some way to bend Excel to my will, and I expect some manual processes would be needed every time I wanted to analyse something.

graybyrd

Sure. Go here; this one is old, but works. Lots of info.

http://textalyser.net/

Ross at Play
Updated:

@graybyrd

THANKS, graybyrd.

It doesn't quite suit my intentions. The maximum length of text it can analyse at once is only 1,000 words.
I can use it for my needs, I'm a whizz at cutting and pasting into Excel, but not to create anything anyone else might find useful.
If it could analyse 10,000 words at once I probably could do that.
It would be ideal if it could analyse 100,000 words at once.

TO OTHERS ... Any other suggestions?

Crumbly Writer

I use autocrit, which is definitely not free. But the key isn't just listing words (there are numerous WORD and OO plug-ins which do the same thing), it's knowing what to count and what to emphasize. The majority of words in any text are the same seven words (ex: and, of, it, the, etc.), and often writers are more concerned with certain words grouped closely together, rather than how often a given word is found in any given chapter.

If the same word is frequently used, but they're separated by several chapters, then it's not really an issue. However, if you use them in the same sentences, or in one sentence followed by another, then you'll want to rephrase the sentences. Then again, frequently one character will say something and the other will repeat it, often as a question, which is a perfectly valid usage and a useful technique in dialogue.

Generally, I've found it's worth getting decent results, even if you have to pay, than getting meaningless free results you can't use.

Replies:   Ross at Play
John Demille

@Ross at Play

It doesn't quite suit my intentions. The maximum length of text it can analyse at once is only 1,000 words.


I uploaded a 5500 word file (54 KB) and it processed it.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I once had a great free tool that did that, but it was in my Favorites on my PC that won't boot up so it's lost. It made a cute picture chart of the most common words.

I tried to find it with Google, but no luck. However, I did find this cryptic one:
http://www.writewords.org.uk/word_count.asp

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

But the key isn't just listing words (there are numerous WORD and OO plug-ins which do the same thing), it's knowing what to count and what to emphasize.

I'd appreciate advise about OO plug-ins that do what I want, or how to look for them.

I am not looking for a tool to identify where words have been overused; I'm looking for something that might identify what I call authors' 'go-to words'.
EB calls them an authors' "darlings" - the words they tend to pick whenever they can be used. I agree with him that once authors discover one of their darlings/go-to words, they should be zealous in considering alternatives whenever they catch themselves about to use it.

I recently noticed one author had used 'like' 19 times in one chapter. He reviewed the chapter and reduced that to 4.
Another asked be if "nonsense" three times in one chapter was excessive. I answered that's a big problem if they are close together, but perhaps not if a long way apart. I sent him a link to thesaurus.com and suggested he does change them.
Interestingly, the author noticed two were introduced when suggested them while editing the chapter.

Perhaps 'nonsense' is one of your go-to words? :-) EDIT TO ADD. I just checked the first 20K words of your next story. You did not use 'nonsense' even once. As long as that story has a guy named 'Phil' who uses a 'cane', and there are a lot of 'demons' and 'creatures' in the story, you appear to be doing very well in avoiding the overuse of words. :-)

My long-term goal is nothing more than helping authors come up with their own lists of words to be especially cautious they don't overuse.

graybyrd

If it could analyse 10,000 words at once I probably could do that.
It would be ideal if it could analyse 100,000 words at once.


I just dropped 34,594 words into (the entire text of a draft in progress) and it did a complete analysis in only a few seconds. It does seem to have an interesting word count menu. In this case, only words three characters or greater were counted... so it said my text contained 21,422.

My 'readability' score was 67.3; 'optimal' is 60-70. (grin)

Well, keep looking. You'll find something.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play

Here's one that looks better. It also shows the most common phrases used by number of words without punctuation.

https://www.online-utility.org/text/analyzer.jsp

It's hard to spot the "process text" button, but it's above the blue advertisement box.

I ran my WIP novel through it. It seems my most common phrase so far is: "grabbed the back of his head"

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Here's the fun one that I lost with my Favorites.
http://www.wordle.net/create

But it doesn't work on my new Mac. It want's to install a Java plug-in and I'm not ready to do that on my new system.

Ross at Play

THANKS TO ALL.
The first one SB suggested does exactly what I asked for.
The one graybyrd mentioned may be even better. It provides other analyses that might be worth a look at.
The limit of 1,000 words I saw is apparently an option users may use when they do not want the entire text analysed.

IliaVolyova

@graybyrd

I put two 4.5k word chapters through this one. Works pretty well and provides lots of useful info.

Jesus Christ I used a characters name more than 80 times in 8k words.

awnlee jawking

@graybyrd

My Gunning-Fog index was 7.1, close to easy. Their own custom readability index rated me at 57.1, much further from easy.

After I finish the first draft, I really must do something about that 59 word sentence ;)

AJ

graybyrd
Updated:

Yep. That 'textalyzer.net' is fun. Far more breakdown/info than I'd typically use, but some is priceless. My 'fog' index on "Gold Mountain" is 4.9 (6-easy 20-hard) and 'lexical density' at 26.4%.

Average sentence length: 9.84 words, and my longest sentence: 60 words (!)

Don't even want to get into word repetition, except I'm able to suppress "very" to 0. Excellent!

Dominions Son

There is an author support tools extension for Open Office that has a word repetition tool.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

It doesn't quite suit my intentions. The maximum length of text it can analyse at once is only 1,000 words.
I can use it for my needs, I'm a whizz at cutting and pasting into Excel, but not to create anything anyone else might find useful.


I just tried textalyser.net. You don't have to copy and paste, you can select a document or website to analyze which can be any length. Not much information on what document formats it supports.

I did not work on an ODT file, but did work on a .HTML of the same document.

The document I tested was over 55,000 words.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

It also shows the most common phrases used by number of words without punctuation.


I ran one of my stories through textalyzer.net. The results included frequency lists for 2, 3, 4 and 5 word phrases.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

That would handy to have.
Can you tell me where to find it?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

http://extensions.openoffice.org/en/project/authorsupporttool

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Dominions Son

http://extensions.openoffice.org/en/project/authorsupporttool

Thanks for the suggestion. I went there and looked. The Luddite in me rebelled. I'm sure it is easy, but I'm not going to be bothered figuring out how to install and use it.

I have found a site which allows me to just identify my document and it returns usable results. It's at sporkforge.com/text/word_count.php

It provides a list of words that were repeated, somewhere, including those when punctuation marks separating them.

That will be good enough for my needs, but I appreciate the idea that simple tools to test for this type of error do exist.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

It's at sporkforge.com/text/word_count.php


I ran 12 chapters (27K words) of my WIP novel through it (as well as through several of the others). I simply don't see the utility of the tool.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

Certain words pop up a lot in certain stories. My next book, as Ross noted, uses "cane" a lot and there aren't many alternatives to it. In sci-fi books, when you reference physics phenomenon, there are also few alternatives since the word itself is a 'special case' word.

Names do get repeated, but if you have a lot of characters, it's often difficult avoiding repeating them.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Certain words pop up a lot in certain stories.

I did add a smiley after my comment. My point was you are doing very well to avoid repetitions when there are story-specific reasons for all the words you are using frequently - excluding conjunctions, pronouns, etc. which must always be used frequently. :-)
* * *
One of the authors I edit for just sent me a playful challenge. He sent me a paragraph he said he particularly liked and asked my assessment of it.
Most of the paragraph was a single sentence, 93 words long and including the word 'that' 9 times!
My response included I saw no problem if the author's style (providing a lot of added details) is consistent with the remainder of the work.
Regarding the repeated use of 'that' I commented that 8 of them were being used to serve an identical purpose, and I thought the author was using them as rhetorical device which was very effective. The other one I would change to 'which'.
* * *
Your opinion please ... Would you prefer 'that vulture that devoured Prometheus' or 'that vulture which devoured Prometheus', and why?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

I simply don't see the utility of the tool.

I noticed an author had used the word 'like' 19 times in one chapter. When I pointed this out he was able to reduce them down to 4.
He had not noticed his overuse of 'like' and I was fortunate to notice it.
I only want something that would help pinpoint an author's overuse of particular words - so they know to be cautious before using them in the future.

I'm not trying to replace humans.

graybyrd

@Ross at Play

I'm not trying to replace humans.

That's because you're not a corporate CEO.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

I noticed an author had used the word 'like' 19 times in one chapter. When I pointed this out he was able to reduce them down to 4.


I feel sorry for young Jesse in Penguintopia's epic. He's only able to speak in questions and exclamations.

Elmore Leonard's Rule 5 says 'Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.' ;)

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

I feel sorry for young Jesse in Penguintopia's epic. He's only able to speak in questions and exclamations.

Elmore Leonard's Rule 5 says 'Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.' ;)


What! How rude! How dare they! I object! said all four defense lawyers in response to the prosecutor's statement.

Replies:   awnlee_jawking
awnlee_jawking

@Ernest Bywater

What! How rude! How dare they! I object! said all four defense lawyers in response to the prosecutor's statement.


I think you owe us nearly 200,000 more words of prose. Or 200 pictures. ;)

AJ

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Elmore Leonard's Rule 5 says 'Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.' ;)

The author who used 'like' so often will appreciate that rule.
After I returned my first edit of his writing he told me, stridently, do not ever suggest I insert an exclamation point or that I use italics or bold font for emphasis.
What could I say? "Okay. I get it!"

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee_jawking

I think you owe us nearly 200,000 more words of prose. Or 200 pictures. ;)


Oh, heck, what now? - repeat 100,000 times

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I noticed an author had used the word 'like' 19 times in one chapter. When I pointed this out he was able to reduce them down to 4.


When I ran the 12 chapters of my WIP, I found the words I used a lot were pronouns, the protagonist's name, and words like "the," "a," "and," etc.

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

the protagonist's name


3rd person viewpoint!

AJ

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I found the words I used a lot were pronouns, the protagonist's name, and words like "the," "a," "and," etc.

SB, you are right that, on its own, this tool is useless for authors of fiction.
But, I'm a computer programmer. I see a problem, then can imagine how a sequence of simple steps which produce results to help solve the problem.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

3rd person viewpoint!


yes, 3rd-limited.

and another word is "had" for the past perfect sentences.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


this tool is useless for authors of fiction.


I wouldn't go that far. I'm used to not writing words like "just" and "very" and "that." And "was" is a red flag for me. I could be telling (vs showing) or more likely using the "-ing" verb when it should be the "-ed" one. But I trained myself to recognize that.

And I don't need a tool to tell me I used the same word in proximity. I hear it when I edit.

But that's me. It's not a useless tool for fiction authors, especially new ones.

ETA: And I started as a programmer before moving to DBA and then IT management. So I'm very analytical. For example, I can't have a golf or bowling instructor who wants me to "feel" it. I need to know the mechanics.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I'm used to not writing words like "just" and "very" and "that."

Most good authors know those are words they should be eliminating quite frequently from their writing.
I'm looking here for something a bit different. I'm looking for words authors overuse because they never consider alternatives, when the solution to overuse is not deleting the word, but finding synonyms to replace some proportion of the overused word. They are much harder to spot.

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Your opinion please ... Would you prefer 'that vulture that devoured Prometheus' or 'that vulture which devoured Prometheus', and why?

Without seeing the entire sentence (to know how necessary the "devoured Prometheus" is) I'd say "which", as it "devoured Prometheus" is a non-essential aside which helps identify the vulture. Though I'd also be tempted to use "who", though some may argue against using "who" for an animal, as well as changing the initial "that" to "the".

the vulture who devoured Prometheus

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Elmore Leonard's Rule 5 says 'Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.' ;)

When the world is about to end in twenty minutes, and your mortal enemy is trying to thwart your every move, it's hard not throwing in a few more exclamation marks. However, if you're talking about someone's day in school where they study English composition, then three is more than enough. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

When I ran the 12 chapters of my WIP, I found the words I used a lot were pronouns, the protagonist's name, and words like "the," "a," "and," etc.

That's why the majority of word usage tools don't count those words, though they will spotlight how often you use a given name, as it's often fairly easy to eliminate several excessive tags fairly easily.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Most good authors know those are words they should be eliminating quite frequently from their writing.


Who taught you that and what justification did they give?

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

For example, I can't have a golf or bowling instructor who wants me to "feel" it. I need to know the mechanics.

For me, I've gotta feel it. After all, if the mechanic has loose nuts, you know he's not performing his routine maintenance! 'D

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I'm looking here for something a bit different. I'm looking for words authors overuse because they never consider alternatives, when the solution to overuse is not deleting the word, but finding synonyms to replace some proportion of the overused word. They are much harder to spot.

The best rule of thumb is, when you notice that, head thee to a thesaurus. If the original word fits the best, you often keep it even if it's repeated, though you should also try rephrasing the sentences to get around it.

In my/your earlier example, there just aren't many replacements for "cane", or even that many for "zombie" other than "undead".

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Who taught you that and what justification did they give?

Using "that" or "just" is the literary equivalent of using "uh ..." in conversations, it's a bad habit author's use while they're trying to compose their thoughts mid-sentence. Thus the entire story reads better if you take those 'hesitation pauses' out of the story.

Replies:   awnlee jawking  REP
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

That response is what I was hoping to avoid. I'd like to see some science justifying that assertion.

AJ

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

the vulture who devoured Prometheus

Thanks.
There's a reason the first 'that' cannot be changed to 'the' in this sentence.
I prefer 'which' over the second 'that' too, and also considered whether 'who' may be better.

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Who taught you that and what justification did they give?

Not bothering to answer that one.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

That response is what I was hoping to avoid. I'd like to see some science justifying that assertion.

Here we go again ...

Literature is NOT a scientific field. There are no protocols to follow, deviations to run and no objective tests to determine where a single sentence/technique is 'legitimate' or not.

You keep insisting that anyone suggesting anything you dislike to offer some objective, documented "PROOF", but no such thing exists. Hell, there are plenty of literary experts who'll point out every single error Shakespeare or Stephen King makes, that doesn't make their techniques 'invalid'.

If you don't want to do what others choose to, fine, but don't flush the entire discussion because you think such things are 'beneath' you! No one cares whether you approve of these techniques or not. Use "like" as many times as you like like like. No one gives a flying frig!

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Not bothering to answer that one.

You can't allow the bullies to shut down the entire schoolyard, though some know when it's better to hide out in the library until it's safe to go home.

madnige

I'm surprised EB didn't note that in Linux this capability is standard in the OS:

tr ' ' 'n' | sort | uniq -c < file.txt

(translate spaces to newlines, sort the resulting temporary file, list the unique lines -i.e. words- with a count of occurrences)

Since MSWin crapped on me yet again seriously enough that I decided it was worth migrating to Linux for day-to-day use (I'd used it for special purposes previously) rather than try to fix up the mess I was left with, I've become increasingly impressed with the basic capabilities.

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Literature is NOT a scientific field.


On the contrary, it's possible to test assertions like the one you came up with. Present two randomised sets of readers with two otherwise identical texts, except strip out all the thats from one of them. Time how long it takes the readers to read them. Then give them a comprehension exercise to test how well they retained what was written. Compare the results. If your assertion is justified, then you'd expect the that-lite text to be read faster and/or comprehended better.

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

That response is what I was hoping to avoid. I'd like to see some science justifying that assertion.

I WILL BOTHER ANSWERING THIS ONE.
I'm going to send a 'Thumbs Down' to Lazeez.
Your comment is intended only to irritate. You are one of many here who do that constantly, and it is destructive of what I see as the main reason these forums even exist: to help authors improve their writing.
I've had enough. I don't give a stuff what happens here for exchanges about any other topics, but I want writing to be different.
If I cannot discuss writing here without being subjected to constant harassment, I WILL LEAVE THE SITE.
* * *
TO LAZEEZ
What kind of site is this?
Are you prepared to do anything differently so that constructive exchanges about writing are possible?
If I choose to leave, I want the authors now edit for to know it was not in a fit of pique - it was because you have allowed this site to become a place where I cannot find out information I need to help them improve their writing as much as possible.
You may assume I would allow any my efforts to contribute any longer to the profits of this site if that happens.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

Literature is NOT a scientific field.


No, it's not.

A lot of this kind of advice seems to be predicated on claims/assumptions about how readers react to certain things. Reactions that would fall into the realm of psychology which at least claims to be a science.

I'm not demanding anything, but it would be interesting to see research done on whether there is any validity to those claims or not.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@awnlee jawking

Who taught you that and what justification did they give?


For one, Mark Twain who said something like, "I change every occurrence of 'very' to 'damn.' My editor deletes them all and the manuscript is perfect."

Grammar Girl is another. In this case it's "of" which I neglected to mention in my list of words. "Almost everyone has a few bad writing habits. ... One of my bad habits is that I tend to overuse the word 'of.' A while ago, I was working on a technical document, and as I read back through it I noticed that there must have been 20 instances of the word 'of.' Ugh! ... 'Of' is a preposition, and although it's not an inherently evil word, overusing it can make your writing sound passive and fussy."

And then there's Diana Urban who is an author and does a blog for BookBub. She says: "When you're revising any piece of writing — a novel, a news article, a blog post, marketing copy, etc. — there are certain words you should delete to make the text stronger and cut your word count. When I'm writing a novel, one of my last drafts focuses on cutting these useless words. Removing them helps speed up the pacing of both action and dialogue, and makes your work more polished and professional." She has a list of 43 words (more than I mentioned) which are listed here: http://dianaurban.com/words-you-should-cut-from-your-writing-immediately

Is this scientific proof? Of course not. Creative writing is not math. Are these experts in the field? You betcha. And there are more of them. It would be overkill to keep going.

Replies:   graybyrd
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Your comment is intended only to irritate.


Let it go.

As I said in our emails, it's not anyone's job here to convince anyone else. We offer our advice/opinions and let them make up their own minds.

ETA: If I suggest something and you learn from it (assuming you accept it), then I'm happy and I feel good and you win. If someone else doesn't, so be it. That doesn't mean I lose. In my opinion, they lost.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Let it go.

NO! NOT when others are damaging my ability to learn about writing. I don't care about anything else.
If the site does not change, then I will leave.
The only one who can change it is Lazeez.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


NO! NOT when others are damaging my ability to learn about writing.


That's the point. Why would it interfere with you learning?

I pointed out that I've learned to be careful of using certain words. You might have read that and slapped your forehead and said, "Of course!" So you learned something. Then someone else questions the wisdom of my advice. How does that affect you? You still learned something about writing.

Now if that person brings up an argument that makes more sense to you than what I said, you might reconsider and realize what I said was bad advice or not good for you. You're still learning.

If you still agree with me and not the other person, that's his problem, not yours. You learned something new even if he didn't.

ETA: But if you leave the forum, you do lose the opportunity to learn about writing or discuss writing.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Why would it interfere with you learning?

Because when it's constant, it makes me and others less willing to contribute constructively.
I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Lazeez could change it if he wanted to. I understand why he would prefer not to. I will not stay if he does not.

Replies:   Dominions Son
graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

She has a list of 43 words (more than I mentioned) which are listed here


Hey, SB! Thanks for that link. Very useful. About the Mark Twain quote, I couldn't agree more. Except "damn" is too mild these days; we'd need a much more offensive word for the editor to kill.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

Lazeez could change it if he wanted to. I understand why he would prefer not to. I will not stay if he does not.


The only way he can change it is to actively moderate the forums. That will take admin's time away from maintaining the entire site and processing story submissions.

Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

Except "damn" is too mild these days; we'd need a much more offensive word for the editor to kill.


LOL Today, a more offensive word would not be deleted by an editor. It would be expected.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

A lot of this kind of advice seems to be predicated on claims/assumptions about how readers react to certain things. Reactions that would fall into the realm of psychology which at least claims to be a science.

I'm not demanding anything, but it would be interesting to see research done on whether there is any validity to those claims or not.

There actually have been some scientific research into a couple of claims, however, since there's no organized literary approval organization, those studies have all been conducted by others, generally by corporations researching their own business writings (I worked for a company in the 1980s/90s) who did this. As such, there is no one who is going to fund anything at all related to fiction writing.

If you happen to have a spare million to invest in researching such minutia, then go ahead and start one yourself (I'm referring to Awnlee now, not you D.S.). But he knows that he's talking out of his ass, as his criticisms are entirely designed to shut down conversations he somehow sees as personal attacks against him as an author.

I have no idea where he comes up with such paranoid fantasies, but what those varied claims are based on is the same thing that most Style Guides are based on (which, by the way, are also paid for by private organizations), and that is it's based on the accumulated knowledge and life experiences of tens of thousands of authors, editors and publishers, who've learned which techniques produce the best results.

You may not want to follow such advice, but when other successful authors say "I've done this, and consider it essential to my success", I pay attention. Again, there's nothing that says that Awnlee must abide by the results, but it IS a valid technique that's worth discussing, especially by those looking to solve problems in their writing.

You sirs (Awnlee and D.S.) are the climate deniers of the literary world. Even though you're unlikely ever to make a name for yourselves (in the publishing world, at least) you continue to find any excuse to reject the accumulated knowledge of others, labeling it 'false news' and lies, as you seek to shut down the honest collection of data and insight by those hungry for the truth.

So get off your pretentious box tops and stop attacking anyone curious about the process of writing. You AREN'T helping anyone, and you are only labeling yourselves as incredibly tiny people!

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Let it go.

As I said in our emails, it's not anyone's job here to convince anyone else. We offer our advice/opinions and let them make up their own minds.

Switch, that's excellent advice, but Ross's fuse has burning for a long time, and he's been alienating Lazeez for some time because he always overreacts. Lazeez is unlikely to take his side because his reactions are more offensive than those he complains about, and when Lazeez doesn't he's likely to quit the site. That's more a mental health issue than a personality issue (i.e. he's more susceptible to abuse than he intends to hurt anyone).

While I'll defend his arguments, he's his own worst enemy as he reacts out of anger, rather than listening to reason.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@graybyrd

Hey, SB! Thanks for that link. Very useful. About the Mark Twain quote, I couldn't agree more. Except "damn" is too mild these days; we'd need a much more offensive word for the editor to kill.

In my newest book, I'm compiling a list of alien curses so I can sprinkle them in a ten year old's speech to various monsters, and some are pretty offensive! I'm having a blast coming up with new ways of saying FU! 'D

P.S. Should that be "ten year old's" or "ten-year-old's"? The "ten year" modifies "old", which isn't a noun, but it's a possessive, indicating it's treated as such.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

you continue to find any excuse to reject the accumulated knowledge of others, labeling it 'false news' and lies, as you seek to shut down the honest collection of data and insight by those hungry for the truth.


I will admit that I was disruptive in the past, but "reject the accumulated knowledge of others" was never what I was trying to do. And I HAVE made some adjustments to the way I write out of these discussions.

Things have been put forward that I am skeptical of because they don't make sense to me.

However, in every case, at least in the beginning, while I might not have communicated it well, I was making an effort to understand.

However, those early efforts to understand got crapped on. I have a very large stubborn streak, so I pushed back hard.

I have mostly been trying to stay out of those kinds of discussions lately. Either I can't communicate my issues well enough, or just no one can, or no one is willing to address them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Fraxo

As a new author at this site I have mostly avoided the forum, on purpose. Comments like the one seen earlier in this thread is the example of why people leave or stop participating in discussions. I have never understood the need to discuss just to discuss something. Sometimes you'll have to agree to disagree. There will always be opinions about everything, but let people state their beliefs and opinions and let others decide for themselves.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

CW,
I have stopped offering any opinions on any topic not related to writing.
I cannot do that when the subject is writing. My objections that the site is dysfunction are the same as you described in your previous post.
If Lazeez does something to address the objections you just made, then I'll be happy to stay.
Maybe he won't listen listen to me because of things that have happened in the past - but if he's not listening to you then I see that as the problem.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Crumbly Writer

Thus the entire story reads better if you take those 'hesitation pauses' out of the story.


Unless use of the word adds something to the passage.

For example: "Just before he hit the ball, ..."

Eliminate "Just" and you lose the context of immediately before hitting the ball. Without Just, the person could have done "..." 5 minutes or 5 hours before the ball was hit.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Crumbly Writer

There are no protocols to follow, deviations to run and no objective tests to determine where a single sentence/technique is 'legitimate' or not.


While I tend to agree with most of the overall post, there is one thing you seem to be overlooking.

When you, or someone else, makes a comment like:

Thus the entire story reads better if you take those 'hesitation pauses' out of the story.


It is the person stating their opinion as if it were fact. If the person the comment is made to disagrees with the statement, they have the right to ask for substantiate=ion of the opinion with something.

We all know that we disagree on many things. So if you wish to post an opinion without triggering a dispute, you need to phrase it as an opinion rather than stating it as a fact. Even then someone will undoubtedly state their differing opinion.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Switch Blayde

As I said in our emails, it's not anyone's job here to convince anyone else. We offer our advice/opinions and let them make up their own minds.


A very good attitude to adopt.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

Should that be "ten year old's" or "ten-year-old's"?


I think that when you connect the words with dashes it becomes an adjective that describes the following noun. Therefore adding 's would be inappropriate since adjectives do not have a possessive form.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Should that be "ten year old's" or "ten-year-old's"?


CMOS says "ten-year-old's"
AP says "10-year-old's"

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

In my newest book, I'm compiling a list of alien curses so I can sprinkle them in a ten year old's speech


http://www.youswear.com/index.asp?language=Klingon

Switch Blayde

@REP

I think that when you connect the words with dashes it becomes an adjective that describes the following noun. Therefore adding 's would be inappropriate since adjectives do not have a possessive form.


Can't you write:

The ten-year-old was taller than the older kids.

if so, then:

The ten-year-old's father was a giant.

Ernest Bywater

@awnlee jawking

Who taught you that and what justification did they give?


I'll buy in on the overuse of the words 'that' and 'had' in technically correct and formal English. In a lot of cases the words words that and had can be dropped from a sentence without altering the meaning of the sentence, and they can often be replaced with other words. This is especially true when using vernacular English.

The main reasons for dropping the excess words are for a smoother flow of the sentence and for clarity. This is especially true where you have the same word twice in a row to get things like had had or that that dropping one of them will usually leave the same meaning, and will often make the meaning clearer.

An example is: John told Fred, "Peter said that that was correct."
can safely become: John told Fred, "Peter said that was correct."
or it can become: John told Fred, "Peter said it was correct."

Although the first line is technically more correct, the other two versions provide the exact same information and are easier to read while still being good English. I prefer the middle version.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

The ten-year-old's father was a giant.


That doesn't necessarily follow. Normal sized people can have kids with dwarfism or giantism and people with either one of those conditions can have normal sized kids.

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

In a lot of cases the words words that and had can be dropped from a sentence without altering the meaning of the sentence, and they can often be replaced with other words. This is especially true when using vernacular English.

The main reasons for dropping the excess words are for a smoother flow of the sentence and for clarity.


This is one of those things that drives me nuts because I just can't wrap my head around it.

If adding/removing a word from a sentence does not change it's meaning, how can adding/removing that word affect clarity?

Doesn't an increase or decrease in clarity necessarily imply some change in meaning even if the change is subtle?

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

I will admit that I was disruptive in the past, but "reject the accumulated knowledge of others" was never what I was trying to do. And I HAVE made some adjustments to the way I write out of these discussions.

I'll admit, you've been much more reasonable, especially lately. I'm mostly still dealing with my frustrations which have accumulated from these repeated discussions which haven't really led anywhere.

No one expect you to blindly 'accept' any of these ideas, but many of us are interested in exploring them to see whether they pan out. There is no guaranteed pay off, but many of us are convinced by what we've seen so far. While there's little 'proof' that reducing duplicate words will suddenly make someone 'fall in love' with your story, the thinking is that trimming the fat by removing unnecessary or duplicate words removes common tripping point for readers. By making the story 'easier' to read (i.e. smoother in its presentation), the feeling is that readers won't stop to question what's going on as often.

After all, the key is to keep your readers reading. The last thing any author wants is for the reader to stop mid-paragraph and say "WTF?"

Still, when everything is said and done, these are ALL personal opinions. Many of us are convinced by what we see in our own writings, but we can't (and don't even try) to convince others that it's the "only way to write".

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Maybe he won't listen listen to me because of things that have happened in the past - but if he's not listening to you then I see that as the problem.

The key, as it always is, lies in picking your battles, rather than wasting all your efforts on lost causes.

Rather than betting everything on a single decision, it's better to bide your time until you encounter a situation where you're in a stronger position to influence others.

As you see from the reply posted above, D.S. and I seem seem to be reaching across our divide, while you're merely setting yourself up to be disappointed.

Making threats never gets anyone to back down, instead it only makes them more defense, meaning they're more likely to attack than to become more polite.

Replies:   Ross at Play
REP
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


The ten-year-old was taller than the older kids.


It seems to me that there is an implied noun in that sentence, perhaps: kid's, boy's, or girl.

The ten-year-old's father was a giant. The noun is still implied. So it would be - The ten-year-old kid/boy/girl's father was a giant.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Fraxo

As a new author at this site I have mostly avoided the forum, on purpose. Comments like the one seen earlier in this thread is the example of why people leave or stop participating in discussions. I have never understood the need to discuss just to discuss something. Sometimes you'll have to agree to disagree. There will always be opinions about everything, but let people state their beliefs and opinions and let others decide for themselves.

I'll agree, sometimes discussions can turn contentious. However, even in the worst cases, where both sides stop hearing what the others are saying, we're generally trying to learn something, and there is always something to learn.

REP

@Dominions Son

Doesn't an increase or decrease in clarity necessarily imply some change in meaning even if the change is subtle?


It seems to me that a change in clarity has to do with the easy/difficulty of a reader understanding the meaning. From that POV, it doesn't seem like a change in clarity would affect meaning regardless of how subtle that change might be.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Unless use of the word adds something to the passage.

For example: "Just before he hit the ball, ..."

Eliminate "Just" and you lose the context of immediately before hitting the ball. Without Just, the person could have done "..." 5 minutes or 5 hours before the ball was hit.

Again, no one is dictating iron-clad rules of conduct here. Instead, we're focusing on learning about our own writing. Clearly, you can't eliminate EVERY use of any given word, but if you can eliminate those which don't add anything of value, or that weaken your message, then why not at least consider the idea.

All we're suggesting is that it pays to glance on our own bad habits, because we may not be aware of what we're doing. If there's no problem with your usage, then continue on as normal. But if you see something that might help, don't ignore it simply because someone else suggested it.

Again, we're looking for warning flags, rather than dos and don'ts.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

If adding/removing a word from a sentence does not change it's meaning, how can adding/removing that word affect clarity?


A large part of it is some words are there in formal English through past or traditional usage, but today they just cause many people to have a mental stutter. In the example I gave, did dropping from 'that that' to a single 'that' lose any meaning? No it didn't, yet the formal way to say it is with the the double that, while the vernacular way is with the single that. In an odd way it's a lot like contractions, the meaning stays the same, but the story flow is easier with the less characters.

Not everyone sees it the same, so I suspect it's more a psychological aspect of the situation.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

It is the person stating their opinion as if it were fact. If the person the comment is made to disagrees with the statement, they have the right to ask for substantiate=ion of the opinion with something.

You're inserting absolutes where none were intended. By 'the entire story reads better', I only meant 'IF you eliminate any unneeded text'. If everything in your story makes the story stronger, than feel free to keep it all. You're under no obligation to eliminate your strongest skills.

Instead, you seem to be reading ultimatums into simple observations about our own writing. We (the 'collective' we) aren't critiquing YOUR writing, we're only making the observation that it someones pays to examine our assumptions, and to question what we typically do by default.

As far as 'never making a declarative fact', I'm sorry, but if I'm convinced that something improves my writing, then why should I be forbidden from stating that as a 'fact'? In my case, it is, though it isn't a 'fact' in yours. Again, you're looking for universality is simple personal statements.

Replies:   REP
REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


You're inserting absolutes ... universality is simple personal statements.


You will have to explain to me what your response has to do with the the following text that you highlighted.

It is the person stating their opinion as if it were fact. If the person the comment is made to disagrees with the statement, they have the right to ask for substantiate=ion of the opinion with something.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Making threats never gets anyone to back down

I don't call it "making threats", I call it "ticking off the boxes".
First I tried sending a suggestion to Lazeez about how to improve conduct on the forums.
Next I tried seeing the those on the forum could agree anything by themselves.
Now, the only thing left is to ask Lazeez if he will do something differently. I simply stated what I will do next if that fails.
I have consistently been seeking solutions to a situation I know I cannot go on tolerating.
Lazeez has contacted me to ask what I want and/or suggest.
I will take a bit of time to prepare a detailed response.
I will start by saying I would need some solution to the things you have recently been complaining about to others very frequently.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I think that when you connect the words with dashes it becomes an adjective that describes the following noun. Therefore adding 's would be inappropriate since adjectives do not have a possessive form.

So does that mean drop the dashes, or drop the possessive?

@Switch

CMOS says "ten-year-old's"
AP says "10-year-old's"

Even when there's no noun to be modified?

Replies:   REP  Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Can't you write:

The ten-year-old was taller than the older kids.

I know this one! I know this one!

Since there's no noun being modified, "ten year" isn't a modifying adjective, thus you'd drop the dashes. It would simply be "The ten year old was taller". However, "the ten-year-old's" modifies the noun father, so it would be hyphenated. Two different cases.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

That doesn't necessarily follow. Normal sized people can have kids with dwarfism or giantism and people with either one of those conditions can have normal sized kids.

Huh?

REP
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


drop the dashes, or drop the possessive?


I would drop the possessive for there is an implied noun in the sentence, as I indicated to DS.

edit to add: I misspoke. I would actually insert the implied noun and make it possessive.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

If adding/removing a word from a sentence does not change it's meaning, how can adding/removing that word affect clarity?

Doesn't an increase or decrease in clarity necessarily imply some change in meaning even if the change is subtle?

The additional words either weaken the statement, say by making the entire sentence passive, or they confuse the meaning, making the sentence unclear.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Crumbly Writer

@REP

I would drop the possessive for there is an implied noun in the sentence, as I indicated to DS.

How the hell do you say "belonging to the ten year old" without using a possessive, and if so, then why would you need to modify a non-existent noun without the possessive?

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

Should that be "ten year old's" or "ten-year-old's"? The "ten year" modifies "old", which isn't a noun, but it's a possessive, indicating it's treated as such.

My advice is to use "ten years old" but "ten-year-old".
My reasons are:
* There is no reason to do anything unusual with "ten years old". It is just standard language. In the sentence, "The child is ten years old." the "years old" is functioning as an adjective further modified by "ten".
* There is reason to do something to "ten year old". That is not standard language. The entire thing needs to function as a noun, as in the sentence, "The child is a ten-year-old." Note how the hyphens join it together into a single unit that can function as a noun, which you may then convert to its possessive form by adding " 's".

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

The additional words either weaken the statement, say by making the entire sentence passive, or they confuse the meaning,


I would call either weakening the statement or confusing the meaning, a change in meaning.

I kind of get that.

However, you guys keep pairing "drop them if dropping them doesn't change the meaning" with "because it improves clarity".

To me this is a straight up contradiction and it just throws me out of the whole thought.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

How the hell do you say "belonging to the ten year old" without using a possessive


Use the possessive, but put the implied noun back in.

instead of "ten-year-old's" use "ten-year-old child's"

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

However, you guys keep pairing "drop them if dropping them doesn't change the meaning" with "because it improves clarity".

To me this is a straight up contradiction and it just throws me out of the whole thought.

Yeah, in that case, we are changing the meaning in order to clarify the point. Our point, though, is that it doesn't change our 'intended' meaning, which is an entirely different thing.

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Use the possessive, but put the implied noun back in.
instead of "ten-year-old's" use "ten-year-old child's"

In dialogue you want something that sounds natural. "Ten-year-old's" sounds to me like something many people would say.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

In dialogue you want something that sounds natural.


For dialog sure. However, it is not at all clear to me that's the intended context.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Crumbly Writer

How the hell do you say "belonging to the ten year old" without using a possessive, and if so, then why would you need to modify a non-existent noun without the possessive?


To start with, a ten year old what. A ten year old bottle of whisky, car, boy, girl, etc. "Ten year old" is not a person, place, or thing. Therefore it cannot own something.

Now going back to your original sentence:

In my newest book, I'm compiling a list of alien curses so I can sprinkle them in a ten year old's speech to various monsters, and some are pretty offensive!


In your sentence the phrase: "a ten year old's speech" is understood to mean that a child will be speaking. Thus the complete phrase is actually: "a ten year old child's speech". When we drop the noun "child" to shorten the sentence and retain the possessive form, we get: "a ten year old's speech". In other words, the " 's " is associated with the omitted word "child", not "a ten year old".

As I said earlier the words "ten year old" should be joined by dashes, since it is actually an adverbial phrase.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  graybyrd
Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

For dialog sure. However, it is not at all clear to me that's the intended context.

It was a purely invented situation (i.e. not part of any story), though I'd tend to go the 'sounds natural' route, even when writing narrative.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

In your sentence the phrase: "a ten year old's speech" is understood to mean that a child will be speaking. Thus the complete phrase is actually: "a ten year old child's speech". When we drop the noun "child" to shorten the sentence and retain the possessive form, we get: "a ten year old's speech". In other words, the " 's " is associated with the omitted word "child", not "a ten year old".

As I said earlier the words "ten year old" should be joined by dashes, since it is actually an adverbial phrase.

I'll accept that. It's reasonable and keeps with most accepted guidelines for combining multi-word adverbs.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


That doesn't necessarily follow. Normal sized people


What? I was using 10-yo as a noun

ETA: btw, did you notice I used the Switch SOL Forum Style Guide (10-yo)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@REP

It seems to me that there is an implied noun in that sentence


Could be. Grammar is not my strength. But if that's true, the sentence as written is grammatically wrong — no subject.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Even when there's no noun to be modified?


I was using 10-yo as a noun. I might have been wrong for doing that. But if I can't, neither of your alternatives work because you were doing the same.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Could be. Grammar is not my strength. But if that's true, the sentence as written is grammatically wrong — no subject.

Not necessarily. Implied subjects are an acceptable usage—especially for 'common usage' dialogues. You couldn't use it in non-fiction, though.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Not necessarily. Implied subjects are an acceptable usage


Then where would you put the possessive apostrophe?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Then where would you put the possessive apostrophe?

I wasn't initially sure, but as others have suggested, "old" becomes the defacto (implied) noun, so it would receive the possessive while you also hyphenate the adverb attached to it. However, that only applies if you don't include the actual subject.

Switch Blayde

@REP

I would drop the possessive for there is an implied noun in the sentence, as I indicated


It was hard to find, but Grammarly says ten-year-old can be a noun.
https://www.grammarly.com/blog/year-old-hyphen/

Is the age a noun? Hyphenation is also necessary in this case. Here is an example.

She's only a two-year-old, but she already knows what she wants to do when she grows up.

graybyrd
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Should that be "ten year old's" or "ten-year-old's"? The "ten year" modifies "old", which isn't a noun, but it's a possessive, indicating it's treated as such.


Well, keeping it simple, the answer is [generally accepted] as "ten-year-old" which itself is a descriptive string applied as a single descriptor. It, itself, assumes identity as the object, which in reality is the child -- implied in this case.

I say [generally accepted] because, as we've all come to love and expect, someone will invariably rise up and begin screaming "Lizard Shit! That ain't right!" and a new thread is born.

Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

What? I was using 10-yo as a noun


Did you bother to look at which comment I was replying to and which part of your comment I quoted?

Replies:   Switch Blayde
graybyrd
Updated:

@REP


As I said earlier the words "ten year old" should be joined by dashes, since it is actually an adverbial phrase.


PEDANTIC INTERLUDE:

Let us not be confusing dashes with hyphens. There IS a difference.

Returning to days of yesteryear, we (users of English in print) made use of THREE small horizontal punctuation marks of THREE discrete lengths. I shall define and explain:

hyphen: to join two words or sentence elements to make a unified element. Same width as a period, comma, colon, etc. A 'thin' spacer, used in a line of type to substitute where a period, comma, hyphen are not used, but they've been used in the line of type above and/or below. Hyphen, as in, "lame-brain";

en dash: used typically as an element in numeric listings, as (in the days of cast type) it was the same width as 1,2,3...etc. and is half the width of an em. Also used in numerical ranges, "pages 12-17". The equivalent blank piece was called a 'nut' used in the same manner as a 'thin', above. It made for a tight type chase, i.e. the type didn't fall all over the floor when the chase was lifted to mount on the press;

em dash (often called just 'dash'), the same width as the 'quad' or 'em' which was the defining width of the type font in use, i.e,. 10 point, 12 point, etc. A 10-pt type 'em' is 10 pts. wide. As is the em dash. Also, sometimes defined as the width of the M or W in that font. The em dash and the 'em' or 'quad' (blank space) were essential for integrated spacing (similar to the 'en' dash) so type could be locked up tightly in the chase. Everything fit like pieces in a puzzle. It was considered a bad thing when the printer picked up a full chase and it scattered all over the stone (printer's table top) and cascaded to the floor -- falling through the cracks and into the mud beneath. A **bad** day, indeed.

Easy to remember: hyphens, en-dashes, em-dashes.

Fixed width typewriters confused the hell out of the traditional definitions; they had to substitute compromise keys. Then desktop publishing came along, and Microsoft et. all said to hell with all that shit, and introduced their own standards and practices.

Confusing? Yep. It's supposed to be.

Ernest Bywater

@graybyrd

Easy to remember: hyphens, en-dashes, em-dashes.


Until you get people like me who've seen the en-dash and em-dash mess up in graphical presentation in different software programs. Thus I don't use either, and replace them with the basic hyphen symbol as a normal dash.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

As I mentioned, and I know you've experienced it, Microsoft and rest ignored several centuries of typographical convention, and chose their own--and therefore **better** way in their opinion. Hopefully UTF8 and similar standards now resolve a lot of that... if the apps comply.

Generally the "--" double hyphen works well for a long dash; some software will convert that to a true em dash. A single hyphen falls a bit short of representing a true dash (grin).

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP
Ernest Bywater

@graybyrd

Hopefully UTF8 and similar standards now resolve a lot of that... if the apps comply.


GB,

When i was investigating how the different devices and software displayed e-pubs I found that en-dashes and em-dashes were not displayed the same in all devices and software while the good old hyphen - was, thus I stopped using the en-dash and em-dash at that point because I wanted a uniform presentation as possible. Anyway, it's my experience the great majority of readers don't notice a difference between the three while reading.

I'm not sure why the problem exists, and I never delved into, just noticed it, and worked around it.

Ernest Bywater

@Dominions Son

If adding/removing a word from a sentence does not change it's meaning, how can adding/removing that word affect clarity?


By reducing the words used it's quicker and easier to read, which usually means it's clearer to understand. I just read another example of where I think a word cane be safely dropped to make the story better. The original sentence is perfect English and technically correct with:

It took another hour before he had had breakfast and he'd left the house.

If I was writing or editing this it would be:

It took another hour before he had breakfast and left the house.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@graybyrd

en dash: used typically as an element in numeric listings, as (in the days of cast type) it was the same width as 1,2,3...etc. and is half the width of an em.

Technically, in font design, an en-dash is exactly the width of the "n" character, and the em-dash is precisely the width of the "m" in whichever font they're found in.

Also, the em-dash is not used as a 'spacing element', but to offset a sentence fragment which isn't directly related to the subject contents.

By the way, M$ had nothing at all to do with the widespread acceptance of 'publication marks', that honor goes to Apple, which distinguished itself (in it's early days, though it's since abandoned that focus) as being the 'publishers choice' of computer by offering all those features. M$ only bought into it when it was already an accepted standard across the industry, at which point Apple lost interest in it. :(

@Ernest

Until you get people like me who've seen the en-dash and em-dash mess up in graphical presentation in different software programs. Thus I don't use either, and replace them with the basic hyphen symbol as a normal dash.

As long as you don't use the em-dash for it's designed usage, then that's fine. However they signify to most readers specific meanings, especially in fiction where they're more widely used than in non-fiction.

Here on the forum, I simply type "& mdash;" (without the space) to create an actual em-dash in whatever font the user specifies. (Ernest, you don't 'see any difference' because you've specified you prefer things that display correctly in monospace fonts, which don't support either.)

Replies:   REP  graybyrd
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


If I was writing or editing this it would be:

It took another hour before he had breakfast and left the house.


Or:

Verify, if thee persist in consuming thee breakfast meal, we'll be a full hour late in leaving thee abode.

Oops! That's a thrice-thee offense, which is a red-flag penalty. Better rewrite the entire passenage. 'D

REP

@graybyrd

PEDANTIC INTERLUDE:


Thanks, I knew most of that. However, I generally just use dash and hyphen interchangeably in talking even though I know they are supposed to be used differently in writing.

REP

@graybyrd

some software will convert that to a true em dash.


That isn't always a good thing.

I use Word and buried down in the Autocorrect settings there is a default instruction to convert three consecutive periods (...), used as an ellipse, to Word's ellipse symbol. That symbol creates problems when it is encountered by the SOL text converter. The result is often the 1/4 symbol, or a short section of the stories text being replaced by an arbitrary string of letters and symbols.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

However they signify to most readers specific meanings


Personally, I don't believe "most readers" notice the different lengths of dashes when reading, and "most readers" don't know why different lengths are being used.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@REP

I use Word and buried down in the Autocorrect settings there is a default instruction to convert three consecutive periods (...), used as an ellipse, to Word's ellipse symbol. That symbol creates problems when it is encountered by the SOL text converter. The result is often the 1/4 symbol, or a short section of the stories text being replaced by an arbitrary string of letters and symbols.

Your specific problem, though, is that you're likely inserting it into the improper 'character set' (type of webpage), so the webpage tries to paint a proprietary symbol instead of the generic symbol.

Two quick fixes are to either select a different character set definition, or simply include the actual html command instead of the text character (defined by your html conversion settings). What you want isn't the "—" character, but instead the "& mdash;" html command (no spaces) in your submitted html file.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Dominions Son


Did you bother to look at which comment I was replying to and which part of your comment I quoted?


Yes. That was my point. I wasn't making a statement about giants and their offsprings. It happened to be the first thing that popped into my head as an example of a possessive 10-yo.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Personally, I don't believe "most readers" notice the different lengths of dashes when reading, and "most readers" don't know why different lengths are being used.

We've had this discussion before, and never made any headway on it, so let me put it into simple terms. If you're targeting readers with a 5th grade education (like many authors do), then yes, they likely won't understand it, but then, they typically won't purchase many books in any given year.

However, heavy readers are more familiar with books and how they're put together (figuratively), so they're likely to know the difference.

Using the double dash "--" is fine for casual typing, but if you rely on that, I'd generally avoid using em-dashes at all (as it marks a story/book as being 'amateurish').

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Switch Blayde

@REP

Word's ellipse symbol. That symbol creates problems when it is encountered by the SOL text converter


Lazeez should be notified. That's a bug.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP
graybyrd
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Technically, in font design, an en-dash is exactly the width of the "n" character, and the em-dash is precisely the width of the "m" in whichever font they're found in.


That's only 'sometimes,' in a looser definition. The accepted measure was the 'em' is the point size (ie, 10pt, 12pt, 18 pt, etc) and the 'en' is one half of that. The 'thin' is 1/5 to 1/6 of that, depending on the foundry & the font. There *had* to be standards; otherwise type from one foundry could not be used in the same type chase with type from another. (The "chase" is the steel frame in which the hand-set type and Linotype slugs are locked together to mount on the press.)

For more fun (I used to own & run a letter-press shop, a county seat newspaper & print business. We started out with Linotypes for lead casting, and several cabinets full of hand-set type) you need both type & 'blanks' to make up lines of equal-measure type.

For instance, If the line above has an 'em' dash in it, then the line below 'may' need a 'quad' blank to make up the measure, especially if the type letters end short. It was all designed & cast so every line could be set EXACTLY the same width; otherwise it wouldn't lock up for printing.

The 'ems' and 'ens' and 'thins' were made as spacers, and corresponded in width to several type characters: eg, the 'em dash', the 'en dash' (for numbers) and 'thins' that corresponded to punctuation type bodies, including the hyphen.

Arcane, and it has become terribly confused since the digital industry essentially ignored centuries of typographical practice and refinement... so we have today's 'fuck it all' attitude.

Obviously, we don't pay much attention to the width of 'spaces' as it no longer matters, unless we want a non-breaking space (or a non-breaking hyphen); with HTML came code substitutions and such, which help in that area. Now our 'friend' is UTF-8, UTF-16, etc. to accommodate the multitude of characters of the international set.

Lazeez insists that UTF-8 is the standard, a very good thing! And I find that UTF-8 encoding works well *most* everywhere else.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Lazeez should be notified. That's a bug.


Except there's nothing Lazeez can do about a bug in MS Word. If you read the SoL submisssion guidelines you'll see:

File formats accepted for submission of works through the site are: Plain Text (.txt, .asc) and HTML files. (All open formats, no proprietary formats are accepted -- No Word, Wordperfect, MS Works, AppleWorks, or Lotus Word) If you need to submit styled text like italics and bold, convert your document to HTML. All the popular word processors support one of these two.

on - https://storiesonline.net/author/posting_guidelines.php

and - https://storiesonline.net/doc/Text_Formatting_Information_Guide

has more information about what the submission wizard accepts. Special MS characters aren't listed as acceptable code.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


File formats accepted for submission of works through the site are: Plain Text (.txt, .asc) and HTML files.


Excellent point. And it's really a *good* thing to determine what text encoding your text editor or app is using when it outputs the file. Check the menu, look for encoding. Select "UTF-8"; if you're generating an HTML file, be *sure* the header includes UTF-8 for encoding.

Sample:

[meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"]

By now, everyone should know that the HTML that Word generates is a pail of rat vomit. Don't do it.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

By now, everyone should know that the HTML that Word generates is a pail of rat vomit. Don't do it.


Does it make a difference with SOL since the Submission Wizard deletes most of the HTML code?

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Does it make a difference with SOL since the Submission Wizard deletes most of the HTML code?


Possibly not. If Word is all you got, and that's where the HTML file comes from... then rat vomit it is. Go for it.

As a side note, if I had no choice but to use Word, and I needed other formats from it, I'd save my manuscript as a .docx file, [deleted Calibre reference--see my post below] With Mac, open the .docx file in TextEdit; 'save as' HTML; very clean output.

And you've now got two copies of your manuscript saved in the Calibre library: .docx and .html

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd
Updated:

@graybyrd


then use Calibre to convert it to HTML; then output (export) a copy of that HTML file from Calibre to send to SOL. It would be 'clean' HTML.


My bad. Sorry. Calibre does arcane and complex things with HTML. It creates three files: a css, a metada.otf, and an index.html containing the doc text; then it compresses it into folders and calls the whole thing "htmlz" ... so forget that.

Since you've got Mac, there's a slick method. (qualifier: I'm using an older version- I'm assuming Sierra still has the app "TextEdit" and it works the same) Open your manuscript .docx file using TextEdit, or drag-n-drop the docx. TextEdit will open the .docx format. Now do a 'save as' and choose HTML. TextEdit will generate a very clean HTML file for posting. No pail of rat vomit.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

Open your manuscript .docx file using TextEdit, or drag-n-drop the docx.


Yes, I have TextEdit on my Mac.

If you drag a docx file into TextEdit, what happens to the special characters, like the em-dash, ellipsis, and italics? Those are the special characters I need the SOL Submission Wizard to recognize.

Crumbly Writer

@graybyrd

Arcane, and it has become terribly confused since the digital industry essentially ignored centuries of typographical practice and refinement... so we have today's 'fuck it all' attitude.

Given as the spacing requirements you're mentioning are restrictions imposed by using block types, I'd imagine they've been largely abandoned now that printers rarely use such blocks anymore. Every font designer I've ever heard from specifies the "M" and "N" character widths, rather than font sizes for the character width.

Lazeez insists that UTF-8 is the standard, a very good thing! And I find that UTF-8 encoding works well *most* everywhere else.

That's because, on further reflection, I noticed that SOL performs automatic conversions (probably because Lazeez uses a MAC, while many authors default to Windows systems).

I was referring to your comment about the characters not displaying correctly on different displays.

With UTF-8, you're genuinely required to use the html command if you start from a Windows system.

Generally, I rarely have troubles with 'special characters', other than when printing foreign characters in different languages.

Replies:   graybyrd
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

If you drag a docx file into TextEdit, what happens to the special characters, like the em-dash, ellipsis, and italics? Those are the special characters I need the SOL Submission Wizard to recognize.

Generally, when you "Save as formatted html", your word processor will convert each 'special character' into it's html equivalent. The problem with WORD is that it places all it's WORD specific instructions (spell & language checks, etc.) into the resulting html file. You need to turn off those features, which isn't always straightforward. However, once you do, you get fairly clean code as well (as well as you replace the Header Style settings).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


what happens to the special characters, like the em-dash, ellipsis, and italics? Those are the special characters I need the SOL Submission Wizard to recognize.


You need to seriously rethink them. Note the content of this this:

https://storiesonline.net/doc/Text_Formatting_Information_Guide#htm

No special characters are allowed. I don't use the en-dash or em-dash, just the basic hyphen symbol and I use three dots instead of the ellipsis so they show that way instead of the special characters.

edit: had to edit the post because the stuff I wanted to quote messed up the post, so I took it out again.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Generally, when you "Save as formatted html", your word processor will convert each 'special character' into it's html equivalent.


I was asking about the step before that. I meant going from Word to TextEdit, which is docx to txt. I would think if you open a docx file or copy it into TextEdit, the program would not be equipped to handle special characters.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater


You need to seriously rethink them.


I think if you use UTF-8 you're okay. After reading some of these comments it brings back memories of a discussion I had with Lazeez about that. The last stories I posted on SOL had em-dashes and ellipses and they worked fine, once I changed to UTF-8.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  graybyrd
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I think if you use UTF-8 you're okay. After reading some of these comments it brings back memories of a discussion I had with Lazeez about that. The last stories I posted on SOL had em-dashes and ellipses and they worked fine, once I changed to UTF-8.


You could be right, because there are some codes he accepts that aren't listed in the public list. And most of what he focuses on controlling are the formatting codes, not the actual in-text codes.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I was asking about the step before that. I meant going from Word to TextEdit, which is docx to txt. I would think if you open a docx file or copy it into TextEdit, the program would not be equipped to handle special characters.


While TextEdit's name implies that it only handles just plain text, it's misleading. If you open a .docx file in TextEdit, most formatting should be retained. Including bold and italics.

One step that graybyrd isn't aware of, is that in the Sierra version of TextEdit, after you open the .docx file, when you want to save as html, you need to hold down the 'Option' key on your keyboard to see the 'Save As...' command in the file menu.

By the way, the Wizard's converter generally handles Word-generated html very well. I haven't received any problem reports in few years now. But yes, TextEdit generates infinitely cleaner HTML code.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
REP

@Switch Blayde


Lazeez should be notified. That's a bug


Lazeez is the one who told me what was causing the problem.

graybyrd
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Every font designer I've ever heard from specifies the "M" and "N" character widths, rather than font sizes for the character width.


Partly right. Again, the specified point size and the "em" unit are the same. 12-pt type 12 pt em. The Dash, the capital M, the capital W, *may* or *may not* be a full em; it depends on the designer. But the M or W or Dash will NOT be larger than an em unit. If we took the designer's view that the em units of various 12 point fonts varied with the size of the cap M-W for that font, then we'd have all different widths of em units for 12 pt typefaces. That would be chaos, and we'd just toss standard unit sizes out the window. *Loosely defined* its often considered that M's and W's are equivalent to an EM... but that's designer-speak. Sorta equivalent to *loosely speaking.*

Shall we get into the concept of kerning, cap height, ligatures, descenders, quadding to align columns of figures, etc etc. There be *more* dragons there (grin).

I found over the years as this stuff evolved and realigned itself to fit the digital mold, there was and continues to be a helluva difference between typographic practice between a *word processor* and a *page layout* application. Apps like InDesign, Quark Express, etc. *must* adhere to the more demanding *print* typographic standards of professional publishing for news, magazine, and advertising purposes. Word or Libre Writer, etc, no so much; there a much looser standard allowed for documents.

And then there's the world of postscript and latex for complex scientific and math layouts. *Aspirin* required for headaches.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

While TextEdit's name implies that it only handles just plain text, it's misleading.


I'm glad Lazeez jumped in there; my version doesn't have that 'option key' revision.

Concerning TextEdit -- which is a terribly under-appreciated app, by the way -- it's *not* a limited text editor. Its *native* format is RTF, which for years has been the base format of the Mac. That's why it is able to accept and work with special characters, and do conversions such as .docx to .html, and so forth. It's very powerful and sort of a Swiss Army knife type of app; well worth learning and using. It's one of the real benefits of the Mac system.

Capt. Zapp

@Crumbly Writer

If you're targeting readers with a 5th grade education (like many authors do), then yes, they likely won't understand it, but then, they typically won't purchase many books in any given year.

However, heavy readers are more familiar with books and how they're put together (figuratively), so they're likely to know the difference.


Sorry to disagree CW, but I have more than a HS education and have read quite a bit in my 50+ years and I never paid attention to the length of the dash whether it was a hyphen, n-dash, or m-dash until all the discussions in the forum.

I agree with REP that most readers don't notice either.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)


in the Sierra version of TextEdit, after you open the .docx file, when you want to save as html, you need to hold down the 'Option' key on your keyboard to see the 'Save As...' command in the file menu.


Thanks for that. I never would have seen the "save as."

Why do you think Apple did it that way?

btw, for those who didn't figure it out, you hold the Options key while clicking on File. If you release the Options key, the "save as" goes away. Press it again and it reappears.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


you hold the Options key while clicking on File.


And if you do that for each pull-down menu, you'll see the menu options change. Try the option key or control key to see the various menu items change.

Why do you think Apple did it that way?


It's been that way since the earliest days. They did it to be helpful. For the same reason that when you insert a memory card, or plug in a drive, the icon pops up on the desktop. You DO NOT have to go digging for it.

Crumbly Writer

@graybyrd

Word or Libre Writer, etc, no so much; there a much looser standard allowed for documents.

Word Processors don't 'impose' any sort of controls over fonts, and don't allow you to individually kern letters on your own (which I used to do with Quark). Thus any 'mistakes' in font usage in WORD is purely the result of the font designer.

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

Sorry to disagree CW, but I have more than a HS education and have read quite a bit in my 50+ years and I never paid attention to the length of the dash whether it was a hyphen, n-dash, or m-dash until all the discussions in the forum.

I agree with REP that most readers don't notice either.

Most regular readers won't 'notice' such things (after all, they're not supposed to), however, they'll generally recognize the usages simply because they've seen them before and have unconsciously learned their uses.

Chances are, if someone uses those improperly, such as using an em-dash instead of an ellipsis, the readers you think 'never notice' such things will sit up and yell.

Don't confuse 'don't obsess' with 'won't recognize'.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Crumbly Writer

however, they'll generally recognize the usages simply because they've seen them before and have unconsciously learned their uses.


You are assuming that the people writing the text are using dashes, en-dashes, and em-dashes and that they are being used correctly.

You are also assuming that the people seeing these dashes are correctly identifying the type of dash they are seeing.

You are also assuming that the people seeing the dash understand why the dash is placed where it is placed.

I doubt these three assumption of the writers and readers are true in most cases.

Switch Blayde

@REP

You are assuming that the people writing the text are using dashes, en-dashes, and em-dashes and that they are being used correctly.


Not "correctly" — consistently.

You are also assuming that the people seeing the dash understand why the dash is placed where it is placed.


Hence my argument for following CMOS. Assuming our readers read traditionally published books, they should be familiar with the conventions those publishers follow (which, in the US, is CMOS) whether they are conscious of it or not.

Replies:   REP
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@REP


I doubt these three assumption of the writers and readers are true in most cases.


I wouldn't imagine they are, but readers generally pick up general uses. They'll likely pick up when you mistakenly use an en-dash for an em-dash, otherwise they're more likely to recognize when an em-dash is used for interruptions in dialgoue—assuming they're not from Australia 'D—or how em-dash segmented text has more import than does something set aside with normal commas. Those are things that, if they're exposed to, they'd pick up even if they never studied them. Though with the em-dashes, it was probably because they first had to ask "What the hell are those things, and what the hell does it mean?"

Replies:   Switch Blayde  REP
Ernest Bywater

I seriously doubt most readers would recognise there is supposed to be a difference in the appearance and usage between a dash, and en-dash, and an em-dash. They just see the dash and figure it means something is different, then go on with the reading.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

They'll likely pick up when you mistakenly use an en-dash for an em-dash,


I don't believe most people would recognize the difference between a hyphen and en-dash.

REP

@Switch Blayde

Not "correctly" — consistently.


That is hogwash SB. My remark was addressed to a reader learning how to use dashes from simply seeing them being used. A reader will never learn how to use en- and em- dashes by observing them being consistently used by a writer in the wrong way.

Furthermore, when a reader sees a dash they don't stop and say "Now why is that dash at that place?" They just note the dash is present and just keep reading. They will learn nothing from just seeing a dash, unless they stop and question why the dash if present.

Hence my argument for following CMOS. Assuming our readers read traditionally published books, they should be familiar with the conventions those publishers follow (which, in the US, is CMOS) whether they are conscious of it or not.

Most readers have never heard of CMOS. Most readers pickup a newspaper, magazine, or book and start reading. They have no idea that the publishers have conventions that define how something is to be written, and they probably don't care. All they are interested in is the content of what they are reading. If the writers follow the publisher's conventions about the only thing a reader might say is that it was a well written article or book and they will have absolutely no idea why.

Replies:   graybyrd  Switch Blayde
REP

@Crumbly Writer

They'll likely pick up when you mistakenly use an en-dash for an em-dash, otherwise they're more likely to recognize when an em-dash is used for interruptions in dialgoue


I disagree CW. Things like the proper use of punctuation are important to you. Therefore, you have made the effort to learn how to use the various symbols. You are assuming that most people have the same knowledge about punctuation; but, they don't. Sadly, most people don't care about things like that.

Therefore most readers have no idea of when to use a dash, en-dash, or em-dash. Many writers don't know that either and they don't care, so they just hit the dash/hyphen key on their keyboards. As a result, readers see these punctuation symbols used properly in some reading material and improperly in other material. These reading materials will teach the reader nothing about how the symbols should be used.

As a general rule, hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes are not used in close proximity to each other. The average reader will probably notice that a longer than normal dash is sometimes used, and think that there are just 2 punctuation symbols. Generally they will not notice that there are 3 punctuation symbols of different lengths.

As I said to SB, most readers don't know the proper use of the different punctuation symbols. As they are reading, they note the symbol and just keep on reading. They rarely, if ever, stop and ask themselves why that particular symbol is being used in that particular place.

graybyrd

@REP

and they probably don't care. All they are interested in is the content of what they are reading.


Pretty true; common sense. Until--of course--the errors, and inconsistent... use of punctuation? Intrudes--and interferes--with the sense, flow, of the article meaning—of-course-necessitating a re—read as, it were of, the paragraph! All bets are off?

Replies:   REP
REP

@graybyrd

True if all punctuation is being improperly used. My remarks were intended for dashes only. In that narrow focus, I doubt most readers would even notice that a dash is being misused.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd

@REP

Again, pretty true. I think the great debate concerning dashes revolves around the spaces attendant thereto—whether to *not* include them—or to — dutifully, as it were — insert a space either side. Let the opposing sides line up, take custard dishes in hand, and... open fire!

graybyrd

No one friggin' CARES what you think on the matter!


So you're the first to toss the custard! Good shot!

Switch Blayde

@REP

Most readers have never heard of CMOS. Most readers pickup a newspaper, magazine, or book and start reading. They have no idea that the publishers have conventions that define how something is to be written, and they probably don't care.


I agree 100%.

They have no idea what CMOS is or that US publishers follow it for their style. However, if a reader reads traditionally published books and consistently sees an em-dash to indicate interrupted speech and an ellipsis for trailing off voice and italics for thoughts, they will automatically understand what they represents without stopping or thinking about it. It's learned over years of reading. It becomes rote.

Now if a reader only reads stories on SOL and every author has a different convention, that's when they'll be confused. That's why my comment on consistency is not hogwash. It's also why we'd be doing our readers a service by following the industry standard.

Switch Blayde

The two of you have become the crotchety old men ... No one friggin' CARES what you think on the matter!


CW, this is where the problems start. They had their opinion and stated it. You turned it personal. That's what we all need to avoid.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


They have no idea what CMOS is or that US publishers follow it for their style. However, if a reader reads traditionally published books and consistently sees an em-dash to indicate interrupted speech and an ellipsis for trailing off voice and italics for thoughts, they will automatically understand what they represents without stopping or thinking about it.


No, you have no way of knowing that readers are actually interpreting those things the way the authors intended.

ETA: I just want to note that I am not objecting to the use of the described punctuation/font style for the described purposes. All I am objecting to is the baseless claims about readers.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
REP

breath responding, since the same parties will continue arguing endlessly that all readers are idiots


I will speak for myself. That is not what I am saying.

Readers are not stupid. The difference between an Author and a Reader is:

1) Most Authors are interested in the craft of writing, so they are more aware of the different types of dashes and how they should be used. Many writers do not use the proper symbol due to laziness or ignorance.

I know I have problems keeping the proper usage of dashes straight in my mind, so I generally just hit the keyboard dash/hyphen key. I am more focused on the storytelling than making sure everything is grammatically correct. Inserting those types of errors into a story doesn't bother me as much as it bothers you, but then I'm not selling my product and my primary goal is to enjoy the story telling. I do my best to spot and correct errors , but if my product is not perfect, my readers can take it or leave it.

2) Readers are reading and their focus is on the content of what they read. They will typically overlook an occasional error, and the content has to be really bad grammatically for them to get upset. They are probably aware of how the standard punctuation symbols (i.e. commas, semicolons, quotes, periods, etc.) are supposed to be used. However, hyphens, dashes, en-dashes, and em-dashes are not what I would call commonly used, other than joining 2 words. As a reader, I rarely notice en-dashes and em-dashes in a story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

All I am objecting to is the baseless claims about readers.


I guess I give readers more credit. Just as I trust a reader to have a certain reading comprehension level by not needing to explain everything in excruciating detail.

Is that 100% of the readers? Of course not.

But how can the same story work for the different levels of readers. If I explain every little detail, I lose the ones who would be bored with the story. If I expect a reader to "get it" when I show rather than tell and their reading comprehension isn't up to it, I'll lose those readers. You can't satisfy everyone all the time.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I guess I give readers more credit.


No, you are just giving them different credit, not more.

I'm not suggesting readers aren't picking up on the correct meaning. But even if they are, that doesn't mean that they are associating anything about esoteric punctuation or font styles with that meaning.

A lot of it like things the different uses of em and en dashes could be picked up from other contextual cues without the reader even noticing the difference in the dash length.

I have a bachelor's degree in management information systems.

I also do a LOT of recreational reading. I have enough dead tree books to start a small library.

Prior to the discussion here I barely noticed differences in dash lengths and I had no idea that different dash lengths actually meant anything.

ETA: You have several well educated and well read people telling you they knew nothing about these things and yet you continue to claim that users somehow subliminally pick them up.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

Prior to the discussion here I barely noticed differences in dash lengths and I had no idea that different dash lengths actually meant anything.


I agree about the en-dash. I never saw a difference between it and the hyphen (I think it was CMOS that pointed it out to me). But the em-dash jumps out at you.

Did I know it meant interrupted speech in dialogue from my reading published books or only after CMOS told me so. To be honest, I have no idea. I do know that I never knew it had a name. Just thought it was a long dash.

Replies:   Dominions Son  REP
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

But the em-dash jumps out at you.


Yes, but not enough to notice anything specific about it's usage.

REP

@Switch Blayde

I was pretty much the same way as you and DS. It wasn't until I started writing that I stuck my nose into articles that explained things like the proper use of punctuation.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash#Figure_dash is an interesting article on dashes.

My wife is an intelligent woman and a voracious reader averaging around 3 average-length hardcover novels per week.

She asked me what I was doing when I was responding to CW's post, so I tried to explain the dash issue we have been discussing and the positions and interaction between posters. I asked if she understood the use of dashes, en-dashes, and em-dashes. She asked me if I was talking about the dash and double dash she sometimes sees in print. When I said no and started to explain the different dashes and their use, she said I shouldn't bother for to her - a dash is a dash is a dash.

Ross at Play

I've got an idea.
Why don't we all agree that everyone who expresses an opinion about writing here should be required to indicate whether or not they have ever sold any books they've written.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

The current discussion is not over any issue of writing, but over claims made about readers. Those are not the same things.

Selling books does not indicate that you know anything more about readers than anyone else here.

Switch Blayde

@REP

She asked me if I was talking about the dash and double dash she sometimes sees in print.


Yep, that's the hyphen and em-dash.

Replies:   REP
REP
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Yep, that's the hyphen and em-dash.


She was actually referring to 2 sequential hyphens. I've seen it done in several articles, but never questioned if it was the proper way to accomplish the writer's intent.

Switch Blayde

@REP

She was actually referring to 2 sequential hyphens.


Which is the way you do the em-dash in ASCII (I think that's where the em-dash character isn't used). You know, simple txt. Many of my SOL stories have a double hyphen for an em-dash.

Ernest Bywater

@REP

She was actually referring to 2 sequential hyphens. I've seen it done in several articles, but never questioned if it was the proper way to accomplish the writer's intent.


I'm not exactly sure why it is, but some software will render the em-dash as two sequential dashes. I suspect it's because to signify the em-dash in a lot of software you use two sequential dashes and it then renders the em-dash, however, if the coding that does that is proprietary and another program renders the text it stays as two sequential dashes and isn't converted to the em-dash.

This is one of the issues I have with using the en-dash and em-dash in that manner. Another is the fact if you don't have a clear space on either side of the dash many people see it as a hyphen when they read it. Thus I limit my used to hyphens for joined words etc with a character on each side and a hyphen with a space on each side for all 'dash' uses, and just use the standard dash at all times. Yes, it doesn't fit the majority of style manuals etc., but it does render the same in all the software I've ever seen.

Switch Blayde

@Ernest Bywater

a clear space on either side


I actually prefer reading it with the spaces on both sides, however, that sometimes causes a problem. Unless the spaces are non-breaking spaces, you can have a break in a weird place.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I actually prefer reading it with the spaces on both sides, however, that sometimes causes a problem. Unless the spaces are non-breaking spaces, you can have a break in a weird place.


True. And with some software you can have weird presentation when the whole thing gets wrapped to the next line.

I try for a uniform presentation regardless of software or platform or media, or as close to uniform as I can manage. That's why I spend more time and preference on how it looks than some others do.

In a related aspect of this when I write something with a / in it like when you have and/or I tend to write it as and / or for a consistent usage of the slash. when you get some long words joined like that you can have some serious issues with wrapping presentation in some software. Some programs will split the word at the end of the line and toss in a hyphen while some others will wrap the whole combined word. But if you throw in the two spaces they will wrap before or after the slash. The first time this stood out to me was when I saw what some software did with a person who was the Business Administrator/Manager - when that wrapped it stretched out the rest of the line and it looked really bad, while the two spaces allowed it to split at the slash.

In all these cases I seriously doubt the readers won't understand what I mean when I do the spaces on the dashes or the slashes, and I seriously doubt many will say I did anything wrong.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Capt. Zapp

@Switch Blayde

However, if a reader reads traditionally published books and consistently sees an em-dash to indicate interrupted speech and an ellipsis for trailing off voice and italics for thoughts, they will automatically understand what they represents without stopping or thinking about it.


I find that I will use whatever the author has defined within the story. If they use ellipsis for interrupted speech, that is what I will expect in that story. If the next story I read by the same author uses ellipsis for another purpose, that is what I will expect for that story. The only reason I might get confused is if the expected usage isn't followed consistently within a story although I can usually figure out the new usage without losing immersion.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@Ernest Bywater

I'm not exactly sure why it is


Gremlins

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@REP

Gremlins


Could be. I do know in some cases it relates to proprietary code symbols not recognised outside of that one program or software company's programs. The previously mentioned Microsoft codes as against UTF8 codes is a classic example. Which is why a lot of people recommend using UTF8 code items only, but I've seen some of the less used UTF8 codes not handled right in some of the e-book readers which is a real puzzle, because they should be handled right.

However, I've given up and go with the ones that are universally handled right, as far as I can tell.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

CW, this is where the problems start. They had their opinion and stated it. You turned it personal. That's what we all need to avoid.

I don't mind they're stating their opinions, but instead, each time we discuss ANY details regarding writing we end up being attacked for dictating how they shouldn't be forced to accept any standard—which was never the topic of discussion.

Instead, these diatribes seem to be designed to shut down any discussion of standards, or which standards have merit and which don't, or which techniques individual authors find productive and which they don't.

It's essentially an all-out attack on authors bettering themselves, arguing that 'no one can ever prove anything, so any objective statement is just 'fake news' and everyone's opinion is just as valid as anyone else's, regardless of how outrageous it is. It's endemic of the current wave of thinking that's destroying my and other countries, and I don't appreciate it.

The telling point is that they don't ask, 'could you provide some references justifying the positions', instead they say "There no way you can ever PROVE that assertion, therefore you have no basis asserting ANYTHING on the topic."

Crumbly Writer

@REP

I know I have problems keeping the proper usage of dashes straight in my mind, so I generally just hit the keyboard dash/hyphen key. I am more focused on the storytelling than making sure everything is grammatically correct. Inserting those types of errors into a story doesn't bother me as much as it bothers you, but then I'm not selling my product and my primary goal is to enjoy the story telling. I do my best to spot and correct errors , but if my product is not perfect, my readers can take it or leave it.

2) Readers are reading and their focus is on the content of what they read. They will typically overlook an occasional error, and the content has to be really bad grammatically for them to get upset. They are probably aware of how the standard punctuation symbols (i.e. commas, semicolons, quotes, periods, etc.) are supposed to be used. However, hyphens, dashes, en-dashes, and em-dashes are not what I would call commonly used, other than joining 2 words. As a reader, I rarely notice en-dashes and em-dashes in a story.

Now that's a more reasonable comment, so I'll respond more politely.

Yes, these 'facts' are difficult to establish, since few authors have a full research facility to document just how readers process punctuation marks. Instead, these are the basic assumptions which have developed over the past several centuries of publishing.

You don't have to 'buy' any of it, but for those of us looking to improve our craft beyond a mere 'hobby', they're important to us—especially since we're not bound to use any single Style Guide, and thus are left fumbling for which guidelines to follow and which not to.

That's why we continually argue about the topic, because it's not firmly established, but there is a LOT of anecdotal evidence that these techniques work, supported by the successes of thousands of successful authors, editors and dozens of successful publishing houses.

You won't find a single author on this site that would argue that ANY style guideline is an "absolute rule", as we're continually evaluating them on a daily basis. While we choose to follow some, there are many we've never even tried to unravel yet. This is a lifetime process, not a 'once size fits all' dictum.

So for you to attack us for insisting what's not allowed, or for stating non-existent facts is flat-out nonsense. Instead, we're simply curious and eagerly seeking the truth. You're continually belittling our efforts doesn't help, it just drives authors (and most readers) away from the forums entirely.

But the entire point of Style Guides is not to be obvious. Yet as Switch notes, if readers keep seeing the same standards being used, they learn to understand it. The 'prove in the pudding' are our Australian contingent (though I'm sure they'll object). Since they haven't been exposed to the same standards in school and in published works, they don't understand the same conventions (regarding multi-paragraph quotes and other specific structures). However, when pressed, many (Ernest at least) have admitted many of the books they have read actually does follow these standards, which again emphasizes that these details are both culturally bases (i.e. Western vs. Eastern), and that Styles are NOT intended to be 'noticed'.

Replies:   Ross at Play  REP
Crumbly Writer

@REP

I was pretty much the same way as you and DS. It wasn't until I started writing that I stuck my nose into articles that explained things like the proper use of punctuation.

In my case, I came at it from another direction entirely. My first story had a Vietnamese character speaking Vietnamese in the story, so I was forced to pay attention to unusual publication marks. That make me curious about 'smart quotes' (I figured they looked 'more professional' even though I understood they 'surrounded the text' whereas straight quotes didn't (i.e. you can't tell when the wrong 'straight quote' is used)).

From there, I began to notice other details. As I included Arabic text, Egyptian and other languages, I also began exploring other publication marks, like em-dashes and ellipses, which then led me to Style Guides, when I began to question which Style Guide guidelines were worth following, and which weren't.

I've been obsessing about them ever since. 'D

Crumbly Writer

@REP

She was actually referring to 2 sequential hyphens. I've seen it done in several articles, but never questioned if it was the proper way to accomplish the writer's intent.

As has been mentioned, the 'double dash' is typically used in areas (like email or forums) where people don't have access to the proper em-dash character. Even among SOL authors, many work to include them, whereas others simply can't be bothered to include them. As long as readers see the extra long dash, you could expect them to understand the meaning. But you're correct, as with any standard, readers learn about styles with each author. They learn what each 'standard' is by the context it's used in, and hopefully remember them when they return to the author's other works (that extends to publishers, but few readers choose their reading material exclusively by publisher).

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I'm not exactly sure why it is, but some software will render the em-dash as two sequential dashes. I suspect it's because to signify the em-dash in a lot of software you use two sequential dashes and it then renders the em-dash, however, if the coding that does that is proprietary and another program renders the text it stays as two sequential dashes and isn't converted to the em-dash.

Like smart quotes, you generally have to 'activate' the em and en dashes and the ellipses (plural of ellipsis). If you don't set it up, you'll get the same double dash you type. You'll note in my Forum messages, I'll typically take the extra time to type the html command, rather than trying to cut & paste an em-dash from my writing, but that's a difficult extra effort.

Replies:   graybyrd
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I actually prefer reading it with the spaces on both sides, however, that sometimes causes a problem. Unless the spaces are non-breaking spaces, you can have a break in a weird place.

Generally, that occurs (expecting spaces around an em-dash) because the reader tries to apply the same standards they observe with the en-dash (more common in non-fiction or business uses than the em-dash is) to the em-dash. You always include spaces with an en-dash, but typically don't with an em-dash (which helps reinforce which is which).

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Some programs will split the word at the end of the line and toss in a hyphen while some others will wrap the whole combined word. But if you throw in the two spaces they will wrap before or after the slash. The first time this stood out to me was when I saw what some software did with a person who was the Business Administrator/Manager - when that wrapped it stretched out the rest of the line and it looked really bad, while the two spaces allowed it to split at the slash.

That's generally governed by the non-breaking zero-length space. I hate suggesting it, but we may need to ask Laz (I'm using the nickname so it won't force our grand leader to read this discussion) to add that functionality to SOL (though I seriously doubt enough authors would ever use it to justify adding the functionality).

Crumbly Writer

@Capt. Zapp

I find that I will use whatever the author has defined within the story. If they use ellipsis for interrupted speech, that is what I will expect in that story. If the next story I read by the same author uses ellipsis for another purpose, that is what I will expect for that story.

That's why it's not only important for authors to be consistent in the styles they employ, but that they clearly provide enough context for readers to understand their use early in each story.

Just like in science fiction or fantasy stories, where authors create entire universes, readers give most authors a 'free pass' for the first several chapters to 'establish the rules' of that universe. The same thing occurs with styles. If you don't use em-dashes or ellipses in the first several chapters, then don't bother using them later in the story, as you'll only confuse readers. Once you've past the first several chapters, anything which isn't consistent in the world/reading environment you've created will stand out as an inconsistency, causing readers to question it.

Again, since few readers select books by publisher, they're inundated by different style guidelines. Thus they 'relearn' each set of guidelines with each story, though hopefully it'll be easier each time you read the same authors work.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I do know in some cases it relates to proprietary code symbols not recognised outside of that one program or software company's programs. The previously mentioned Microsoft codes as against UTF8 codes is a classic example. Which is why a lot of people recommend using UTF8 code items only, but I've seen some of the less used UTF8 codes not handled right in some of the e-book readers which is a real puzzle, because they should be handled right.

In one case, you're including the actual publishing characters, which ARE proprietary. In the other, you're including the html command, which produces the proper proprietary code for each display.

UTF-8 requires the proper html commands, whereas the other character set definitions don't. Since my html editor (DreamWeaver) shows a split screen with the source code on one side and the displayed text on the other, I'm always very conscious of the differences between the two.

However, when I include text from my Word Processor, I typically copy the formatted text from there to the source side, rather than the display side, meaning it gets applied improperly. I have to physically copy it to the other side on my ebooks to ensure it fits the UTF-8 requirement.

graybyrd

@Crumbly Writer

Like smart quotes, you generally have to 'activate' the em and en dashes and the ellipses (plural of ellipsis). If you don't set it up, you'll get the same double dash you type.


Scrivener has an auto-convert feature which is an option: a double-hyphen "--" will be auto-converted to an "—" (em dash) while typing. The same for three periods "..." will become "…". There are other conversions, also.

And of course there are the "smarten" and "stupefy" choices in Scrivener, and other high-end text editors (UTF-8) regarding 'smart' quites vs. 'straight' quotes. So the author has control over punctuation coding; some HTML apps don't like the smart quotes, em dashes, ellipses, etc. unless specified with the familiar "&xxx;" codes.

I've not run into an app that will auto-convert an em dash or ellipsis back into "--" or "...", however.

I must say that with the advent of the expanded international encoding choices (UTF-8, 16, etc) life has become INFINITELY more simple; converting between the old Mac and Win coding choices was a bloody mess.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

You won't find a single author on this site that would argue that ANY style guideline is an "absolute rule"

This is one of my worst grievances about the tone of posts on these forums.
I could not count the number of times I have mentioned my use of CMOS here - and then been subjected to ludicrous implications I am a "slave" to it, or the even more ludicrous, that I seek to "enforce" its diktats upon others.
* * *
I work mostly as an editor with talented and ambitious newer authors. They demand consistency in the style of their writing. They prefer their format choices should be ones readers are familiar with from novels printed on paper.
I inform them the most suitable option - the least awful of an incredibly unsuitable set of options - is CMOS.
It is one of the most badly written references books I have ever used, and certainly the most poorly organised - it doesn't even have a usable table of contents or index!
I have asked on these forums many times if anyone can suggest anything more suitable for authors of fiction. Nobody has ever suggested anything remotely suitable for the purposes I use it for.
The authors I edit for "enforce" the use of CMOS on me.
* * *
I do not obey all of its commandments. It is specifically targeted to the needs of technical writers. Its recommendations include many things that would be frowned on if not adhered to in a university thesis, but are totally unsuitable for the needs of modern authors of fiction.
I do not bother checking it when an author has written anything that sounds natural and looks right. I try to help authors find what would be frequently heard in everyday conversations and seen in published novels.
* * *
The times I do check it are mostly for choice must be made, but there is no logical reasoning to guide those choices - things which are impossible for me to arrive at the same decision every time if I relied on my memory. The most common examples are the formats for: anything that contains some numerical value, abbreviations, and the large number of names and titles, etc. where italics, quote marks, and capital letters might all be acceptable.
* * *
There are claims made here that readers "won't notice" such choices being made, or "won't care" and be "forgiving" when authors on SoL make "mistakes" or are "inconsistent". That probably is so for the majority of readers here, but there are also readers who very much appreciate it when they notice an author striving for consistency. I, for one, place more trust in an author when I notice them striving for that. In contrast, when I notice an author not caring about consistency of details which are trivial, I become liable to conclude the author does not have enough pride in the quality of their work for my tastes: I often will not even persevere long enough to find out if story is interesting.

Replies:   graybyrd  Switch Blayde
graybyrd

@Ross at Play

Sounds entirely too sensible to me. Must be something wrong here. (grin)

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@graybyrd

Sounds entirely too sensible to me.

Thanks.
I sometimes think I must be feeling things similar to the last surviving members in Congress of the 'moderate wing' of the GOP. (grin)

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd

@Ross at Play

Yeh. That huge wilderness between the extreme ends of the Left and Right, reminiscent of ages past where a prophet would go to escape the yammering masses to get their head straight again, and recharge their spiritual self. You know ... the vast, empty desert? Where Congress critters go to die? And are never heard from again? Yeh... *that* desert... the moderate middle.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

So for you to attack us for insisting what's not allowed, or for stating non-existent facts is flat-out nonsense.


You can go back through this thread and every thread in which I have ever posted a comment, and from what I recall, you will not find a single post in which I attacked anyone regarding a style guide. The strongest comment that I can recall ever posting about the topic of style guides is that I don't care for rulebooks that I must blindly follow, especially a rulebook that was never intended to be used for writing fiction, so I prefer to define and follow my own styles for writing fiction. Furthermore, those comments were not an attack against style guides or anyone who chooses to use them. The comments were nothing more than a statement of what I choose to do.

In an earlier post to this thread, you responded to Capt Zapp's comment on dash length with:

Most regular readers won't 'notice' such things (after all, they're not supposed to), however, they'll generally recognize the usages simply because they've seen them before and have unconsciously learned their uses.


I strongly disagree with your comment that they'll generally recognize the usages simply because they've seen them before and have unconsciously learned their uses. Your conclusion was based on several assumptions that I personally believe are not true, so I pointed out to you that you were drawing a conclusion based on assumptions that were not facts.

If you want to exercise your right to express your opinions, then you need to accept that others may disagree with those opinions. When someone disagrees with your opinion and posts a comment disputing something that you state as if it were a fact, you become upset and label it as a personal attack on you. Disputing something you say is not a personal attack on you. In this case, I was disputing something you stated as if it were a fact and you then switched your response from subject that I addressed to the topic of style guides, which had nothing to do with the comments I made.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

It is one of the most badly written references books I have ever used,


I read (Grammar Girl?) that the online version is more usable. But there's an perpetual subscription fee for it.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


You always include spaces with an en-dash


Are you sure of that? I would think you'd write a range as:

The kids ages ranged from 5–10.

ETA: Just checked.

All the sites I checked on Google said there's no space on either side of the en-dash, including CMOS.

Now the em-dash isn't as consistent.

CMOS = no spaces
AP = spaces on both sides

What I find interesting about that is the AP Style guide seems to save print space. They don't have spaces on either side of an ellipsis, but CMOS does. Yet for the em-dash, AP has the spaces.

Replies:   graybyrd
graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

What I find interesting about that is the AP Style guide seems to save print space. They don't have spaces on either side of an ellipsis, but CMOS does. Yet for the em-dash, AP has the spaces.


I'm an old newspaper guy and I can answer that. Stuff gets printed in narrow columns, always justified. (No ragged right). An em dash is pretty wide. So if there isn't a space on each side, there's no break point handy, and that would mean two words + the em dash as a group, moved to the next line, which would leave a huge space to justify among the few remaining words. Ugly. Or a word, the em dash, and a partial word hyphenated... also ugly. Better to break at the space either side of the em dash, if needed.

Even so, with certain word combinations, there'd be ugly wide-spaced justification gaps in narrow-column copy.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I read that the online version is more usable.

The online version has identical text. It is perhaps a little easier to navigate, for example, it has a table of contents for each chapter.
I amend my previous statement to ...
The print and online versions are the worst and next-to-worst written references I have ever had the sorry misfortune to ever use.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

The online version has identical text. It is perhaps a little easier to navigate,


I thought what I read is the search capabilities makes it easy to find what you're looking for.

Switch Blayde

@graybyrd

I'm an old newspaper guy and I can answer that.


Thx. That makes perfect sense.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

You always include spaces with an en-dash, but typically don't with an em-dash (which helps reinforce which is which).

My choice is the exact opposite.
* * *
I wouldn't use an en-dash in fiction myself.
I would only suggest the possibility of using one to authors I edit for with something involving numerals - either a range of numbers, an open-ended span of years, etc.
The other possible uses for en-dash mentioned in CMOS are so obscure I wouldn't bother using them in fiction.
* * *
It is the em-dash that I find is used quite frequently in fiction. For that, and ellipses, the style guides are all over the place about whether or not spaces should be used on either side. It really is the author's preference as far as I'm concerned.
* * *
My personal choice is spaces on both sides. I always use a non-breaking space before both symbols so these symbols never appear at the start of a line.
I have an exception when either is followed by an end quote. I then omit the space before the end quote so it cannot appear at the beginning of a line. The alternative would be using non-breaking spaces both before and after symbols.
* * *
I think it's important the difference between hyphens and em-dashes should stand out enough for readers to notice. The lengths seem so different that is obvious whether or not spaces are used. I like the spaces because it's even more obvious which is which.
I've no problems at all with what EB does. He doesn't use em-dashes, and uses a hyphen with spaces on both sides instead. That distinguishes them from hyphens well enough for me, because hyphens (almost) always have characters on both sides.

Switch Blayde

As a representative sample, this is the "explanation" in gives at paragraph 5.32,


Just goes to show how convoluted the English language is.

Replies:   graybyrd  Ross at Play
graybyrd

@Switch Blayde

Just goes to show how convoluted the English language is.


It's not the fault of the language. It can be made to sing like angels in heavens, winds in the forests or waves on the shore. The CMOS example cited merely shows what happens when supposedly educated people connect their mouth, their brain, and their anus in a closed feedback loop, and build on that by networking those loops with others.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

ME : The online version [of CMOS] has identical text. It is perhaps a little easier to navigate
YOU : I thought what I read is the search capabilities makes it easy to find what you're looking for.

AGREED.
I never found the search facility during my free trial period, but one would surely make it much easier to navigate than the print version.
The only problems remaining would be the outrageous annual costs, and the near impossibility of comprehending their "explanations".

There are many people here who say they won't use it and "claim" to hate. They have no idea how much it is LOATHED AND DESPISED by those who are obliged to use it because they can find nothing better.

As a representative sample, this is the "explanation" in gives at paragraph 5.32, which is titled 'Exceptions regarding pronoun number'.
The print version is much less clear than this. I've put its examples in bold font below; their print version uses a font that's only slightly different font to the text.

EDIT TO ADD. Lazeez advised me the SoL text editor cannot cope with curly brackets, so I deleted my original post and tried with square brackets instead.

There are several refinements to the rules stated just above: (1) When two or more singular antecedents denote the same thing and are connected by and, the pronoun referring to the antecedents is singular [a lawyer and role model received her richly deserved recognition today]. (2) When two or more singular antecedents are connected by and and modified by each, every, or no, the pronoun referring to the antecedents is singular [every college and every university encourages its students to succeed]. (3) When two or more singular antecedents are connected by or, nor, either–or, or neither–nor, they are treated separately and referred to by a singular pronoun [neither the orange nor the peach smells as sweet as it should]. (4) When two or more antecedents of different numbers are connected by or or nor, the pronoun's number agrees with that of the nearest (usually the last) antecedent; if possible, cast the sentence so that the plural antecedent comes last [neither the singer nor the dancers have asked for their paychecks]. (5) When two or more antecedents of different numbers are connected by and, they are usually referred to by a plural pronoun regardless of the nouns' order [the horses and the mule kicked over their water trough].

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Just goes to show how convoluted the English language is.

It doesn't need to be anywhere near as difficult to understand as they they make it.
It is a 200+ word block of text. It uses three different fonts which are not easy to tell apart. Then it has a numbered of five exceptions to the previous rules, all of which are complex and difficult to explain, and it won't even start those on a new bloody line!
When you can find the paragraph you need, just one look at it is enough to make you want to throw the book on a fire.

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