Anyone who has had me read their work can attest to the fact that I can be a tad, um … detail-oriented. *ahem* All right, I’ll admit it. I’m a nit-picky perfectionist, even on beta-reads.
I know, I know. I’m trying to control this tendency. Beta-reading shouldn’t involve line-editing. And I owe more beta-reads than I have time to line-edit, so it’s in my best interest to scale back my overly abundant comments.
But it’s hard for me to not say anything once I notice an issue. If I see a misplaced comma, a missing word, dialogue tags that should be beats and vice versa, improper punctuation for dialogue tags/beats, unnecessary sentence fragments, or any of a hundred other broken “rules”, I have to sit on my hands until the urge to correct the problem passes.
Except for one.
Do you know what rule I won’t correct? I’ll give you a hint. I broke it two paragraphs up.
Need another hint? There are three rules for using other punctuation with quotation marks:
- All commas and periods should go inside quotation marks. (She said, “Hi.”)
- All colons and semicolons should go outside quotation marks. (She rattled off her grocery “list”: something green, something healthy, and something chocolate.)
- Question marks and exclamation marks should go inside quotation marks when they apply to the quoted words (She asked, “Why?”), and they should go outside quotation marks when they apply to the unquoted words of the sentence (Would she ever forget this “incident”?).
It might be hard to believe this statement coming from a stickler like me, but I hate rule number 1 when it applies to scare quotes, air quotes, irony quotes, whatever you want to call them. After all, they’re meant to emphasize certain words, so shouldn’t rule number 3 apply to comma and periods when used with scare quotes?
But alas, that is not the rule. The comma in my sentence above should have gone inside of the quotes, like so:
…a hundred other broken “rules,” I have to sit on my hands….
Yes, it’s okay to stop and scoff at just how bizarre I am. Not only do I know this somewhat obscure rule, but I have the desire to break it—on purpose—all the time. And this isn’t a my-voice-demands-an-occasional-sentence-fragment type of thing. This isn’t a voice thing at all. This is a I-plain-hate-the-rule-and-think-it’s-stupid thing. I am a punctuation usage wanna-be rebel! *roar*
Or more likely, I’m a complete dork.
However, I’m a dork with Google skills. That’s why I know the only reason that rule exists is because with the invention of printing presses, the puny little period and comma pieces were placed inside the quotation marks to protect them from breakage. My method of ordering the punctuation even has a name: logical style. Hah! Logical. I am so right about this stupid rule.
But what do I do in my manuscripts? If I ignore the rule, agents and editors would assume I don’t know the rule, and I might lose the tiniest bit of respect in their eyes. And that bit of respect might tip the scales from a “yes” to a “no.” So, just like I did in the previous sentence, I *grumble grumble* follow the inane rule of punctuation placement, even though it’s completely illogical.
Are there any writing rules you hate? Do you love starting a scene with unattributed dialogue? Do you hate remembering all the rules for commas? Do you *gasp* have a prologue? What are your writing rule pet peeves?