Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blog spelling and punctuatio, or lack of same

When I can't think of an appropriate picture I always just use one of Natalie Wood.

These posts would be so much eazier to write if I didn’t have to worry about spelling and punktuation. That was always one of the beauties of riting dialog. People don’t talk in grammatically correct sentences and who cares about the spellling because the audience is just hereing the words and not seeing dem. (Shit. That last sentence is in fact a question. I forgot the question mark.)

After having proper grammar drummed into my head in school it was difficult at first to not write dialogue stilted but correct. Eventually you learn that flow and writing conversationally is the key. Then its (or it’s) fun. All bets are off.

Until you have to write prose again (or FRASIER).

(This is the punctuation that is the screenwriter’s best friend -- … Use it to represent any pause. Believe me, it… works!)

It’s (or its) amazing how much grammar you forget. And part of the problem – at least for me --, is that if you (or in my case, me) tend to write quickly, you’re trying to get your ideas on the page while their in your head and I can’t do that when your stopping midthoughtwse to ponder whether there’s a comma here or this participle is dangling or there is no such word as midthoughtwise. (That last sentence may or may not be a question. I’m not sure.)

Back to script writing, you see this in rewrite sessions. There are monitors in the room allowing the writers to see the script as the assistant is typing it. Someone pitches a joke, everyone laughs, the assistant starts transcribing it, and there’s always one asshole who sees himself as the Grammar Police barking out that there should be a comma there, or that’s a semi-colon. That shit is “Proofer’s challenge”. Let whoever proofs the script deal with that. Don’t slow down the process by blurting out that dad needs to be capitalized.

Back to prose: Spellcheck and grammar programs help somewhat. A wiggly green line will appear under something the computer doesn’t feel is right. Half the time it’s (or its) useful and half the time I’m thinking, “what the hell is wrong with this?” Or, “the computer just doesn’t get me.”

Same with spell check – it catches a lot of mistakes but misses others. If a word can be spelled correctly two ways or if you write in the wrong word but it’s an actual word -- : that too won’t get caught. Sometimes I remember the little hints we got in school. Principle or principal – the principal is your “pal”. But as I get older my brain is beginning to fill up with the Infield Fly Rule and where I put my keys and those little tips are fading from memory.

I actually do know the difference between it’s and its (it’s is only used as a contraction for it is) but there are others that I’ll admit, I’m guessin’.

And there are certain words I just don’t know how to spell. So I type in some approximation and let Spell Check correct it. If I ever have to write a letter in longhand I am so screwed. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

The point is… from time to time… you will see grammatical mistakes, misspelled words, made up words, tenses changing, inconsistencies, italics for no reason, and other egregious clerical errors. I do try to proof these posts but things still slip by. So I beg your indulgence. I don’t have an editor. And even one of those doesn’t guarantee (that’s one of the words I always struggle with) 100% accuracy. When I got the galley proof for my book IT’S GONE… NO, WAIT A MINUTE (notice the ….?) this is what it said on the cover:

GALLEY PROFF

26 comments:

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Thnak you. This was long overdo.

Love teh blog.

Beth Ciotta said...

Love it. Off to Tweet this link!

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

Thanks for the picture of Natalee Would...

tq

Pat Reeder said...

I have to write a daily radio prep service (or perp service, if you perfer) under intense deadline pressure (5:00 a.m.), and my pet peeve is my habit of typing so fast that I drop a word out. My brain just goes faster than my fingers, and I think a word that doesn't appear onscreen. Usually, I assume the clients can guess what it is, but when it's a word that sets up a joke that's ruined by it not being there, I just want to kick myself. The only thing more annoying than that are the people who post in the comments section of websites just to correct other people's spelling or grammar. If I cared that much about correct spelling and proper grammar, I certainly wouldn't be reading the comments section of a website.

Dudleys Mom said...

I make it a habit to talk in comma splices all the time, it just feels good.

(And Mrs. B, 10th grade English, is rolling in her grave....)

Michael said...

First, since I am a college history professor, I'll invoke Bill Clinton and say ah feel yo pain. Many of my students won't even use spell-checker, or else make every correction that it suggests, leading to even worse spelling.

By the way, you also reminded me of something that Red Barber said (and for those who don't know or remember, Barber trained another red-headed Dodger announcer who's still very much with us, happily). He said that he took a rhetoric class in college and it was vital to his future career because he might say something ungrammatical, but he knew he was on solid rhetorical ground. That's reminiscent of Dizzy Dean saying when he said the score was nuthin-to-nuthing and neither team had nobody on, everybody knew what he meant.

Total said...

You misspelled "blog" in the title.

David said...

You can blame Steve Jobs for a lot of things, but Spell Check is not among them. That was developed for IBM at Georgetown in the 70s.

Michelle said...

As a professional editor who regularly abuses the ellipsis in my...ummm... "personal" writing, I have to say I really appreciated this post. Thanks!

benson said...

And dots dot!

Bob and Rob Professional American Writers said...

As a professional screenwriter, I would be unemployed if it weren't for spell check. At times, when a word is spelled so poorly that spellcheck has no offerings, I turn to Google to unscramble the of letters I've cobbled together. Pathetic? Yes. But Google can't write a funny couplet...yet. Cheers, Bob

Gary said...

Great to see gNat again. Interesting bit of non-sense: my brain knows the last term of this post is supposed to say GALLEY PROOF, so that's what I thought I saw, till my mind said, 'No, wait a minute!'

And thank you perfesser for invoking the memory of Dizzy Dean. I loved listening to Diz and Pee Wee doing the game of the week. Hearing him say that the runner slud into 2nd, and the inevitable singing of the Wabash Canonball!

Max Clarke said...

The spelling mistake or punctuation error now and then doesn't bother me. If you're writing something interesting, I don't want to stop the momentum by rewriting the correct usage in my head and marking you down a point.

I was reading the Frasier script you gave us, when Sam comes back. There was an exchange between Frasier and Niles about musical trivia. Frasier guessed that C.M. was for Czeslaw McLicvic, but Niles said no, McLicvic had come down with rosin poisoning in '62 and was no longer able to pluck.

I figured the script was in error, "rosin" when "resin" was correct. Turns out rosin was right, or more right than resin.

The script was right, and good spelling makes an impression.

D. McEwan said...

"Principle or principal – the principal is your 'pal'."

My problem with that rule was, the principal was my nemesis, and prinicinemisis isn't a word.

After years of writing scripts, when I began writing for readers instead of for performance, I found I had to relearn a lot of usage and punctuation rules, or my work would look like it was written by some sub-literate buffoon (or Sarah Palin). When your editor tells you the participle is wrong, I didn't want to reply: "I don't actually remember what a participle is."

I think of poor Gene Rodenberry. "To boldly go" is a split infinitive, and folks were taking the mickey out of him over that one ever after. Honestly. What would it have hurt to have Shatner rerecord the line as "To go boldly"?

D. McEwan said...

Wait! Is it participle or participal? Neither one is a friend of mine.

Tom Quigley said...

D. McEwan said...

"Wait! Is it participle or participal? Neither one is a friend of mine."...

Doug:

Probably doesn't matter, just as long as it isn't dangling...

Kevin J. said...

"...(it’s is only used as a contraction for it is)...."

Oh, yeah? It's been nice reading your blog.

Paul Duca said...

There's just something inappropriate about that picture of Natalie Wood, somehow...

l.a.guy said...

I read an interview of Christopher Walken somewhere and he said he ignores the punctuation when reading his lines, kind of explains his delivery.

Your post reminded me of these two guides:
How To Use an Apostrophe
and...
10 Words You Need To Stop Mispelling

just an interloper said...

It doesn't help that grammar keeps changing - or at least, "acceptable use" keeps changing. Like, "he is a person THAT" instead of "he is a person WHO" - hell, even on Frasier (of all shows) they used "that."

And how about "canceled" - one L or two? Spellcheck puts it at one, but the rest of the English-speaking world throws in another L.

Roger Owen Green said...

Natalie Would

Richard Y said...

I have nothing to add except that I totally agree with Great Big Radio Guy, 100%!!!!!!

My word verification was misspelt

Michael in Vancouver said...

There have been times I thought, "Geez, Ken needs a copy editor." The occasional time, a missing comma or such made me do a double-take to understand what you were trying to say.

Having said that, Ken, it's more fun reading your own free-form prose. As an editor myself, I understand how we can sometimes go overboard and become a writer's buzzkill. And sometimes it's nice to see someone's humanity through the occasional typo or misused hyphen.

The pressure on writers and editors to be perfect all the time can become ridiculous. When it comes to blogs and emails, sometimes you have to stop scrutinizing yourself and let the words flow.

Mary Stella said...

In addition to regular old typos, I think we all have things we regularly screw up when writing.

One NY Times bestselling author, or that author's copy editor, cannot get Colombia right. Her books contain references to pre-Columbian art, Columbian gun smugglers, etc. I know she doesn't mean South Carolina.

When my first book came back from the copy editor, there were several grammar rules that I'd broken. Clearly, these were rules that I'd either forgotten or never learned. Humbling experience.

I never stop and proof when I'm in the thick of writing. It stops the creative flow. I can always go back and correct the goofs later.

Anonymous said...

Please don't like the phrase "she goes" start replacing the correct "she says" in ANY context.

Sebastian said...

Reminds me of Terry Pratchett's "Witches Abroad" and how, due to a spelling error, an iteration of the dwarf "Glod" from a far away mountain country always apperead once king Midas touched something.

People remembered Midas' kingdom for its very short and disgruntled population.