Phonetic Punctuation: How Do You Hear Punctuation Marks in Your Writing?

The Sarcastic Muse

I once wrote a post suggesting that writers should think of their writing as music, but what happens when someone takes this seriously? What would happen if we actually sounded out punctuation marks when we spoke, for instance? Well . . . we would then be using what Victor Borge aptly calls phonetic punctuation. Though he approaches the idea with humor, it’s worth noting that, in addition to being a comedian, Mr. Borge was also a conductor and a pianist. It’s probably fair to say that he understood punctuation in ways many writers do not.

Punctuation is a tricky thing. All those marks decorating the page, silent and unavoidable in our writing. Yet, those marks — which have no actual phonetic transcription, no sound (minus Victor Borge’s interpretation) — are the rhythmic backbones of words. How is that?

When you use punctuation in your stories, you are transcribing…

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Writing Fluid Fiction: When Should I Spell Out Numbers?

The Sarcastic Muse

Writing Fluid Fiction: When Should I Spell Out Numbers?Do you ever get to a number in your manuscript, pause, and then wonder: what should I do with it? Should I spell it out? Should I leave it in numerical form? Well, the good news is that there are no “official” rules. At best, there are a bunch of guidelines, and most of the time, it will be up to the editorial practices of the publishing house or up to you to make the final decision. But the bad news is that because there are no official rules, the various requirements and advice can be confusing. So I’m here today to give you a general idea of what to do with those pesky numerical decisions.

What’s the general rule for numbers?

As an editor, I am more or less in agreement with The Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS), which suggests “for nontechnical contexts” (aka: fiction) that you spell out…

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Writing Fluid Fiction: How To Use Ellipses

The Sarcastic Muse

Writing Fluid Fiction: How To Use EllipsesHave you ever wondered when it’s appropriate to use those three little dots in your prose? When used correctly, ellipses, as with most literary devices, can help with story progression and character development. But their efficacy will largely depend on how and where you place them in your story.

What do ellipses do?

Well, they have two primary functions:

1.) As a stylistic element, they allow the reader to infer meaning from the prose: whether formal speech patterns (pauses), the act of trailing off, or a switch in subject matter.

2.) They show that text has been omitted—mostly as a means of brevity.

In fiction, ellipses are most often found in speech or thought. Fictional dialogue is meant to feel real, but in reality, it would be impossible to mimic everyday speech without including a bunch of superfluous speech patterns: mis-starts, filler words, and repetitions. In normal speech, we ignore…

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Line Editing: Is It Really Necessary for my Novel?

The Sarcastic Muse

Line Editing: Is It Really Necessary for my Novel? A good line editor can see prose in a pumpkin patch.

Today is Halloween. Tread carefully around our website. Amanda (our resident horror writer) will release the monsters from her lair tonight. Beware. And watch your children closely when they’re out searching for treats. You never know what they’ll find in the shadows — or what shadows will find them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time today (or this month). But I figured I’d give Amanda some love. Last night, she and I did a little work with her flash fiction piece. (Read it HERE.) Sadly, I had to leave after the first paragraph and a half, but I think she did a fine job without me anyway.

But what were we doing? It’s only a few hundred words, right? It shouldn’t take that long. No reason to stay up until 4 a.m. 5 a.m. Well…

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