It matters how something is said. We all know that. But it also matters how something is thought to be said. Our lesson from the Comics today is from “Pickles”by Brian Crane. The cartoon is of retired couple Opal and Earl. A recent episode featured Earl jealous of a text he sees on her phone which he believes is a reminder to call “Ed”. Opal explains that it doesn’t say, “call Ed”. It simply says, “called”.
It’s funny in a cartoon but if confusion is in a novel or short story, not so much.
What am I talking about? Not simple reading errors but word placement that causes confusion or maybe a whole different meaning.
For example, “You can hop on the tube and eat lunch at Harrow’s Grill for three dollars.” Someone might think it only costs three dollars for lunch at Harrows when it really costs twelve bucks for the cheapest dish. Should say, “For three dollars you can catch the tube to Harrows Grill and get some lunch.” Whole different point.
Here’s another, “After eating my bird whistles.” Hmm, does that mean someone is eating a bird?
How about, “My favorite foods are fried chicken, peanut butter and jelly and pizza covered with anchovies.” Is that peanut butter and jelly with anchovies?
These are just simple examples of poor word order and missing commas, but you get the idea. I’ve heard the best way to catch these types of mistakes is to read what you write aloud. When you read your writing, if you stumble at speaking it, chances are a reader will stumble at reading it.
In the cartoon, the momentary confusion almost led to a serious issue between Opal and Earl. Hopefully we can avoid even near misses. When my novel gets before an agent or publisher the last thing I want is for even one sentence to leave her scratching her head saying, “What?”
I’m fairly certain that would be followed by a, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Write on but take the time to read aloud!