Earthquakes and typhoons be damned, my primary concern this week is with Halloween-related work at my English school. It’s not everyday that a grown man can dress up as a giant banana and not get put in a padded room. Given the choice, I’d rather have one of those really scary, blood-dripping horror costumes, but when you work with three-year-olds, your choices are limited. Still, it’s fun to do something entirely stupid once in a while. I’m past the try-to-be-cool years of my life, anyway.
Meanwhile, my first-ever professional designer has been grinding away at my new book covers. I love his artistic style and he’s great to work with. It’s taking longer than I originally thought it would, but I’m sure the end result will be worth the wait. So what more could an author ask for?
How about an improved manuscript? Not from my cover designer, of course! This part is my responsibility, but I figure that if I’m going to re-release my books with vastly improved covers, then I’d do well to at least slightly improve the content.
So once again to the proofreading/editing grindstone. I’m pretty confident that I’ve eradicated the last of those pesky little typos by now, though that’s something I should have done well before I ever published. As for improvements, I can’t read a page of anything without thinking of how a different word here or there might make a passage sound better.
But the definition of “better” is pretty vague. Even worse is what constitutes an “error,” especially in a first-person narrative.
Case in point:
The Oxford dictionary warns against using “alright” in place of “all right,” especially in formal writing. Fortunately, my writing ain’t (yes, you just saw an English teacher say “ain’t,” but only in irony) formal. Nevertheless, some people might take issue with such a non-word as “alright,” even in a first-person narrative.
But I am prepared to argue that in our ever-evolving modern language, even in formal writing, “alright” should be acceptable, and probably will be in the near future.
Consider this sentence: “The figures look all right.”
This can have two meanings. It can either mean that the figures are “all correct (all right)” or that they are “acceptable (alright).” After all, even if the figures are without errors, they could be horrendously unacceptable, as in the company is going bankrupt.
So no, even at the risk of irking people who insist that “alright” isn’t alright, I’m going to keep using it, alright?
Fortunately, no one has actually called me out on this so far, which I take as proof that most people have already accepted the use of “alright” to replace “all right.” It certainly can’t be as bad as “ain’t.”
But what about “psionic”?
This is a tricky one for me. I knew when I started writing my series that the countable noun form was actually “psion,” its plural, “psions.”
I just didn’t like it. I preferred to noun-ize the adjective, thus using “a psionic” and “psionics” as the singular and plural forms. It just sounded better to my ears back then, and it still does.
I had done the same with “a telepathic” and “telepathics” for which the correct noun forms are “a telepath” and “telepaths.” This also sounded better to me back then, but goodness knows why, because unlike “psionic,” it no longer does.
Along with the many other “improvements” I’ll be making to the manuscripts as I await the final drafts of my new book covers, I will be replacing all instances of the noun use of “telepathic” to “telepath.”
Again, like my use of “alright,” none of my readers have actually called me out on these “mistakes” either in direct emails or in reviews of my books. Not yet, anyway. Nor am I particularly worried. (If I was, I’d probably have to go with “psion.”) But if what seemed right five years ago to me no longer does, how can I resist changing it?
What is it about words that make them so contradictory to my ears? Twenty years of teaching English notwithstanding, I honestly can’t say. What I’m sure of though is that gut feeling and real-life usage trump textbook rules any day of the week.
Alright, back to work.