Monday, January 25, 2010

What did you mean to say?

Words are funny things. They can be so very fickle, and often subtly (or bluntly) imply meanings the writer/speaker never intended. A slight shift in a phrase can completely change the interpretation of the sentence. Even the arrangement of sentences in relation to each other can create a totally unintended message.

Finding and fixing such sentences tends to be a very subtle application of wordsmithing--especially when the implication incorporates several sentences. During an early draft of one of my upcoming books, I unintentionally implied my main character would end up having sex if she didn't leave a bar. Luckily, I 'heard' the mistake when I read it aloud at critique. (Which led to about five minutes of giggling and jokes at Alex's expense.) I ended up keeping all the sentences involved, but a re-order was seriously called for.

Sometimes the issue isn't one that spans a paragraph though, sometimes the culprit is just a poorly constructed sentence. For instance, I found myself typing the following to a friend earlier: Do you think it's appropriate to teach kids with blue and yellow hair? Well, uh, it would be rather inappropriate to discriminate against a kid with dyed hair, lol, but what I meant was: Do you think it's appropriate for me to have blue and yellow hair while teaching kids?

Big difference.

Now, my friend would have understood the first question. She would have realized I was talking about my own hair because she knows me. If I put that same line in a book, most people would also understand because it would (hopefully) be within a context that the meaning would be clear. But, it doesn't say what I mean.

One of my favorite phrases to play with is: You suddenly appear naked. Why does this phrase amuse me so much? Because out of context it could mean two totally different things. It could mean that 'you' just suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and oh, yeah, you happen to be naked. Or it could mean 'you' were already here, but now (with no explained reason) you are suddenly naked (or appear to be). See the difference? This is the word equivalent to one those drawings where if you look at it one way it is one image, but if you look at it another, it is a completely different picture.

Words are fun. They are fun to twist and to play with. But at the end of the day, make sure they say what you want them to. ^_^

Sorry for the blog silence this month. I've been busy preparing for my February release and my approaching April deadline. What has everyone else out there in the blogsphere been up to? Anything new and exciting? Anyone else recently construct a sentence which didn't say what they meant?

Happy Monday everyone!

1 comment:

~PakKaramu~ said...

Reading visiting your blog