Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, May 4, 2009

Dropped Articles

Am blogging to show what it's like when writers drop articles and pronouns like "I" and "the" and "a." Happens lots in queries. Seems they don't have time to write a proper one. Maybe going for familiarity or possibly typed letter in five seconds. Don't know why so common. Even if novel is breezy, still means author can write proper query without imitating telegrams.

Excess informality. Dangerous in business letter. Killer of queries.






142 comments:

pam at beyondjustmom said...

Got the point.

Anonymous said...

sounds like sms speak overstepping the boundaries of the phone.

JohnO said...

Blame Bridget Jones Diary. Took diary form to prose, with ruinous results for followers.

As actual writer of prose, am irked. Would trade irkedness for Fielding's success, though.

csmith said...

Obvious, no? Informal letters bane sane ppls life. Best legal docs written NETspk. Trnslation req freq. Apparently = cool boss. Boss =!clvr.

In all seriousness, I know I have a tendancy to drop articles when I'm writing online. (I may go overboard with articles here, because now I'm paranoid). Is it a cardinal sin in day to day networking, or only in formal communications?

verification word: tizig: what happens when I spiral into a panic before first cup of coffee.

Marybeth said...

Maybe they are confused between a query letter and a text message?

T. Anne said...

guess my twitter query didn't go over huh? ;)

Susan Elliott said...

Textspeak is not only killing the business letter but also maiming the English language.

Bradley Robb said...

So...I take it you don't want my young adult novel completely written without articles, be they definite or indefinite?

The story is rather unique, the disappearance of a teen girl draws her footballer player boyfriend, the local drug dealer, and her alcoholic father under suspicion. But it's the lack of articles which really allows kids to connect with the book.

And yes, every single word of that was sarcastic.

RW said...

Hey even great writers do it. Tolstoy originally wanted to call it The War and The Peace, but his publisher told him he needed to make it shorter.

Jabez said...

So what you mean is. Stop.
Please don't do it. Stop.
I mean it. Please. Stop.

joelle said...

Interesting. I often find that when I'm writing the end of an article query, something like "Hope to hear from you soon." (haha - I never wrote that), I write it without the article to sound breezy and casual but when I go back and proof it, I invariably change it to proper English because it sounds, well...breezy and casual!

Bane of Anubis said...

Ha! - I've been listening to David Klass's Firestorm and his book is full of dropped articles and sentence fragments - a bit annoying at first, but now I kind of dig it (though I couldn't do it in my own writing - certain walls just can't be broken).

At least they're not dropping verbs:

My main character, Charlie to the cemetery and the corpse. The Jack Ripper a 50,000 word satire. If you more, please me at.

I _ Nathan -- like Madlibs, or whatever that magazine was back in the day :).

Justus M. Bowman said...

Replace "a lot" with "often," and you'll acquire that super agent, Nathan.

Emily Breen said...

Sound like Yoda writer may?

AmyB said...

Right now I'm reading a novel that's written just like that. It's driving me crazy, even though the story is pretty good.

Alan Orloff said...

Whts nxt? N vwls?

Anonymous said...

I once worked with someone who used text message shorthand in professional emails.

For example:
U bringing coffe 2 mtg?

She's a lawyer.

Erastes said...

Missing those out always reminds me of Mr Jingle. Nice novel, grateful, very.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Oi. Perhaps trying to cut word count?

Like anything else, I believe an occasional fragment can be effective in prose. In a query or other formal writing? Less so. And I don't see any reason to drop an article like "a" or "the".

Iapetus999 said...

SpacesROverrated2AsWellAsPunctuation

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Timing is everything, if slightly off topic...

I just finished writing a business letter. I called the company to verify if it was the correct address for it to reach "X." They put me through to "X's" admin ass't. I said it's regarding Y. She said "and who is this?" And I said my name, and then:

"No, he doesn't know who I am. I'm nobody."

That's the return address I'll use on the envelope:

Ms. Nobody.

If only I had dropped a few articles instead. Ai yi yi...

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

It's been a month since I wrote my query AND I'm still working on perfecting it. Thankfully, there's noene of that I, Me, or my in this one.

Yat-Yee said...

RW: made me laugh.

Anonymous said...

When did "I" become an article? Last I heard, it was a pronoun.

David said...

I'm astonished.

There's nothing wrong with doing that in personal e-mails and other such informal communications, although sometimes it can seem like an affectation. But why someone would do that in any kind of formal letter is beyond me.

As I think more than one agent has said, don't make it any easier for the agent to stop reading.

Anonymous said...

Writing tight. They are doing it to make the important words more powerful. And if their book is written like that, it maybe their way of showing you the power of their writing. When I read your blog I didn't notice the missing words.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Yes, "I" is a pronoun. Adjusted accordingly.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

u goof :)

am noticing lack of punct and caps too

Tracy said...

Shoot, there are just so many rules to follow. Next thing you know, we won't be allowed to send every agent the same query five times a week. Er, not me, of course, just the proverbial 'we'. *whistles*

(Umm, I really am joking. I'm just a polite, laid-back Canadian, eh - totally not the stalker querier type...and I hate when people drop articles. I make my kids use proper spelling when they chat and message on the computer.)

Marilyn Peake said...

I never dropped articles from my sentences until the last couple of weeks, after joining Twitter. It’s all the rage. Some people claim Twitter speak adds to creative expression, rather than subtracts from it. Twitter arrived on the scene when there’s already a demand for pared-down literature. Quite a few literary agents have recently conducted contests in which entries must be 150 words or less (generous compared to Twitter’s demand for 140 characters or less, where even spaces count as characters).

I happen to appreciate adverbs and adjectives, Russian novels, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. But that’s not the rage. Melville would have a stack of rejections in today's world, and we'd be saying, "Melville WHO?"

Maureen Dowd hated Twitter. But she did an interview with the founders of Twitter that was truly hilarious, and their brief answers quite creative. However, I think her longer questions played straight man for their punch line answers.

I love Twitter. I’ve met some amazingly talented people over there. But I had to stop myself from falling into bad habits: being overly familiar (no room for formal introduction plus a coherent message in 140 characters or less!) and launching into fiction writing while still in Twitter mode.

It’s 2 easy 2 forget 2 use complex language, when limited to 140 characters. Know what I mean?. It could happen 2 u. (115 characters – I’m so proud!)

On the other hand, sometimes shortcuts work. I thought dropped apostrophes worked in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road because it reflected the deterioration of language in a post-apocalyptic world. Cormac McCarthy commented publicly that he drops apostrophes in many words because he finds them just too annoying to type.

writermomof5 said...

It sounds like they've been twittering too much lately. And so have I. I had to go back and add the 'it' to the beginning of the first sentence. ; )

Carrie said...

OH, NATE, WE KNOE U RLY LUV IT WHEN WE QUERY IN LOLCAT SPEEK.

(Translation from English into LOLCAT obtained at speaklolcat.com)

That.Girl said...

Well, just that little paragraph was annoying! I can't imagine what it would be like to have to read an entire query that went on like that...

Marilyn Peake said...

Well, I accidentally typed "?." in my example of Twitter speak, and came in at 117 characters due to the punctuation error. Well, I'm not so proud now ... although I still only used up 117 characters out of a possible 140. :)

Samantha Tonge said...

Agreed, no excuse for it - i blame the online culture and texting.

Can't believe you get sent queries like that, though.

I read somewhere not to write Cheers at the end of an email either.

But i'm English!

Cheers:)

Mira said...

I completely 'get' the concept that a query is a business letter.

I have no problem with the idea of including articles and pronouns. That seems basic.

But I am wondering about the query letter reflecting the novel. For example, if you write a witty novel, you're somehow supposed to write a witty query letter.

How can you do that and still make it a formal business letter?

And how, in God's good earth, do you write a witty query letter?

This is a puzzlement.

PurpleClover said...

Eek. I don't think I do that in query letters but I certainly do it blogging. Can't help it. *egads*

I'm assuming you aren't talking about the actual pitch where they would talk in the same voice as the book is written...right? If they drop their articles (sounds kinky) in the pitch is that just as annoying? I'm just curious.

(Just so you know, I had to ad "I'm" to that sentence)


(Off topic. Shameless plug. Interviewed sister today. Funny. Check it out.)

Martin Willoughby said...

cld b wrse if used txtspk.

PurpleClover said...

But when I added "I'm" I subtracted the "d" in "add". That is just so you know.

Laurel said...

Nathan,

Do you have any way of guessing if this is a generational thing? Younger people at my company are much more likely to do this in professional email correspondence than older, for example.

Just curious.

Nathan Bransford said...

laurel-

Actually I'd say it's the opposite. Older men tend to do this more than any other age group.

karenranney said...

Sound like Charlie Chan.

Other Lisa said...

I can't decide whether the dropping of pronouns reflects insecurity, narcissism, or both.

Rebecca Knight said...

Has anyone here ever read Watchmen?

Because, Nathan, you sound like Rorschach... and it's freaking me out :P.

Dawn Maria said...

I know better than to drop articles in a query. It's the things I do (or have done) in one that I'm unaware are unprofessional or reek of desperation that frighten me.

Speaking of that, what's a polite way to phrase that you are querying other agents? Do you need to state it or is it understood?

Alessa Ellefson said...

Hilarious. Totally. Can't believe people do it. Well, maybe can.

Thanks for laugh!

Charlie said...

Itway isway annoyingway enwhay ethay englishway anguagelay isway
utcheredbay ybay upposedsay iterswray.

Ovelay ouryay ogblay Athannay

PurpleClover said...

Nathan -

You're not having a bad Monday are you?

Mira said...

Dawn Marie,

That's a good question. I've noticed that some agents want to know if you're shopping. But I'm not sure how you would phrase that.

Nathan Bransford said...

purpleclover-

It's a busy Monday, but not a bad one.

dan radke said...

Whoa. Nathan is Rorschach.

PurpleClover said...

I was wondering why the post was so late in the day. ;) Finally, I got my excuse to ignore studying for my final exam. :D

Mira & Dawn Marie -
I don't know if this helps but this is what I write just after the sentence that includes the word count.

"This is a simultaneous submission."

Mira said...

You know, I was sitting here thinking: how DO you write a witty business letter?

How do you do it?

How?

How do you put together two such contradictory concepts?

How can you be funny and still stay within established business etiquette?

Is it actually possible?

So, then I started to think about the concept of possibility. And then I started to think about the natural order of things. And then I started to think about the nature of paradox.

All of this, of course, led me to wonder why the universe is always picking on me.

I was getting very upset.

Until I remembered something wonderful that calmed me right down.

I've only written 1 page (and a half.) At this rate, it will be YEARS before I have to send out a witty query letter that somehow manages to meet basic business protocol.

How reassuring.

I feel much better now.

Mira said...

P.C. - that sounds great. I'll use that. If I ever send out a query.

Anonymous said...

Mira,
I think you're a liar; a page and a half, hmmpf. I want to know who you are, besides a crafty blogger. You keep me laughing all of the time. At first I thought you were just stalking Nathan, but now I think you are hiding something, you clever little girl. Reveal yourself. What have you really written, Woman?
Jo

Anonymous said...

While we are at it, can someone explain "I Can Haz cheezeburger" to me?

Mira said...

Jo - thank you for the compliment. :-)

No, I'm really who I say I am. I've written very little.

Other than my masterpiece, of course.

You know, my 1532 page book on how to stalk an agent.

I'm publishing it. Here. On this blog. Bit by bit. Just to make Nathan's Monday ever more special.

Karen said...

I can't believe people actually do that. It drives me nuts when I get emails from friends that way. Let alone queries written such poor grammar.

Anonymous said...

Mira,

I'm smiling, and it hurts. I wish I had been printing off your blogs.

Jo

PurpleClover said...

Mira - stop talking to yourself and pretending you're Jo.


:D

PurpleClover said...

Better yet -

Nathan - stop pretending you are your own stalker named Mira. And stop pretending now "Mira" has a stalker.

M. K. Clarke said...

Nathan,

Insightful as always, thank you.

Happy Monday (and it should be, it's almost over!)
~Missye

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, PC, you want a stalker, don't you? How about an anon one? ; )

PurpleClover said...

Ooh exciting! My very own stalker. A little scary but I laugh in the face of danger!


No not really. I don't. No stalkers needed unless you stay many miles away. :)

reader said...

speaking of shortening things, can anyone tell me what <3 means?

I keep seeing it on people's blog posts.

Dutch said...

Howdy Nathan,

Recently I told my wife something strange is happening to the human race. We were watching a crime show on TV, and I noticed the very thing you pointed out today, in the dialog. The detective and two assistants were discussing the crime scene, and I don't think they used a single pronoun in the entire exchange.

I said, you know, we started out, grunting. Then we learned to speak whole words. Then complete complex thoughts could be communicated. Then we learned to write, and the human race enjoyed a glorious age of the written prose.

Sadly, I fear we are racing back to the age of the - grunt.

Gitty up - Dutch

Bethanne said...

Ack! I'm reading a book like that right now! It's killing me!

bookshop said...

More like excess imitation of Helen Fielding. Note to self: Bridget Jones imitation so 2002. Verbs apparently v. trendy; shameless syntax-thievery apparently on its way out, Not unlike chick lit, Manolos, and newspapers. Whups! Fell over.

Livia said...

I had a doctor who responded to my email without articles. I got offended and wrote him back a sarcastic reply without articles as well. It made me feel better at the time, but now that I'm older and wiser, I probably wouldn't recommend sending rude emails to one's doctor. Or at least not until you've switched to another one.

Anonymous said...

This seems obvious. My question is when you want to show your voice in your query. For example, in a YA novel, what's more important, an accurate reflection of the voice/tone of the piece or writing a professional (and, ideally, informative) letter where brevity is a virtue?

Anonymous said...

You left an 'a' in the third sentence (before 'proper one')

Anonymous said...

It really bugs when I hear news anchors doing something similar: dropping verbs, subjects and everything else.

The teen seen stealing a car, caught by an off-duty cop. Rain in the forecast. Lebron James, retiring?

Sheesh!

Chatty Kelly said...

The question is, if the manuscript rocked would you ignore the droped articles & pronouns?

Would it keep you from reading the manuscript?

Just wondering.

Jen C said...

PurpleClover said...
Better yet -

Nathan - stop pretending you are your own stalker named Mira. And stop pretending now "Mira" has a stalker.
ZOMG, if Nathan = Mira, that is the biggest twist since flash forward in LOST!

Back on topic, language is my favourite subject. I think the examples mentioned come down to laziness. I use Twitter, I blog, I blog comment, I email stupid stuff to my sister, I Facebook, I write stories and I write formal correspondence for work etc.

These all take a different tone and vocabulary. It's just a matter of being able to switch from one to another. Which can be tricky sometimes, but all it takes is a little alertness.

lotusgirl said...

Wow, would have never suspected such. Seems to be quite an epidemic to require such a post.

scott neumyer said...

Almost like saying please send instant rejection. LOL

Anonymous said...

Please see telegrams Dahlia Travers to Bertie Wooster. Also Wooster to Travers. Best comma Writer.

Anonymous said...

Reader:
<3 is a sideways heart. :)

Terese said...

Nathan, that was funny. I'm reminded, however, that "certain foreigners" say such things as, "we need to go to Hospital" or "we have plans for Holiday" - c'mon, why oh why are the articles missing? Just an appropriate article, that's all that's needed. Anyway, perhaps those folks dashing off article-less queries are from other countries. You know which ones.

John Baird said...

I can't help but think this is simply the evolution of language. Because we consume more and more written language, we must find a way to cut out unnecessary -- let's just call them implied -- words. I'm not suggesting that omitting articles is something to aspire to, but it may be unavoidable. Further, it may, over time, be necessary. The question is, does it obfuscate or enhance communication?

Beatriz Kim said...

I'm absolutely in awe that people could write such an important business letter in such an informal manner! It just boggles my mind!

Even commenting here gives me pause.

Anatole said...

I'm guilty of this, but mostly online, in places where it doesn't matter so much if I sound like an idiot. But I'd never do it in something as important as a query letter, or work, or anything.
It reminds me of text messages, and people who always talk like in that code. If I hear "lol," "tmi," "totes," or anything to that likeness any time soon, I will explode.
Also: like. As in, "Wow. Your, like, face is, like, really, really red. Are you, like, upset or, like, something?"

Gay said...

Think prob use Twitter or SMS 2 much. Srsly. Probly vowels back 1st pass, thot was enuf.

Gay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reader said...

Ah! mystery solved! Thanks Anon 4:27!

<3 (I kept trying to read it like it was a math problem, the < being a symbol for "greater than."

--Reader

DeadlyAccurate said...

I once worked with someone who used text message shorthand in professional emails.

For example:
U bringing coffe 2 mtg?

She's a lawyer.
Just curious, but could she be sending emails via her phone? That might explain why. (Though my text messages are almost invariably grammatically correct, I do at least understand why people choose to use text speech).

Sam Hranac said...

Cracked up.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Seems well odd seeing it done right now.
Mayhap, common on the morrow?

English is ever evolving, in both written and spoken forms.

PurpleClover said...

Conjunction junction. What's your function?

I think we can all learn an invaluable lesson regarding the evolution of English language by watching this video.

Litgirl01 said...

Thinking that's pretty annoying! Wonder how many people actually do that. Must have something to do with texting! :-)

PurpleClover said...

Sorry you give me sushi and caffeine and I get crazy!

There are plenty of other videos for verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. I have yet to find one on pronouns.

But I'll spare you when and if I do.

magolla said...

When we write our brains supply the missing words, thus we think we wrote them down. I do it a lot--more than I like to admit. Give us a break. You probably do the same thing in your query letters to editors.

Mira said...

So, I leave for alittle while, and when I come back I see that people are finally wondering about my identity.

Okay, then. I'll clear it up.

Am I Jo?

No, of course not. I would never write public notes saying I was funny. Give me alittle credit.

No, if I wrote public notes to myself they would worship the very ground I walk on. They wouldn't say things like "crafty blogger." They would say things like "Oh my goddess, may I please clean your car, take out your trash and clip your toenails, although I am unworthy, I bask in the glow of your radiance, I prostrate myself before you, I quiver in adoration at your feet, I am purified by your greatness, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.

(I hope you're taking notes, Jo.)

I'm sure that anyone who has had even the tinest contact with me is now nodding their head, thinking, "Yep. That's what she would say alright." So, I hope that puts to rest the idea that I am Jo.

Thank you.

Venus said...

I really, really hate it when people do that and I think half the people who write that way are emulating Bridget Jones in some misguided notion that it is cool. It makes me feel mildly violent towards them.

lisanneharris said...

Dear Nathan,

I have a query question that doesn't pertain to this post, but I can't find the answer in your FAQs.

Somewhere you said not to mail queries to every agent out there all at once, yet to definitely query more than one agent at a time.

Can you tell me how many you think is too many to blitz? I mean, are we talking 5, 20, 50, 100?

I've discovered that I love querying agents. It's a daily struggle for me to keep from submitting more while awaiting word on the ones already out. I think I might need a 12-step program.

Thank you in advance for any advice you give.

Sincerely,

Lis'Anne Harris

lisanneharris said...

Oh, I want to make it clear that I only email one agent at a time. I don't send out one email addressed to a gajillion agents.

Thank you!

Your devoted blog reader,

Lis'Anne

Anonymous said...

Yay Anon 4:21 with the Wodehouse reference! That's what I was thinking of too - I love how Bertie writes the multi-page telegram and Jeeves condenses it into just a few short words.

The dropped articles remind me of The Provincial Lady books by Delafield. Now *there's* someone who could use that style of writing and get away with it! I adore her books and press them upon readers whenever I can.

PurpleClover said...

So Mira -

When you say you "left" do you recall what you did while you were "gone"? Or did you lose time, like a blackout? Did you just sudddenly find yourself somewhere doing something and you don't know how you got there?? Hmm.


Oh Mira - I'm just joshin' with you! I know you are who you say you are when you do in fact say you are instead of when you are at "Come in Character" when you are instead claiming to be someone you aren't but that you are in essence since ipso facto the character is a direct construction of your own psyche for your fictional world (i.e. novel). teehehe. No seriously. Bad to give PC sushi and caffeine. :D

Okay I think I just annoyed myself. Going to bed early! I mean: I'm going to bed early.

Adam Heine said...

At least they're not writing in chat-speak, like "2" instead of "to" or "too". Or dropping vowels like "nvr". Or respelling words like "kewl".

I homeschool a couple of teenagers, and there was a time when they both kept turning in papers written like they had texted them to their friends. FAIL.

amanda said...

Quote: Marybeth said...
"Maybe they are confused between a query letter and a text message?"

I just had to state how funny your comment was... oh, oops, i mean....
"ROFL"

LindaBudz said...

I'm in the middle of hiring right now and have found people do the same thing with cover letters for job applications.

Come on, people. If you can't put a little effort into your application, how much effort are you going to put into your job once you're hired?

Next!

Natalie N. said...

I can't imagine trying to be a professional and sending out a query that wasn't professional. That's almost as bad as sending a query for a novel you haven't finished yet!

By the way, my word verification was "frickou" - I don't think blogger likes me!

Mira said...

Purple Clover,

Lol. I see we understand each other completely. ;-)

I forgot, though. I forgot to address the question of whether I'm Nathan.

Yes. To answer your question. Yes, I'm Nathan.

I thought long and hard about this, weighing the pros and cons, and I decided it would definitely be worth my while to be Nathan.

For example, here's one advantage. Let's say Nathan decides, for some random reason, to get a restraining order on me.

Then all of you can come with me into the courtroom to testify that Nathan is, in fact, me.

I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect it would be difficult to take out a restraining order on yourself.

Now, you might wonder, given that the judge would see two different people standing there, if he would really rule that Nathan and I were the same person.

Of course he would! I'll tell you why.

Truth is completely irrelevant to the law. I'm not a lawyer, but even I know THAT.

It's all in what you can prove.

So, yes. I am Nathan. And, with your help, I can prove it.

Thanks in advance. See you in court.

abc said...

Hee hee! I do this all the time on twitter and facebook. But never with anything important! I'm sure George Will will write a column about this, too.

Court said...

NATHAN STOP ATTENDED OWFI WRITERS CONFERENCE LAST WEEKEND STOP APPLIED YOUR BLOGTIPS ON QUERIES AND NETWORKING STOP HAD FUN STOP HAD SUCCESS IN ENDEAVORS STOP THANK YOU STOP

COURTNEY
STOP

Nathan Bransford said...

COURTNEY STOP HA HA STOP

Court said...

NATHAN STOP LOL BACK STOP

ryan said...

lisanneharris

Thank you for that question. I know exactly how you feel about it, and I have been wondering the same thing. On a side note I've seen some places where people say they only do four or five at a time. I guess the real answer to the question is query however many agents you feel that you can keep up with at one time. I have maybe eight queries out right now and I think four have responded so far.

But, other than that, I really need to start reading these things earlier since the comments were long enough to make me forget about the post. Oh well.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Mira,

Re: "I'm not a lawyer, but I suspect it would be difficult to take out a restraining order on yourself."

There's the first line of your blockbuster novel. Better get to work on it right away, it will take more than a page and a half of writing.

Alexander Field said...

Thanks for the tip Nate dog!

Anonymous said...

ROFL!!!!!

Diana said...

LOL.

Ellen said...

Omitting pronouns. Not v.g.

Pronouns 0. Alcohol units 0. Blame for pronoun problem direted at Helen Fielding: high. Agreement with John O: Total.

Writer from Hell said...

For once I'm reading about an error I haven't made!

balootiful said...

Nathan,

I have a somewhat unrelated (but burning) question.

I am trying to send you a query from Sudan but your mailbox is rejecting both of my email addresses.

Is this because I am in Sudan and you are participating in some kind of divestment/sanction campaign? I can assure you that I have nothing to do with the Sudanese government.

Please let me know!
Laura

Lydia Sharp said...

I hope we're not heading toward the language changes that were presented in the movie "Idiocracy."

*shivers*

AravisGirl said...

Bwhahaha In two hundred years everyone will talk like that... or worse, Lolzcat speak!

Jason Crawford said...

Ha...I call it superhero speak, you know, like when superman is monologuing..."must get free...can't hold on much longer."

I do it all the time when texting. But I can't imagine doing it in a query. It's always better to err on the side of formality.

Scott said...

Copy that.

150 said...

Too bad. Do it myself.

Anonymous said...

Mira,

That's pushing it. Not a lesb.

JO :)

Reesha said...

Dropping articles in queries....they must be poets on a strict word-count diet.

Mira said...

Wanda - you know, that's a good idea. Thanks! :-)

Jo - really? was that alittle over the top? Sorry bout that.

Anonymous said...

Mira,

Still smiling.



PC,

I just thought you'd like to know, I do not reside in Mira's brain. She's not quite as nutso as that yet. Give her time, I'm sure she'll top that.

Jo

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I can never understand why leaving off articles makes something "casual" or "more realistic." WHO talks like that normally? Maybe the occasional "See ya later!" instead of "I will see you later," but that's about it.

Anonymous said...

At least people don't say, "Nate, ur kul. Pls rep me."

They don't, right?

David Nowlin said...

Made head hurt.

Aimless Writer said...

hahaha...didn't miss a thing.
Perhaps its because we read so fast we tend to skim over the little things?
Or write so fast out fingers just miss it?
I always read my work out loud to catch these things. Still...

Melanie Avila said...

Totally guilty of this, but not in a query letter. Sheesh.

ROFL - WV: lespeef

Jael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jael said...

Am thinking someone told them: make query shorter. Obeyed letter, not spirit.

(verification: ansimpla, the process of making something shorter by editing, and removing articles, and eventually resorting to l88tspeak. r0x0r!!!1!)

Victoria Mixon said...

Nathan, I'm posting an interview with Wendy Burt-Thomas on her recent book, The Writer's Digest Guide to Query Letters, in just a few days (I'd post it now, but I'm in the middle of a Literary Mash-Up Extravaganza, which you are all welcome to join).

The reason I mention this interview to you is that you're in it. I asked Wendy about hooks, citing one of your examples, and she said, "I’m going to agree with Nathan, and not because I just met him at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The guy knows his stuff!"

all the best,
Victoria
http://victoriamixon.com/

ditex said...

I'd kind of like to see an example of this used badly in a query letter, since it's a legitimate stylistic choice as used in, oh, Catherine Called Birdy and Watchmen. If the query letter is meant to be in the voice of the book, I'm not sure what's so bad about it.

TKA said...

If laughter is the best medicine, I should be quite healthy after reading Nathan's post and the resulting comments. Funny, funny, funny.

Jil said...

Perhaps only the part describing the book should be written in the tone of the actual story. The part of the query where the author is speaking to the agent should be written in a more formal way?

I always feel odd calling strangers "Dear". Why don't we then finish off with "Love,..."? I think "cheers" is a nice finish...

Zen of Writing said...

Blame Twitter and teeny keypads.

JS said...

Like Erastes--lots, lots--think of Jingle--better in Dickens than in life--very, very.

Nicole Seiffert said...

We've established that it's poor form to drop articles in queries. What about dropping queries in articles?

Lilly Jones said...

"Excess informality" - thanks for making the point. Perhaps it is due to laziness or weariness or being in a hurry or some other excuse, but it has become rather rampant. I actually feel that "life" altogether has become excessively informal - in terms of everything literally, from etiquette, education, dress codes, speaking, writing, raising kids, etc. Sometimes it all seems sloppy and inappropriate even though I know it can be necessary to "let one's hair down" [not with writing of course, seriously]. In life matters, where does one draw the line? I'm old-fashioned and appreciate old-school in many instances, yet life continues to race on... Where is the line (fine or not) between formality & informality?

Ameya said...

I talk like that all the time. Especially online but also in real life. As do the people I talk to. But I can't believe people don't have the sense to know when proper grammar is appropriate! I think English speakers are on a subconcious crusade against formality.

I wouldn't quite consider it text speak, though. Txtspk is the inability to spell or spend more than 3 seconds on communication. It makes me want to blow up the world. Dropping articles is just the informal way some people talk.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has a different take on punctuation and grammar. I am such a square that I even use full punctuation in SMSs, instant messages and emails (and look down on those that don't).

Anonymous said...

As a tech writer, I come across this a lot in existing documents written by technical staff who are not writers. They think it sounds concise and emphatic, and very often object to my putting the articles back in. It reads like a telegram to me, and implies that the writer is too busy to take the time to write a complete sentence. Very off-putting, especially in an instruction guide.

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