Tell us what you hate, what you really, really hate …





I have a confession to make. I wrote this last night with a plan to post it first thing this morning. And I completely forgot. So here’s the slightly late Saturday Slot. I thought I’d start by posting a lovely picture of some Pimms. The Pimms I’m currently consuming. Why? Do I need a reason? (either to post it or consume it?!) I just thought it was an apt pic cos it’s a gorgeous sunny day, it’s Wimbledon season and it looks (and tastes) divine. Yum yum!



But onto the actual posting …

A week gone Wednesday, something odd happened. Something very odd indeed. I became embroiled in a debate on Facebook over something I had absolutely no idea, until that point, that I cared about. Yet I discovered that, not only did I care about it but I was completely and utterly passionate about it. And a little Google searching revealed that I’m not the only one.

The even stranger thing is that it was a debate that came completely out of the blue.

That evening, I’d posted some pictures on Facebook of my little girl at her school sports day. One of these was of a bouncy hopper race which led to a bit of an online “discussion” between my friend Jackie (based down south), my friend Catryn (based in The Midlands) and me (oop north). Catryn’s a former work colleague and we both met Jackie 15 years ago when we learned to dive in Turkey … but that’s another story and no relevance to the debate.

After various comments about how much fun the bouncy hopper looked and how we’d love to have a go, Jackie randomly posted the fatal words, “Oh Julie, I need to ask you something. What are your views on the number of spaces following a full-stop before the start of the next sentence?”

*pauses for sharp intake of breath while recalling the debate that ensued*

Now, as writers I’m sure we all know that the correct answer is a resounding ONE!!!!! But my friends were of the opinion it was TWO.

Let’s examine the evidence as to why I am completely and utterly correct 😉

Exhibit 1 – My education and typewriters v PCs. I was the very first intake that sat GCSEs and I came from a big school so we had quite a good range of subjects on offer. I decided to take some GCSEs that I thought may be useful in later life including typewriting and commerce. The decision to take typewriting was the best I’ve ever made because, whilst the lessons themselves were terrifying (I was the only one from any of the top sets who’d taken the subject and was therefore bullied mercilessly throughout each lesson and feared for my life if the teacher ever left the room), I learned how to properly touch type and it’s been an amazing skill to have. I learned to type on a proper old manual typewriter and we studied the RSA rules which, I admit, were all about TWO SPACES after a full stop. However, there’s a reason for this. Here’s the boring bit so feel free to skip over this … it’s because all characters on a typewriter are formed by pressing down on a key which releases a standard-sized block. Spaces between certain letters within a word would appear larger or smaller depending on the letter e.g. an ‘i’ wouldn’t take up as much space as a ‘w’ etc. so natural gaps appeared within words. In order to properly distinguish between these gaps, gaps between words and ends of sentences, two spaces were inserted after a full stop. However, PCs work on a process called kerning where the computer knows that it needs to spread words out more evenly and that an ‘i’ doesn’t take up the same space as a ‘w’. It therefore doesn’t need more than one space after a full stop because it’s very clear where a sentence has ended due to the words being more snug than on a typewriter.

Exhibit 2 – It’s the rules! My husband is a professional typesetter so knows the rules. And he says it’s ONE so ner! 😉

Exhibit 3 – Because others say so. There’s an absolutely enormous quantity of articles online explaining this and discussing the debate. So I very childishly tracked them down and posted them on my FB feed as evidence until Jackie agreed to disagree whilst sulking that I was wrong and Catryn had to walk away because she was getting annoyed. (All done in good humour, of course, and we still love each other lots!)

I’d planned an evening of editing. I got no work on my novel done that evening. Hubby thought it was very wrong that a cute picture of our little girl ended up as a huge debate about spaces after full stops. But he did support my debate!

A week and a half on, I’m now calm about it and the subject has not been raised again. Although remain a little surprised – and perhaps mildly alarmed – that it got me quite so riled in the first place. Especially as I’m actually a very placid person with (normally) very few strong opinions.

But this got me thinking … Are there any other “rules” out there that other people feel really strongly about whether this be a layout issue or something grammatical? Or perhaps it’s dos and don’ts of how to write?

Perhaps you can’t bear it when the protagonist in a book has their thoughts conveyed in italics (in which case you’ll hate mine because I use that). Maybe you want to throw a book out the window when your heroine’s appearance is described when she brushes her hair in a mirror? Or possibly you cringe when you read something in present tense rather than past? I have to put my hands up and say that present tense is one I’m funny about. I’m not the greatest fan of reading books in the present tense and tend to avoid them but I think I’ve just discovered why … it’s not that I dislike present tense; it’s just that some people are brilliant at writing in it and others are, well, not quite so talented. Sophie Kinsella is one who springs to mind and she’s one of my all-time favourite writers. Her books are very much about the here and now with lots of dialogue and inner monologue and present tense just works. But I’ve recently read a book where it was mainly story telling with limited dialogue which felt a bit clunky in present tense.

Ah, that’s better. Got those things off my chest.

So, go on then, tell us what you hate, what you really, really hate …



14 thoughts on “Tell us what you hate, what you really, really hate …

  1. Well your reasoning behind why there are two spaces after a full stop makes sense…. Don’t think it’ll stop me doing two though!! 😉

    I’m very grateful for my secretarial course which enabled me to learn to touch type. I think it’s quite the most valuable skill I have – well okay perhaps not valuable but certainly very useful. The girls constantly find it amazing that I can look at them and carry on typing at the same time!!!

    What do I hate about rules? Okay I can’t think of any right now… not about rules anyway! I hate it when I don’t know how to pronounce a character’s name and I discovered recently that I hate it when a character has a surname (and is regularly called by it) which is the first name of someone of the opposite sex. That just confuses me (easily confused, me). For example, we’ve recently discovered Peter James who has written a (rather large) series of detective books. The main protagonist is Detective Roy Grace. When I started reading it, I kept thinking he was a girl in my head, then he would be referred to as he which would make my brain stall for a minute before I remembered and then carried on. The main character in The Mentalist on TV has the surname Jane but he’s a man. Confusing! If you’re an author, don’t do it!!!!

    I do hate it when people make grammatical errors in print – we’ve all done it but when it’s in a book it’s awful. I read one once which I got from the library and it was so utterly appalling I complained to the library and asked them to take it off the shelves! How it ever got printed I don’t know. Seriously, it had typos on just about every page. And not just ones the spell check misses because it’s a real word just out of context. Unbelievable.

    Bye for now!

    Liz 🙂 x

  2. That was fun Julie!!! There was a chat on the romantic novelists email lists a while back now and some people said they couldn’t bear books in the first person, whereas to me, they’re the best!!! I’m reading Jodi Picoult’s ‘Sing me home’ now, that’s in the first person and I love it. I think it works especially well for emotional stories and that’s what I’m writing now.
    I think I don’t like people who are the grammar & spelling police. I don’t know the difference between a colon and an apostrophe and I don’t really care either. I admit, I have to get my head round enough to impress publishers, but after that, I love the creativity of do it how you please.
    My case is:

    1) I’m on another email list about some really nice young people blogging about not shopping at supermarkets. Its a really nice gentle, laid back look at modern life and its great. But they spelt Gateaux wrong and caused a furore. Not necessary I reckon.

    2) I know one family who speak what my mum would call common, they say, ‘this ain’t arf a nice garden,’ I have academic friend whose children said, ‘look at all this vegetation,’ referring to weeds in the garden. Guess who is miles up the academic chart? I think that puts people who aren’t bought up in academic houses at a disadvantage, but they ain’t necessarily thick.

    3) a system that has its own crazy spellings, I mean, whoever decided a yot was spelt yacht?

    I rest my case! Lynne x

  3. …….and another thing, crazy beauracratic rules! A few years ago I was running the duty desk on gloucester social services intake team as an agency worker. I loved it and said I’d do it on a short term contract so they wouldn’t have to pay me £25 per hour plus the agency’s whack but much less. They said I had to be interviewed, so they did interview me 4 times!! And on none of those times did they offer me a job cos I interviewed so badly!! But I was still working for them in the post I was interviewed for but because I don’t interview well, and I’d had 4 yrs away from social work at that time I particularly interviewed badly, but their rules didn’t let them take that into account. Yet I managed to take 4 kids into care from a really difficuilt client in the middle of nowhere when an ambulance was turning up to take her to a mental health unit cos I’m really good at calming people down. Local students have interview techniques taught to them at the end of their courses so they’re often offered jobs in principle but they don’t necessarily get employed cos there’s only so many newly qualfied the authority can take Their rules state that references are only taken up after interview, so that didn’t help either!

    Also, there are 2 murder cases in swindon & a man owned up to one. Whilst in the police car he told the officer he had done another and took them to the place where the victim was buried. The site was dug up and the body found exactly as the murderer had said. But he can’t be charged with the second murder cos the police didn’t follow rules, just went with the murderer whilst he was in a confessing frame of mind.
    Needless to say the victims mother is beside herself with grief.

    I think we meed a campaign for common sense!

    • Hee hee Lynne. And now take a deep breath and have a stiff drink! Hope you feel better for getting all that off your chest. I loved your gateaux story. Perhaps they should have stuck to cake instead!

      • Hee, hee! I think I’m suffering from an overdose of tennis!!! I shall have a drink, of tea sadly. We very rarely drink which is probably just as well since I have no self control whatsoever!!! Lynne x

  4. Loved the post, Julie. I may be sliding off piste here but you know what I really, really hate? You’re getting towards the end of a book and it looks like there’s a nice fat wad of pages left to read, then suddenly, bang! THE END. The rest of the book’s filled up with ads for the author’s other books, a tribute to their dear old mum and a push for the publisher.
    Yes, I know it’s a marketing thing but it’s a CON! It’s not as if you can flick through the end pages beforehand to find out if this is likely to happen, oh no, because if you do you risk seeing the actual last page of the story and spoiling the whole thing.
    It’s even worse with a Kindle. The little slidey thing might say you’ve got 2% left but one more press of the button and there’s the last page. Like I say, it’s a con trick to make you think the book’s longer than it is.
    Mind you, this can work in your favour. If you hate the book and can’t wait for the pain to be over but sheer bloody-mindedness won’t let you give up on it, the surprise last page thing is nothing short of a blessed release.
    For the record, Julie, I’m a two-space kinda gal, but that’s because I was taught my ‘secretarial skills’ back the dark ages on a dung-coloured Olivetti and now I couldn’t stop if I wanted to! Anyway I like the two spaces. Somehow they stop the sentences from bumping into one another. Or maybe it’s me eyes…

    Deirdre x

    • I’m the same Deidre, I just had a lovely fat susan lewis book and was looking forward to the extra plot twist I thought must fill the end and it was all adverts!!!

    • Thank you Deirdre. And can I just agree with you on your point too? I’ve noticed this more and more since getting my Kindle and I also find it frustrating although I just know that, when I’m successfully published (hee hee), I’ll be more than happy to thank the world and promote a stack of my other books in those pages! As a fan of romantic comedy, I find a lot of books in this genre feel a little rushed at the end. Girl and boy finally overcome obstacles and get together and it’s pretty much the last page. Because of the number of pages still left, I find myself thinking there’s more to come and feel a little disappointed. I really love books where there’s a bit more after they get together – perhaps a “three months later” moment or something. It just leaves that extra “ahhhh” moment for me.

  5. Ooh, Julie…not sure how to follow Lynne! 🙂
    I have to confess, I didn’t know about the school of thought that insists there should be two spaces after a full stop. Having said that, I did typing at school and at college to RSA rules, so I probably did know it and have just forgotten it. Nothing new there, I’m afraid.
    I love reading books written in first person. I am writing in first person right now…not in this reply. Well, yes, in this reply, but I mean I am writing my novel in first person. Oh, you know what I mean! So what do I not like? Hmm.
    Have to say, if we’re talking about books I’m not that picky. I can cope with books written in any tense really and I’m not fussed about thoughts in italics and I can quite happily “headhop” without getting too confused about it.
    I think one thing I have found out recently is that I really do not like it when just about every paragraph starts with the character’s name. Over use of that is very annoying. We know who the character is, or at least we should do. Hearing it mentioned every other sentence is enough to make me give up on the entire book.
    I also hate with a passion descriptive passages that extol the beauty of the main protagonist. For example, “Lavinia tossed her beautiful, platinum hair and glared at Cedric with her stunning sapphire eyes. Her perfect breasts quivered beneath her satin blouse, and he couldn’t help but admire her perfectly toned body with her tiny waist and endlessly long legs.”
    Yes, I know that’s very badly written but you know what I mean. Give me a break! Nothing is guaranteed to make me go off a heroine faster than reading how flipping perfect she is.
    Anyway, that’s my pet hate. I’ll probably think of loads more tomorrow but it’s late and I’m tired! 🙂

    • I don’t think it’s possible to follow Lynne lol! I haven’t noticed any books where the character’s name is over-used but I bet I’m going to notice it lots now! I’m with you on the descriptive passages about the protagonist’s beauty. Can’t stand those types of descriptions. I think it’s mainly because I like to relate to the main character and a perfect figure and stunning looks aren’t something I can relate to! Do let us know if you think of any more.


  6. I think I’m going to have to join in and agree with the descriptive passages about the protagonist’s beauty – especially viewed in the mirror!
    The spaces after a full stop question is one that has been doing the rounds at my local writing group recently. It is also an issue I was pulled up on in a competition when I first started writing seriously – and using two spaces as taught in typing. It soon made me get into the habit of one space I can tell you.
    Great post.

  7. Deirdre…that’s hilarious as only last week I experienced that. I thought I was going to get at least another 15 pages of the story but flipped the page to find a mere few lines left! I was so disappointed!
    I won’t name the author of another book I read but another thing that I don’t like is an end to a story that I don’t really see coming. Call me boring but I like tales of boy and girl meeting and they have conflicts but you know it’ll resolve itself. The fun for me is in how they manage to do that. The book I read recently was women’s fiction with romantic themes but a character was killed off at the end, so abruptly and so unexpectedly that I felt the previous 500 odd pages that I’d read were almost pointless. I hope this make sense!

    Anyway, rant over…
    Helen R xx

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