Benjamin Dreyer is the VP Executive Managing Editor & Copy Chief of Random House Publishing Group. Below is his list of the common stumbling blocks for authors, from A to X.
- One buys antiques in an antiques store from an antiques dealer; an antique store is a very old store.
- He stayed awhile; he stayed for a while.
- Besides is other than; beside is next to.
- The singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep.
- A blond man, a blond woman; he’s a blond, she’s a blonde.
- A capital is a city (or a letter, or part of a column); a capitol is a building.
- Something centres on something else, not around it.
- If you’re talking about a thrilling plot point, the word is climactic; if you’re discussing the weather, the word is climatic.
- A cornet is an instrument; a coronet is a crown.
- One emigrates from a place; one immigrates to a place.
- The word is enmity, not emnity.
- One goes to work every day, or nearly, but eating lunch is an everyday occurrence.
- A flair is a talent; a flare is an emergency signal.
- A flier is someone who flies planes; a flyer is a piece of paper.
- Flower bed, not flowerbed.
- Free rein, not free reign.
- To garner is to accumulate, as a waiter garners tips; to garnish (in the non-parsley meaning) is to take away, as the government garnishes one’s wages; a garnishee is a person served with a garnishment; to garnishee is also to serve with a garnishment (that is, it’s a synonym for “to garnish”).
- A gel is a jelly; it’s also a transparent sheet used in stage lighting. When Jell-O sets, or when one’s master plan takes final form, it either jells or gels (though I think the former is preferable).
- Bears are grizzly; crimes are grisly. Cheap meat, of course, is gristly.
- Coats go on hangers; planes go in hangars.
- One’s sweetheart is “hon,” not “hun,” unless one’s sweetheart is Attila (not, by the way, Atilla) or perhaps Winnie-the-Pooh (note hyphens).
- One insures cars; one ensures success; one assures people.
- Lawn mower, not lawnmower.
- The past tense of lead is led, not lead.
- One loathes someone else but is loath to admit one’s distaste.
- If you’re leeching, you’re either bleeding a patient with a leech or otherwise sucking someone’s or something’s lifeblood. If you’re leaching, you’re removing one substance from another by means of a percolating liquid (I have virtually no idea what that means; I trust that you do).
- You wear a mantle; your fireplace has a mantel.
- Masseurs are men; masseuses are women. Many otherwise extremely well educated people don’t seem to know this; I have no idea why. (These days they’re all called massage therapists anyway.)
- The short version of microphone is still, so far as RH is concerned, mike. Not, ick, “mic.” [2009 update: I seem to be losing this battle. Badly. 2010 update: I’ve lost. Follow the author’s lead.]
- There’s no such word as moreso.
- Mucus is a noun; mucous is an adjective.
- Nerve-racking, not -wracking; racked with guilt, not wracked with guilt.
- One buys a newspaper at a newsstand, not a newstand.
- An ordinance is a law; ordnance is ammo.
- Palette has to do with colour; palate has to do with taste; a pallet is, among other things, something you sleep on. Eugene Pallette was a character actor; he’s particularly good in the 1943 film Heaven Can Wait.
- Noun wise, a premier is a diplomat; a premiere is something one attends. “Premier” is also, of course, an adjective denoting quality.
- That which the English call paraffin (as in “paraffin stove”), we Americans call kerosene. Copy editors should keep an eye open for this in mss. by British authors and query it. The term paraffin should generally be reserved for the waxy, oily stuff we associate with candles.
- Prophecy is a noun; prophesy is a verb.
- Per Web 11, it’s restroom.
- The Sibyl is a seeress; Sybil is Basil Fawlty’s wife.
- Please don’t mix somewhat and something into one murky modifier. A thing is somewhat rare, or it’s something of a rarity.
- A tick bites; a tic is a twitch.
- Tortuous is twisty, circuitous, or tricky; torturous is painful, or painfully slow.
- Transsexual, not transexual.
- Troops are military; troupes are theatrical.
- A vice is depraved; a vise squeezes.
- Vocal cords; strikes a chord.
- A smart aleck is a wise guy; a mobster is a wiseguy.
- X ray is a noun; X-ray is a verb or adjective.
no one ever congratulates you
for doing the really difficult things
like driving on the freeway or getting out of bed or
every friendship you make is a countdown
to the moment
when they finally can’t deal
with the missed calls and canceled hangouts
every friendship is on a timer
every friendship expires sooner,
you hear phrases like “bootstraps”
over and over
until you wish you had some to hang
you have to learn to simultaneously
relax your muscles
and move them with determination
you have to be in control
and you have to let go
at the same time
it’s enough to drive you into
a blubbering mess
music is a conduit
crying is a conduit
your dad calling is a conduit
everything becomes a conduit
for either having or not having another panic attack
you learn to stop making plans
because you’ll either disappoint yourself
or someone you care about or both
you accept all of it
you hope someday everyone else can
accept it too
you called me a dyke when i was thirteen years old,
already pressing six foot tall, equally sized in my self loathing,
desperate for friends, and you, you looked to the
dr martens on my feet and called me butch.
i cried, and wondered if i had the word queer stamped
across my forehead, or if i smelt
too much like the pussy you assumed i loved.
i had sex with a girl i didn’t like because i knew at fifteen
that lesbians don’t grow on trees like straight girls do.
we bumped against layers of fabric in her single bed,
interrupted twice because her mother wanted to know
if her “new friend” was going to stay for dinner.
no, i don’t want to fuck your boyfriend with you.
i flicked through magazines and saw brightly coloured
combat boots, winking at me from glossy pages.
two, three, four months later and the girls
that sang “i kissed a girl” at me in my
maths lessons until i cried, they were wearing them.
for years i’d worn my boots like i was carrying a cross
but when all five foot six of pretty straight girl
strutted in front of me in them, now, suddenly, it’s fashionable.
no, i don’t just need to find the “right guy”.
i’ve sat in classrooms with people that i considered friends,
people that call themselves allies. people that then turn around
and say that a child needs a mum and a dad. babies
need someone of the same “sex” as them to identify with.
i want to call their bullshit freud theory the literal mother-fucking
bollocks that it is, but i simply do not have the energy.
it is not my job to tell a girl that thinks having gay friends is
“neat” what the difference between sex and gender is.
it is not my job to calmly try and convince these people that
they are talking about things they do not understand.
the next time you squeeze your hand around your dick
on a website that’s address has both “lesbian” and “xxx” in it
remember my face when you told me you thought i was unnatural
remember my face when your eyes go white and roll back into your head
and i hope you feel bad,
i hope i ruin your orgasm
because you soiled my identity like the cum stains in your underwear.
because you are not my ally and i am not your friend.
this queer has a moan that can’t be silenced by a volume dial,
and it will never be yours to hear.
Your roommate comes home to find you
in the kitchen, in old sweatpants and a lace bra,
heating soup on the stove. You wonder
what she thinks of your stomach, its pillowy folds, if
it isn’t a little obscene, how it grows softer every day
while you stand there, tearing chunks off of a baguette,
barely chewing, constantly swallowing.
Your friend invites you over for a movie. Cancel because your
feet hurt. Cancel because your fat stomach hurts. Cancel
because he thinks you’re beautiful and you know you aren’t.
Consider writing the boy you love another letter
to tell him you are sad that he ignored your first letter.
Wonder when you stopped worrying about being
a “crazy girl.” Acknowledge that becoming one
feels natural, like tugging at ivy until it’s uprooted, like
holding the vine and watching soil fall from the roots,
back to more soil, gently.
Fear every man who looks at you.
Hate every man who doesn’t look at you.
The train whistle you hear every night
sounds like the cawing of an angry crow.
This is not the mournful song everyone
writes about, not the lone bassoon stretching
its neck into the night—this is something harsh,
dogged: blaring sandpaper, a smoke alarm.
Think about getting hit by a car almost every day.
Resent that you can’t think of anything more creative
or less passive.
But that boy. You have spent most of a year unraveling
your skin for him, draping strands of it places
you thought he’d notice, your teeth always chattering
like crude drums calling him to battle across the room,
across three states, across your bed. The woman he loves
is a magnet. You don’t know what you are, but you suspect
it is something less permanent, something
more likely to dissolve in water.
Eat the whole baguette. Lay in bed
sweating. Don’t call anyone back. There’s
that train whistle again: furious, obscene.
It’s okay to hang upside-down like a bat,
to swim into the deep end of silence,
to swallow every key so you can’t get out.
It’s okay to hear the ocean calling your fevered name
to say your sorrow is an opera of snakes,
to flirt with sharp and heartless things.
It’s okay to write, “I deserve everything”,
to bow down to this rotten thing that understands you,
to adore the red and ugly queen of it,
to admire her calm and steady rowing.
It’s okay to lock yourself in the medicine cabinet,
to drink all the wine,
to do what it takes to stay without staying.
It’s okay to hate God today,
to change his name to yours,
to want to ruin all that ruined you.
It’s okay to feel like only a photograph of yourself,
to need a stranger to pull your hair and pin you down.
It’s okay to want your mother as you lie alone in bed.
It’s okay to brick to fuck to flame to church to crush to knife
to rock to rock to rock to rock to rock and rock.
It’s okay to wave good-bye to yourself in the mirror.
To write, “I don’t want anything”.
It’s okay to despise what you have inherited,
to feel dead in a city of pulses.
It’s okay to be the whale that never comes up for air,
to love best the taste of your own blood.
When I was 10, I saw
my first episode of Law & Order, SVU
a woman screamed
and her pretty pink dress ripped
the scene cut to black but then
she sat in a station
hair mussed and mascara running
and she seemed broken
and that’s when I began to prepare
for the inevitable.
When I was 12, my sister got
hit on by a boy
he looked at her funny
and I couldn’t forget
how his eyes tracked
her pink t-shirt
around the room
he reminded me of the predators
that I saw on nature documentaries
and for the first time, my strong sister
seemed like the prey.
When I was 13, my auntie bought me
a pretty pink can of pepper spray
she told me if my daddy comes at me
or any other boy
I spray hard and fast
kick them in the balls
and then run run run
as fast as I can.
I flicked the safety switch
and clipped the can
to my purse.
When I was 14, I went to a sleepover
and met a boy named Jake
Jake was 18 and had tattoos
he smelled funny and his eyes
didn’t leave me all night.
He waited for me in the dark
outside of the bathroom
and I sprinted fast fast fast
and hid under a blanket.
Clutching my pretty pink can
and flicking the safety
(I didn’t sleep that night)
When I turned 15, my mom took me
to buy some new bras.
I had to go up a cup
and I stared at the pretty pink tags
and told her that I knew
Knew that some day
that cup size
was going to get me in trouble.
She looked sad when she said
that it wouldn’t be the cup
but the men who’d take my body as an invitation.
(I didn’t see the difference)
No one ever talks
about the pretty pink can
on my purse.
No one ever mentions it
or asks about it
And I never get pulled aside in stores.
People’s eyes flick over it
But what I want to know is;
How is it okay
for a kid like me
to have a weapon?
I’ll tell you how.
It’s because I’m a girl.
We’re trained since we hit puberty
for a war that no one wants to talk about
trained for horrible things
that people claim never happen
Or worse- “They happen for a reason”
we are told to be careful
we are told not to take walks after it’s dark
we are told to fight back to be compliant to yell and to stay silent
but nothing you tell us
I don’t know how old I’ll be
when all of that advice
will be needed.
I don’t know how old I’ll be
when I’ll take a shower
and see blood mixing with white
running down the inside of my legs
swirling into a pretty pink cream
while I try to un-break myself.
I don’t when it’ll happen,
But I know that it will.
tomorrow or years from now-
and I’m scared.
At least we girls look pretty in pink.
this is how rape culture feels
when it’s dark
and i’m walking alone
my body is
whirring in time with my frantic heartbeat
and in my mind
the news broadcaster is telling me that
one in three women will be a
of sexual assault in their lifetime -
well, i went out with two other girls tonight
so which one does that make me?
cross the street
keys between fingers
cell phone in hand
it’s so hard to move quickly
in such a goddamn tight dress.
numbers, figures, stories -
they roll off your tongue in conversation
and you sometimes forget that
a third of women
will have something fucked from inside them,
adam cracking eve’s chest to pluck an excess rib for himself
taken just because he could
just to store away and rub and polish
this feeling is the kind of unclean
that no amount of showers can fix.
the questions -
why were you walking alone?
why didn’t you catch a cab?
why were you dressed the way you were dressed?
why didn’t you scream?
why didn’t you run?
why didn’t you fight?
and as you feel your tongue recoil with the hot blast of shame, you think -
why don’t you ask
why they burnt a part of me to the ground
and spat on the ashes?
you don’t have to tell us
that not all men are
“like that” -
we have fathers, brothers, male lovers too
more of you are
than you care to admit
and sometimes, we do not know if we are stepping into
until we are well and truly through the door
if you can try and feel me up
in a crowded train at peak hour
i shudder to think what you would do
had you come across me walking home alone
if you claim that you are “neutral”
when it comes to rape culture -
that men shouldn’t rape
but women shouldn’t dress like sluts
and yes, rape is wrong, but what if it’s a misunderstanding -
then you are as far away from neutral
as i want to be from you
neutrality is something
that you can feel
when someone asks,
“do you like glee?”
“would you like some more cake?”
it is not, however
an appropriate response
- a humane response -
to the questions of
“do you think people ever ask to be raped?”
“if they didn’t say no, that means it’s ok, right?”
is as hurtful as the hands
that so many women have been
held down by
pushed up a fence, fingers in mouth, torn apart by
no, i’m not interested in giving you my number.
i hope you understand.
don’t be too clingy
don’t be such a ‘girl’
be a woman
but be hairless like a child
don’t wear skimpy outfits
don’t be such a ‘slut’
but take it off when i ask
don’t assert yourself
don’t be such a ‘bitch’
be nice to me
but don’t be a fucking doormat
don’t be ignorant
don’t be such a ‘bimbo’
but don’t argue your opinion with me
don’t wear make-up ever
don’t be so ‘insecure’
but don’t complain if i don’t like it