From Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home (Holt):
“Al’s enrollment at St. Veronica’s had not been a shoe-in, but Phil and Hannah had decided that Christian guilt was better than bad math.”
“With a pattern of dodgy behavior already established, I was a shoe-in for further scrutiny.”
“Aaron sang close harmonies in a madrigal group, his rich-timbered baritone blending like butter.”
You could argue using “shoe-in” for shoo-in and “timber” for “timbre” ought to have won Janzen an automatic spot on the shortlist. But copyeditors typically catch such mistakes and may have caught similar errors in the books of the other finalists. So Janzen gets only an honorable mention to avoid penalizing her for lapses by an editor.
Read the full review of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.
You can also read about the 10 Delete Key Awards finalists on Janice Harayda’s page on Twitter (@janiceharayda). The winner and runners-up will be announced on March 15 on One-Minute Book Reviews and Twitter.
© 2010 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
Do critics unfairly malign Dan Brown’s writing? You’ll be able to judge for yourself when I list the best and worst lines from The Lost Symbol in my forthcoming review, which will appear after my name makes it to the top the reserve list at the library. In the meantime Tom Chivers selected the 20 worst lines from Dan Brown’s novels for a story for the Telegraph in England.
Yes, Chivers found a qualifying sentence from The Lost Symbol. But his two best choices appear below. The lines from Brown’s books are italicized and Chivers’s comments follow in a Roman font.
“Angels and Demons, chapter 100: Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers glorified the four major rivers of the Old World – The Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Rio Plata.
“The Rio de la Plata. Between Argentina and Uruguay. One of the major rivers of the Old World. Apparently.
“The Da Vinci Code, chapter 5: Only those with a keen eye would notice his 14-karat gold bishop’s ring with purple amethyst, large diamonds, and hand-tooled mitre-crozier appliqué.
“A keen eye indeed.”
Will lines like these qualify Brown for one of the 2010 Delete Key Awards for bad writing in books, given annually to authors who don’t use their delete keys enough? Find out in late Feburary when the shortlist will appear and on March 15, 2010, when this site will announce the winners.
The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés omits “going forward, Day One, iconic, that said, off the table, in the run-up to and ahead of (for “before”), right quick, quite frankly, déjà vu all over again, rock star, guys (aimed at groups that include all sexes), dude, hottie, and take it to the next level,” Marie Shear says in a review in the Freelancer, the newsletter for the Editorial Freelancers Association www.the-efa.org. I’m with Shear and would add to her list transparency, a word regularly misused by the New York Times. (Are the workings of any organization ever transparent?) But I agree with Patricia T. O’Conner, who says in her excellent grammar book Woe Is I that we shouldn’t “summarily execute” all clichés and familiar phrases: “Let your ear be your guide. If a phrase sounds expressive and lively and nothing else will do, fine. If it sounds flat, be merciless. The Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés: Meanings and Origins of Thousands of Terms and Expressions, 2d edition. By Christine Ammer. Facts on File, 534 pp., $19.95, paperback www.factsonfile.com.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
Barak Obama rose to fame partly on the strength of his eloquence as a speaker. So I was surprised to hear a couple of Democrats fault his grammar at a party last weekend. They said that Obama kept telling reporters that Rev. Jeremiah Wright “had married Michelle and I” instead of “Michelle and me.” Could it true?
I searched the Internet for “Obama” + “Wright” + “married Michelle and I.” Sure enough, the phrase popped up all over the Web www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24402983/. If Obama doesn’t want to lose the English-teacher vote, he’d better pick up Patricia T. O’Conner’s Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English: Second Edition (Riverhead, $14, paperback) www.grammarphobia.com. This lively grammar book explains what’s wrong with phrases like “married Michelle and I”: The personal pronoun is an object in the phrase, not a subject, which requires me.
My edition of Woe Is I also has a nice analysis of the root of the error. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the seeds of the I-versus-me problem are planted in early childhood,” O’Conner writes. “We’re admonished to say, ‘I want a cookie,’ not ‘Me want a cookie.’ We begin to feel subconsciously that I is somehow more genteel than me, even in cases where me is the right choice – for instance, after a preposition.”
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.