The Written Wyrd

Of late, I’ve seen some works where the authors thought it was oh-so cool to change the spelling of words in order to attract attention. At first I thought the authors were abysmal spellers, but I noticed that the misspellings were done on purpose for effect.

For instance, Magic became Magick, Classic became Clasick [that took me a while to figure out, dense soul that I am], Quest became Kwest. Bleh. When I used to teach school, I saw the most bizarre spelling of kids’ names: Ahn/Ann, Ghrase/Grace, Lihn/Lynn, Jenipher/Jennifer, Khristi/Kristi, etc. And I’m not talking about these being cultural changes, but your typical WAS [white, Anglo Saxon]. These poor kids were doomed to a lifetime of mispronunciation and misspelling all because mummy wanted to spruce up a “clasick” name.

The same goes for punctuation. I’ve seen authors eschewing quote marks to denote dialog. I’ve been told it’s because they write experimentally. The only thing experimental is the lack of quotation marks because it certainly isn’t in the writing.

WTF peeps? Spelling and punctuation are there to make life easy for the poor slob reading your work. Do you think it’s really in your best interest to make it harder with cutesy spelling? Being clever – Magic/Magick doesn’t turn a rotten banana into a banana cream pie. All it means, to me at least, is that you’re trying to deflect the real issue – and that’s your writing.

“Kutesie” doen’t equal “Phabulous.” Stick to the standard spelling, and let your writing stand on its own.

9 Responses to The Written Wyrd

  1. Melissa says:

    I agree with you except for one example — magic/magick. That difference is frequently used to differentiate between stage magic and magick studied as part of the occult. (The Pagan world is really quite large!)

    Otherwise, I agree 100%, particularly about the names. Have you seen the Web site “Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad Thing”? Roll on the floor funny.

  2. catwoods says:

    Great reminder that no matter how we dress up our manuscript, the gift inside is more important than the wrapping paper.

    I despise unique spellings, and free-style punctuation gives me the hives. I recently read a book where EVERY spoken word was set off with a little dash. No quotes. Not even tags. The writer assumed the reader would pick the correct talkative character based on the surrounding paragraphs.

    That was the closest I’ve come to book burning!

  3. Melissa, thank you for your comments. I know there is a differentiation with the whole magic/magick issue, but I’ve been seeing a mess of this spelling and it has zip to do with the occult. Hence my eye roll. It’s plain schlocky.

    Catwoods, this is exactly what I’m talking about – the dash and offset to denote dialog. WTF? That the editor allowed it just shows that some truly are asleep at the wheel.

  4. writtenwyrdd says:

    Hey, you talkin’ ’bout me?

    But I have to disagree slightly about issues like alternate spellings for words like magick. There is a distinction between magic and magick for a lot of people who practice Wicca or other magical paths. So, for those sorts of circumstances where it can clarify, I think it’s fine to alter spellings a little bit–especially when writing fantasy or sf. I’ve actually used it for the reasons I mention above–but with reservations; and I’ll likely go back to spelling magic in the end.

    But like you say, cutesy is no reason to come up with odd spellings in writing. And punctuation and grammar exist to clarify, so they should be used. It’s not experimental to obfuscate or confuse.

  5. Heh, no, Writtenwyrdd, not talkin’ about you. And as I mentioned above, I realize there is this whole magic/magick thing going on, but too many writers use this in the wrong application, and it’s becoming a bit cliche to me. Now I just roll my eyes whenever I see it.

  6. Melissa says:

    To be honest, if “magic” was good enough for Crowley and Agrippa, it’s good enough for me. The “k” bugs!

    I can’t stand alternative spellings. They’re not alternative — they’re just wrong! And don’t get me started on punctuation. Until you’ve made the basics an art form, you shouldn’t be “experimenting.”

  7. writtenwyrdd says:

    Yes, the eyerolling thing is why I’m reconsidering it. Sorry, I missed your comment on that magick/magic thing (which I basically repeated) before my own comment. The dangers of skimming.

  8. Pelotard says:

    To be fair, though, I was 25 when I discovered there are rules to English spelling. Until then I’d simply memorized it all.

    And the dash thing is actually standard in some languages. I grew up with them 🙂

  9. Frank says:

    THE THOUSAND HOUR DAY was a big bestseller way back in 1966. There is a great deal of dialogue and all of it introduced by a dash. I though it clean and easy on the eye. As for fanciful alternative spellings, I agree there be a really good reason, such as what you find throughout Russell Hoban’s RIDDLEY WALKER.

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