The non-rule Rule

While I don’t intend to teach anyone a full course in grammar or punctuation, I sometimes come across a quirk or issue that bugs me. So, today let me run one by you. He said. Said she. The rule that isn’t a rule.

Said is a simple word to explain who is speaking. A few other uses for it exist, though it’s sometimes used unnecessarily. It’s most usually a dialogue tag. Sharon said, “Don’t overuse dialogue tags, but if you need one to clarify who is speaking, said is the most invisible word to choose.” This tells you, I am speaking to you. As for dialogue tags, maybe I’ll mention those in more detail another time. Here I want to address whether said should go before the name or after it.

Should one write, James said, or said James? Should that be Suzie says, or says Suzie? Neither is strictly wrong. It’s all opinion, so I’m not about to argue with anyone, but let me explain why I and many editors prefer the first.

It’s a simple matter of cause and effect. To explain it simply, a person speaks. You don’t speak a person. Until a character opens his or her mouth to speak, no one has spoken. Logically then, it’s much better to write: “The name should always go before the action,” Andy said, than to write: “Writers not getting this simple logic drives me crazy,” said Andy. I share ‘Andy’s’ opinion on this. Whenever I see the action before the name, it always pulls me out of the story.

But, as I’ve told you, it’s not a ‘rule’. The choice is yours. Simply keep in mind that not all readers and editors like the second option. Granted, most will set this annoyance aside if they enjoy your work enough, but why take the risk when some readers and editors dislike ‘said Sharon’? No one objects to ‘Sharon said’.

Dragon #12

My last dragon post, I put up a photo of a Butler & Wilson dragon brooch I own. I have another red dragon brooch that’s far smaller, but this week… Well, if you have the B&W brooch, it stands to reason you need the earrings to match. Love these little guys. I don’t wear nearly often enough, though our lives of going out have been extremely curtailed, mine especially. Anything that raises a smile is much welcome, and they had me at ‘dragon’.

Disconnect

Fate dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century this month, forcing me to buy my first ever smartphone. Yes, you may all laugh. The first words out of the mouth of someone we know was, “iPhone?” Hmm… no. I use a phone as… well, a phone, or more often a texting service. I send a message and make a rare call; the call service is really for emergencies. I have a landline at home; friends and family can call me on that should they feel a pressing need to get hold of me. I went for the cheapest phone that was returnable should I have problems with it.

So, how did this amazing transformation come about? My phone provider changed networks and the new sim kept rebooting my old standard phone. In short, I’m now stuck with a piece of tech I never wanted.

First impressions… why are people so obsessed with these things? Why are their lives on it? I find it extremely difficult to text on a small screen whereas I was so fast with my tiny old phone and its buttons. Seriously fast! One of the first things I had to buy was a stylus to have any chance of typing on the new phone at all despite it being a standard size. And it’s heavy. Far heavier than the small phone I used to have, so I have additional weight to carry around. I’m a woman who likes to streamline her handbag. Some days I wish I were a man with just pockets to fill. And I’ve no interest in any of the apps except possibly the calculator.

Of course, this is no doubt because I spend way too much time on screens, anyway. Between television, writing and marketing on a laptop, and making use of an occasional game or ebook to break up a long trip (and as distractions when in pain these days), I spend way too much time in front of screens. I know my eyes pay for it, as does my body. For health I’ve got myself moving again, and work at a sit/stand desk, a worthwhile investment.

Naturally, because of my reluctance, something occurred to me. People complain they have less time than ever in an age where we actually have more leisure time than in any era in the past. I know this because at one job we interviewed people who had worked for the company in ‘the good old days’ — an actual phrase these people used, but they worked far longer hours. Their working conditions were terrible.

Now, someone I know gets wound up because colleagues are messing about watching YouTube videos or similar during their breaks and returning to work late, or even watching at their desks when they should do something else, all while said person doesn’t mess with a phone and is working. It’s up for the employer to do something, but there’s much of this sneakiness going on everywhere. And then these people do some more of the same when they get home.

I can’t help thinking we waste so much time online and could get so much more done in our lives if we limited ourselves. Which I’ve done a lot recently. My mac reports my screen time to me. If it’s up these days, it’s because I’m writing. But social things, I’m limiting myself. I can understand playing with a phone on a long journey (if you’re the passenger), but even then when I took a long train journey every day, I used to read a book. I’m not speaking against anyone or for everyone, but I think many people have time; they simply aren’t aware of how they use it up. The internet is the great procrastinator.

Not that everything about the internet is bad. It’s enabled to me to make friends both at home and abroad, some of which I’ve met, and you’re talking 20 year long relationships. I’ve rediscovered old friends. I’ve made equally rewarding and long-lasting friendships with work colleagues. It’s possible I would never have become published without the internet. I appreciate all it’s done for me and how it’s enhanced my life, but I don’t want to find myself constantly hooked up to, or hooked ‘on’ tech, and I think that’s what the modern version of a portable phone means for me: always ‘on’. Almost always contactable, able to access the internet wherever one goes. It’s not something I want, and therefore, aside from going on Wi-Fi for updates, I most decided won’t use my phone for online.

While I’m sure nothing I’ve said here will convince most people, I still advise to disconnect sometime. Go out into nature. Take your phone — you never know what might happen and it’s a safety net. But consider turning it off. Listen to the birds singing, not the chatter on Facebook. Watch the waves breaking on a beach, not the videos on YouTube. Take some time to spend with nature. Disconnect. I feel so much better for it.