Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Let's talk about tiny things.

Bearing in mind, of course, that I do line edits.  Which means I'm not only making comments about the story, I'm fixing grammatical and punctuation errors, too.  The more errors I have to fix, the more tedious the job.

So I thought I'd point out a few today, just in case these little babies have somehow slipped under your radar.  Remember--a clean manuscript is a beautiful manuscript.  :)


This is certainly a wee thing.  But here's the rule:

IN in used to denote LOCATION:

The rabbit was sleeping IN the box.
She found her keys IN her purse.

INTO is used to denote ENTRANCE:

He slid his hands INTO his pockets.
She put the fish INTO the refrigerator.

Most common error:  Using "in" when you should use "into".  As in, "He slid his hands in his pocket."  It's true that, once he does the sliding, his hands are IN his pockets, but as he's doing it, it's INTO the pockets they go.


The correct usage is DIFFERENT FROM.  As in, always.  "Different than" is commonly used in both speech and writing, but it's incorrect.  And it makes my teeth curl.

Full disclosure:  I've only learned this in recent years.  I still find "different than" here and there when I edit my own work.  Old habits die hard!

But, yes.  It's

I'm not so different from you.
Avocados are different from artichokes.


Some of you will balk at this one, but I'm going to say it, anyway:  THE CORRECT WORD IS SNEAKED.

And, yes.  I change it in the work I edit.  Every. Single. Time.

Here's the thing:  "Snuck", which sneaked into American English some time in the early 20th century, is so widely used and accepted, that, yes, some people think it's okay to, yanno, use it.  And there are cases when, for the sake of voice, it might work in your novel.  Like, if you've written a middle grade story from the first person viewpoint of the main character, and he happens to talk that way.  In that instance, "sneaked" would sound inauthentic.


Most of the time, and especially if you write adult novels, SNEAKED is the correct choice.  It is the grammatically correct past tense form of the verb TO SNEAK.

The present, past, and past participle of TO SNEAK are:   SNEAK, SNEAKED, HAS SNEAKED

These 3 forms are used to make all 6 tenses of the verb:

I sneak.
I sneaked.
I will sneak.
I have sneaked.
I had sneaked.
I will have sneaked.

(And by now, the word "sneak" doesn't even feel like a real word.)

Thus endeth my little list of wee things.  (Well, inside my head, they're not so wee.  I sort of want to claw things when I see these errors.)

And now I'm off to ballet class after not-quite-5 hours of sleep (don't ask).  This should be interesting.

Happy weekend, all!


  1. bet you were abs bonkers w mine! ahhhhh-Amy N

  2. LOL Amy -- no worries! I go bonkers with almost all. I drive myself crazy. ;)

  3. it's fun to go bonking around!! :) Amy

  4. Don't forget chuck vs. chunk. I have used the word "chunk" (i.e. "chunk it in the trashcan") all my life only to learn that it's Texan for chuck.

    1. Lanette, I've never heard "chunk" being used for chuck! :)

  5. It reminds me of a story on the news of a teacher's lesson on the tenses. It used the examples of "bring, brang, brung." Two of those are not real words. I'll let you guess which ones.

  6. "Makes my teeth curl" made me giggle. But I understand. So glad you posted this! I was actually wondering about snuck vs. sneaked because I use it in the opening line of my MG novel. I waive red back and forth a eediculois amount of time. So much so that off hand I'm not sure which one I actually used. Gonna have to check that when I get home. Thanks!

  7. 'Snuck' is one of the many words Canadian writers have to watch when writing for US audiences. In Canada, 'sneaked' is wrong. So are 'leaped', 'dived' and 'fishes'.

    1. From what I've read, ikmar, "snuck" is used more frequently in Canada than in the US, but it is still technically grammatically incorrect.

  8. Lay vs. lie. I only finally got that one right when I started teaching, but now I see the mistake everywhere.

    "Should of" instead of "should have" or "should've"--makes my teeth curl and my toes grind.

    1. Ooo, don't get me started, Beth. Lie/lay KILLS me, as does the whole "should of" (which I find highly illiterate!). I could blather on about this stuff, but I won't. ;)

  9. I have to disagree with the sneaked and snuck distinction. It has become an accepted form and widely used - even if technically incorrect based on a strict adherence to traditional grammar. Language evolves, it lives and breathes, and once something becomes so accepted it supplants that which it replaced - or at least is an acceptable alternative. Grammarians also love to point out that the famous opening of Star Trek is incorrect because it is technically incorrect to split infinitives in English - to boldly go should be boldly to go etc......but that just sounds clunky and wrong. So, I say it is probably best left to each individual to choose whatever form of sneaked or snuck fits best with them in their work.
    I think this is a good summary of the issue from

    Sneaked is the traditional past tense and past participle of sneak. Snuck is new, originating in the U.S. in the early 20th century, but it has become remarkably common across all main English varieties. People seem to like it, and it appears in even the most editorially scrupulous publications, so at this stage there is no basis for saying snuck is incorrect. It’s just new. English has many irregular verb forms, and adding one more won’t cause harm.

    In American news publications, sneaked is marginally more common than snuck, and in Canada snuck actually appears twice as often as sneaked. The two words are neck and neck in Australian and New Zealand publications, and in British publications sneaked is about twice as common as snuck. These figures are based on unscientific research, but it’s safe to say British writers shun snuck to a greater degree than the rest of us.

    And, now that I have put my two cents in on sneaked and snuck, I am going to have a snack.

  10. So I did one of these things in my entry *runs and hides* ... It was intentional though!

    See, I'd gone back and forth between:

    "I craned my neck in the darkness of the vent"


    "I craned my neck into the darkness of the vent"

    I liked the visual that the latter sentence gave me ... more of a feel of my MC actively piercing the darkness rather than her just simply being "in" the dark.

    However, now I'm wondering if it was a mistake to go that route. Even though I was intentionally stretching the rules, I'd hate to cause red flags on the first page!

  11. Ok, so I just wrote "snuck" in my YA WIP, and I think I'm going to leave it , b/c it's in her voice. I can't imagine my prot saying "I sneaked a look at him."
    But these are very helpful. Thanks for the rant- I mean, good info. ;)

  12. I always thought I was decent with English grammar, until I started writing fiction. I am continuously learning.

    1. Same here! I've learned more in the course of the past 10 years than I ever learned in school. :)