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I Am The “So…” Guy

(image via wikimedia)

I caught myself starting off my sentences with the word “So…” last week.  I don’t know how long I’ve been doing it.  I had never noticed myself saying “So…” before, but since then I’ve caught myself doing this several times at work.

I’m pretty sure that I don’t do this at home because my wife would tell me.  She can’t stand it when people start their sentences with “So…”  Whenever people start their conversations with her by saying “So…,” I always hear about it later.  If my wife can’t stand it, then I’m sure a bunch of other people can’t stand it too.

My wife mocks people who start their sentences with “So…”  I mean, she doesn’t make fun of them in public.  My wife’s not like that.  She will gently mock them around me, and around me only.  She won’t even mock people around my daughters (very often) because we don’t want to raise children who think it’s okay to do that.  They’ve probably eavesdropped on us, though.

The thing is, at work I have to make co-workers redo stuff that they don’t want to redo.  For much of my career, I’d just go ahead and fix others’ mistakes myself because that’s usually easier, but now I find myself explaining to them what they need to do in order to fix their errors, and when I begin, I seem to start with “So…”

Once you get a reputation for something like this, it’s tough to be rid of it.  If I keep saying “So…,” coworkers will start expecting it.  Even when I don’t do it, they will imagine that I said it anyway.  The “So…” reputation will linger, like the stench of a serial farter who has changed his diet and no longer has flatulence issues.  But it won’t matter.  People always remember.

I’ve had plenty of mishaps at work before this and have survived.  Years ago, I blanked out at the beginning of a major presentation and barely stammered my way through it.  I’ve walked around all afternoon with broccoli stuck in my teeth.  My fly was once open for an extended period of time.  But as far as I know, these were one-time occurrences.  When it comes to “So…,” I’m a repeat offender.

If my coworkers have noticed that I’ve become the “So…” guy, I haven’t seen the consequences yet.  I haven’t noticed anybody flinch when they see me approaching.  Last week, I walked into a room of coworkers laughing, and nobody stopped.  A couple coworkers even asked me for job-related assistance today.  From what I’ve seen, there is still time to save me.

The first step is to pause before I begin speaking.  I don’t have to pause before each sentence, though.  I seem to say “So…” only as my introduction.  Once I start talking, I’m fine.  It’s not like saying “Uuuuhhhh.”  “Uuuhhh…” can show up any time.  I’ve learned to maintain a pause instead of saying “uuuhhh.”  You would think that quitting “So…” would be more difficult than quitting “uuuhhh,” but that hasn’t been my experience yet.

I don’t want to get stuck with the “So…” reputation.  I don’t want to be the guy who gets quietly mocked behind his back.  I’ve been in that position many times in my life, and I’ve worked hard to climb out.  If anything, I’ve recently been in the position to quietly mock others, and I rarely use that power (because I’ve been on the other side of it).  I’d rather have the power to be the mocker than to be the mocked.  I’m okay with the power to mock because I’m responsible enough to wield it wisely.  But I can’t maintain that power if I keep starting my sentences with “So…”

So I must stop it.

I mean… Therefore, I must stop it.

Reading and Writing: Which One Is More Important?

It’s been a hectic month. We’re still fixing storm damage to the house, the daughters have busy school schedules and need to be driven around, work has gone crazy again, and even when I plan things out perfectly. I don’t have time to read AND to write. Even on a good day, I can choose one, but I can’t do both.

At some point every day, I find myself holding a book and staring at the computer, and I ask:

Should I read, or should I write?

Dysfunctional Literacy

This would be a crummy way to read AND a crummy way to write. (image via Wikimedia) This would be a crummy way to read AND a crummy way to write. (image via Wikimedia)

It might not be the most pressing debate of our time. Until the chicken and the egg dispute is resolved, I feel guilty even bringing this up. But I feel guilty about a lot of things, so I might as well add this to the list.  Which is more important, reading or writing?

There’s a reason I ask this question. The next couple weeks are going to be busier than normal. My family is moving, so discretionary time will be limited for a while. I can usually get about 30 minutes of reading and 30 minutes of writing every weeknight (if everything falls into place), but now I might be lucky to get just 15 minutes of one. So for a couple weeks, I’ll have to choose. Do I use my limited spare time for…

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8 Rules of Writing That Are Easy to Break

As aspiring authors, it’s important for us to develop our own styles to separate ourselves from everybody else. Being unique means sometimes breaking rules that we were taught in school or in writing groups. Even though I don’t mind breaking the rules of writing anymore, it’s good to be reminded what those rules are every once in a while.

Dysfunctional Literacy

P writing blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are a lot of rules to writing (and I think I just broke five of them with this opening sentence), so many that I won’t even try to list all of them.  As an amateur, I read about rules of writing because I want to improve.  But I’ve found that when I try to follow the rules too closely, my writing sounds like somebody who is trying to follow the rules of writing.

Since I don’t get paid to write for Dysfunctional Literacy, I’ve decided to write the way I want to write, and I’ve noticed that I tend to break some common rules about writing.  Maybe breaking these rules will keep me from becoming a successful author.  I don’t know.  Maybe breaking these rules will help.  Either way, here are some common rules of writing that I sometimes break.


Nobody should do…

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Literary Glance: Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb

Until recently, I thought that J.D. Robb was a male author.  I mean, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.  It was just an offhand assumption.  When I found out that J.D. Robb was a female author’s pseudonym, I wasn’t shocked or outraged.  I just thought it was a smart pen name.

First of all, Robb is a guy’s name.  And when I think of J.D., I think of Jack Daniels.  Almost every guy associates the initials J.D. with Jack Daniels.  If you’re a woman who absolutely has to come up with a pseudonym that sounds like a dude, use a whiskey and a guy’s first name.  That’s an important thing to know.

Secrets in Death is J.D. Robb’s latest mystery, and it’s okay so far.  After a few pages, I haven’t learned any secrets and there hasn’t been any death, but none of that is necessarily bad.  The only thing that has stood out so far is the word ass, and I don’t mean that in a pervertish kind of way.

In this opening scene, Lt. Eve Dallas (also a cool name) is entering a bar to meet a friend(?):

She stepped out of the noise and rush of downtown New York, into the fern –and-flower-decked noise of the trendy, overpriced drinking hole.

The bar itself, a dull and elegant silver, swept itself into an S curve along the facing wall.  Mirrored shelves filled with shiny bottles backed it.  On the top shelf exotic red flowers spilled out of the black-and-white checked pots.

Stools with black-and-white checked seats lined the front.  An ass filled every seat while other patrons crowded in, keeping the trio of bartenders busy.

I don’t know.  The word ass kind of seems out of place in this scene.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not offended by the word ass.  I’ve written about the word ass a couple times on my blog.  I even spell out ass completely.  I don’t replace the a in ass to make it look like @ss@sshole should be tinkered with a little bit, but ass is fine.

The thing is,  the sentence with the word ass could easily have been reworded to make it less awkward.

All the seats were taken while other patrons crowded in, keeping the trio of bartenders busy.

“All the seats were taken” implies that a human being is sitting in each seat, which in turn means that an ass was placed on every seat.

I don’t think I’ve used the phrase “an ass filled every seat.”  I’ve never walked into a crowded restaurant and thought/said “Those seat are filled with lots of asses.”

When offered a place to sit, I’ve never said, “I shall fill that seat with my ass.”

Maybe people talk like this and I just haven’t noticed.  I’m trying to be a writer, an observer of the human condition, and I can’t believe I’ve missed a linguistic trend like this.  As an aspiring author, I try to borrow the writing strategies of successful authors and try new things, so I’ll try using this expression in my own life.

When I continue to read Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb, my ass shall fill my recliner.

So far, Secrets in Death seems like an okay book.  Some of the phrasing seems awkward though.  I would mention it, but I don’t want to seem nit picky.

How To Blog Without Burning Out

It’s been tough keeping up with the blog recently. Several rooms in my house (including the den) are getting worked on because of recent storm damage, so all my writing has to be done in a high-traffic room amidst television noise, teens arguing, and pets vying for attention.

Writing has been a struggle recently (more so than normal), but I’ve been following my system for blogging. Over the last few years, I’ve realized that when I follow my system, blogging doesn’t stress me out.

If anything, blogging keeps me from getting stressed out.

Dysfunctional Literacy

(image via wikimedia) (image via wikimedia)

If you’re writing a blog, it’s easy to find basic tips all over the internet.  Leave comments on other blogs.  Promote yourself with other kinds of social media.  Use key words that show up on search engines.  Become a credible source in a specific niche.  Those tips can be useful, but some of them are time-consuming and can take the fun out of blogging.

I’ve been blogging for a little over 5 years, and I’ve noticed that a lot of writers who had blogs 5 years ago have either slowed down or no longer blog at all.  I think some of them burned out because they were trying too hard to follow the usual guidelines, and doing all of that isn’t very fun.  Self-promotion is time-consuming when you just want to write.

In my five years of blogging, I’ve accumulated lots of writing.  I’m embarrassed by some of…

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My Favorite Author is a Hack

Five years ago I made a list of bestselling authors who I thought were hacks. Almost all of these authors are still writing bestsellers, even those who are now deceased.

My favorite hack from five years ago is still alive and writing, but I won’t read his books anymore. I tried his new book a few months ago and I could have sworn I’d read it before, even though it had just come out. He’s still my favorite hack, though. I’ll always give him that.

Dysfunctional Literacy

Angry Talk (Comic Style) If you call a writer a hack, this is the response you might get. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Is it just me, or has Stephen King become a hack?” I asked a bunch of my peers in a writer’s group a few years ago.

I’m often surprised at what makes people snap.  I had figured that if I stayed away from politics and religion in my group’s post-writing-critique discussion, that we  would be safe from any potential group-splitting controversy.

I was expecting an even-handed response (you know, because we writers have such stable personalities).

Instead, another writer snapped at me, saying, “Stephen King has forgotten more about writing than you’ll ever know.”

That was true, and it was kind of my point.  Yes, Stephen King had indeed forgotten a lot about writing, and he was demonstrating that in his recent novels.

When I had started that discussion moments earlier, I was just asking…

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Is Ain’t A Word?

My youngest daughter’s first month of school has been relatively uneventful, but she’s noticed that a few teachers have bad speaking habits. One teacher casually uses the word ain’t while giving directions to the class. Another teacher keeps saying that assignments are due “on tomorrow.” She also has a librarian who pronounces the word library as “lie-berry.”

I have complete confidence that my youngest daughter goes to a very good school. And I’m not overly concerned about any of the common errors that these teachers are making with the English language.

Except ain’t. I’m pretty sure that a teacher shouldn’t say ain’t. I mean, I was taught that ain’t isn’t even a word.

But is it?

Dysfunctional Literacy

If it's in the title of a song, it has to be a word. (image via wikimedia) If it’s in the title of a song, it has to be a word. (image via wikimedia)

40 years ago, nobody thought ain’t was a real word.  After all, it wasn’t in the dictionary.  At least, ain’t wasn’t in any of the dictionaries that we students looked in.  The conventional wisdom back then was that if a word wasn’t in the dictionary, then it wasn’t really a word.  It never occurred to me then that a dictionary could change its mind.  Nowadays, if enough people start using words, then the dictionary will bend its judgement and include them, infuriating purists and grammarians everywhere.

If any non-word should become a word, it’s ain’t.  I don’t have proof to back this up, but it’s probably been one of the most commonly used non-words over several generations.

In elementary school, I had a friend who used to say, “Ain’t ain’t a…

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What Your Writing Habits Say About You: Take the Quiz!!!!

Maybe calling this a quiz wasn’t a good idea. Some people get nervous when taking a quiz because it brings back unpleasant memories of school.

Don’t worry! There’s no grade involved and no judgement on my part. And the results are completely confidential, unless you choose otherwise.

Perhaps questionnaire would have been a better word.

Dysfunctional Literacy

(image via Wikimedia) (image via Wikimedia)

Writing habits can explain a lot about your personality.  Take the quiz below, keep track of the points as you go, and see what kind of writer (and human being) you really are!

A. When a commenter on your blog tells you that you suck, what do you do?

  1. Feel bad that the commenter didn’t like your writing.
  2. Feel proud that somebody cared enough to tell you that you sucked.
  3. You enjoy comments, but they don’t have any effect on you.
  4. Get mad and leave a “You suck!” comment on the commenter’s blog.


B. When you get writer’s block, what do you do?

  1. Stare at the screen until you fall asleep.
  2. Write “I don’t know what to write” until you think of what to write
  3. Shrug your shoulders and go do something unrelated to writing.
  4. Throw a loud, profane fit.


C. When your spouse/significant other tells…

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Why Is Bastard a Bad Word?

Even if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, this guy just looks like a bastard.

Saying the word bastard is fun.  When I was a kid, I liked saying bastard, even though I didn’t know what it meant.  I knew what most other forbidden words meant.  I knew what the words shit, damn, and bitch meant, but I didn’t know what a bastard was.  It had to be pretty bad, I thought, because I wasn’t supposed to say it.  I believed at the time that bastard was the male version of bitch.  Maybe a bastard was even a male dog.  Then I found out what a bastard really was.

What a disappointment.

I was surprised that such a cool sounding insult wasn’t very insulting.

Technically, a bastard was a guy who was born out of wedlock.  The word was considered an insult because in the old days, bastards couldn’t inherit anything, and in a society built on a strict class structure, that was a big deal.  Non-bastards would look down upon bastards because non-bastards were socially superior.  Today we would call that non-bastard privilege.

Man, those non-bastards used to get all the breaks.

When I call somebody a bastard, I don’t mean it literally.  I usually have no idea what the guy’s background is.  I’m just using the word bastard because the guy did something I didn’t like and I’m tired of using other derogatory terms like dick or @sshole.  If I had to rank them, I’d probably put bastard between dick and @sshole, with @sshole being the worst, and dick being the least offensive.  A dick is somebody who’s a little worse than a jerk.  A bastard was a dick who deserved two syllables.  An @sshole was somebody who is completely out of control.

I can’t find my definitions anywhere else, so it’s not official.  It’s just the way that I see things.

When I was growing up, bastard was seen as the male version of bitch.  If you called a girl a bitch (which I don’t condone), you weren’t really calling her a dog.  It was just the go-to insult.  You could call a guy a son of a bitch, but sometimes the guy was just a dick but you knew his mom was okay so you didn’t really want to insult the mom by calling her son a son of a bitch.  So you called him a bastard.  Even if it wasn’t literally true.

Maybe bastard shouldn’t really be a bad word, or even an insult.  A guy can’t help it if he’s a bastard.  It’s not a character flaw.  Maybe those old-timer European elitist snobs thought being a bastard was a character flaw, but most people don’t care.  I just like saying the word.

I’d hate to say the word bastard in front of somebody who might be sensitive about it, though.  I’m sure it’s happened, and I just don’t know about it.  I guess I should stop saying the word bastard, just in case that situation come up.  I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

But bastard is such a fun word to say.  Bastard!  Bastard!  Bastard!

Ugh, this is going to be a tough habit to break.


I’m a cheap bastard, I admit it.  I’m so cheap that I even made my books inexpensive.

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!                  Now available on Amazon!

Now only 99 cents each on the Amazon Kindle!

Should You Finish Reading Books You Don’t Like?

I’ve started reading a bunch of books over the last few months, but I haven’t finished many of them. It’s not that all of the books were bad. Only a couple of them were stinkers, but between my job and my family and my other hobbies, it’s tough to find the time to finish every book I begin.

But I wasn’t always like this.

Dysfunctional Literacy

As far as my American Lit professor was concerned, I finished Moby Dick, the book, not the comic. (image via Wikimedia) This was as close as I got to finishing Moby Dick. (image via Wikimedia)

When I first started reading, I took pride in finishing every book I started.  In elementary school, I finished Harold and the Purple Crayon, even though Harold was getting out of control.  In middle school, I finished The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, even though I was being mocked for carrying big books around the school (they were WAR books, I explained… luckily, I had a copy of Massage Parlor II that kept me from getting beat up).  In high school, I finished Noble House, despite having to read a bunch of Willa Cather books in my English class.  In college, I finished reading The Mists of Avalon, even after my girlfriend broke up with me for calling it a “woman’s book.”

But somewhere along the way, I lost my passion…

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