January 25, 2004
Common Errors and Mudslinger Standards
Over the past few years, I have received rather a number of articles. I've also noticed a depressing number of frequently committed errors. I'm no saint when it comes to these, but I can provide a list of some of the most common mistakes to look out for.
Let's start with punctuation.
I cannot add anything to the grammar help files provided by Kostia, so I'll simply relate some problems I have found on too many occasions.
The humble exclamation mark is akin to garlic in cooking - use it sparingly. It should only be used at the end of a spoken sentence to indicate surprise or something that someone is exclaiming. Think of an exclamation mark as a crutch - you don't want to be limping around all the time relying on one. Try to let the force of your words carry the tone rather than a piece of punctuation. Never use more than one at a time. Two exclamation marks in a row will only breed, and we wouldn't want that. Three in a row is asking for trouble. You should only ever use one at the end of a sentence, and then sparingly. A story with hundreds of exclamation marks - and I've had some - will require much pruning.
Question marks are only to be used when asking a question. They do not denote surprise. As with exclamation marks, question marks should only arrive singly. Please note that mixing the two is an invitation for me to make a comment.
"What do you mean???!!!???"
"What do you mean?"
One of the above is correct. The other is an obscenity in the eyes of civilised society. If you have trouble deciding which is which then read this page from the start once more.
Some years ago, a person whose name I have cheerfully forgotten tried to introduce something called the 'exclabang' - a hybrid punctuation mark that merged an exclamation mark and a question mark. I can only hope that he was not aware of his heresy.
Quotation marks - the Mudslinger standard is to use the double quotation mark - " - for speech. Leave single marks - ' - for apostrophes. Some grammarians think that the double is too heavy and obstructs the reader, but I consider that potential reading errors between apostrophes and quotations marks that look the same to be a greater pitfall.
Additionally on quotation marks, punctuation for the spoken sentences they encompass should go inside the final mark, unless you are attributing a quotation to another person. Action words (verbs) defining speech (said, exclaimed, shouted etc) should not be capitalised when immediately after a closing quotation mark. This occasionally happens as a result of using Microsoft's Word for editing, so remember to never rely on a program to think for you.
"Wrong," Said Excrucior.
"Wrong"! exclaimed Excrucior.
"Right," said Fred.
"Right," Excrucior said.
"He said, 'Right.'," said Fred. (Quoted text inside speech requires a single quotation mark to set it off from the double).
Some homonyms (words that sound the same) throw many people. The most common of these are this collection:
There - location. "His home is over there."
Their - belonging to people. "It is their home."
They're - people are. "They're going home."
It's = it is.
Its = belongs to.
One small topic that didn't require a full entry in this guide is the active vs passive tense debate. American grammar demands the active tense (eg I threw the ball), yet some people slip into the passive tense when the subject is uncertain (eg The ball was thrown). Always use the active voice unless you have a very good reason for not doing so. The only reason I know of to use it is when the author wishes to draw attention to the action instead of the person performing it. The best advice is not to try this at home - leave dangerous areas such as this to the professionals.
Game-based stylistic errors abound. I've mentioned previously about how the author should not refer to game elements in the way that a player should. The amount of stories I receive where people do this is worrying.
"I'm going on a trade run from Ranger's to Trellor," said Fred. "I need a meatshield for the MFs."
"Me? Oh, I've got a little deal," Fred confided. "I know a place where I can get some decent lumber cheap, and I know where I can sell it for decent money. Fancy guarding me?"
Which of the above sounds more realistic?
Resurrection occurs in many stories. Unless you really know what you are doing, I'd advise staying away from it. The quotation below is almost a direct quotation from a story I received some time ago.
"Hundreds of us died in breaching the castle. We stopped for a while, resurrected everyone, and then continued."
Doesn't work, does it? Remember that you play the game, but when writing for the MudSlinger, you have to make it sound like living people.
The last error for this issue, and it's one that is probably the most common, is the name of the main city in the game. The correct name is 'the City of Medievia'. It is never 'Med City', 'the City of Med', or just 'Med'. The world is called Medievia, as is the continent. If you aren't more precise, you lose the chance to focus the reader in your tale.
Next: the submission process.
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