About Writing

Nauseous vs Nauseated

The other day out of desperation, I ate Real Food for lunch, then promptly had to make a run for the toilet. Lawlz.

Fortunately that seems to have been the worst of my morning sickness (knock on wood). Yesterday I managed to eat an ENTIRE baked potato. Oh sure, it was a small one, but I still ate the WHOLE THING. Victory!

My official opinion at this point is that it is way harder to be pregnant in my 30s than it was in my 20s.


Something that has irritated me for years and years now is that everyone misuses the word ‘nauseous.’ I mean EVERYONE.

When something is nauseous, it makes people want to throw up. For example, “The nauseous smell of rotten fish permeated the air and caused everyone to turn green.”

If you are nauseous, that means that you make everyone around you want to vomit. Maybe you haven’t practiced any sort of hygiene for a year. Maybe your personality is just that bad.

Nauseated is when you want to throw up yourself, probably because you’re trapped in a small room with the nauseous person and have no escape.


Because every single last one of you is misusing ‘nauseous’ when you’re supposed to be saying ‘nauseated.’ It’s not your fault, because the misuse is so ubiquitous that you have no clue that it’s technically wrong.


Not nauseous.


Consider yourselves schooled.

About Writing

Sentence Length

I’ve done some groaning on this topic recently, so I figured that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to expound a little more. So, how long should sentences be?

Despite the ubiquity of Twitter-friendly writing in contemporary literature, even Pinterest advises against putting too many short sentences in a row. Why? Because they are monotonous and difficult to read.

However, the counter advice of using varying lengths also has the potential of being misused. If you think to yourself, “I have too many long sentences in this paragraph; I’m going to throw in a short one to spice things up!” STOP AND THINK AGAIN. Longer sentences can provide plenty of variety on their own, especially if you are skilled at using less common punctuation like semicolons or dashes. Learn the intricacies of grammar instead.

Unless you are a poetry master (or giving yourself a writing challenge for the fun of it), don’t try to default to any sort of formulas for sentence length (such as, long, long, short, medium). Don’t use short sentences for the sake of having short sentences. The human brain is smart enough to naturally pick up patterns across paragraphs, and using the same one over and over will become monotonous. Unfortunately, that monotony is also the reason why it’s easy to slip into following patterns in the first place — brains are lazy.

Instead, follow this rule of thumb: The more important the idea is, the more concise the sentence should be.

For example:

He was fucked.


He was in the unfortunate position — and he had to admit that it was entirely his fault of finding himself in a dire situation.

The former conveys a sense of urgency and finality that the latter doesn’t possess, because the effect is softened by the use of more words. In the second sentence, we naturally expect the character to find a way out, despite his dire situation, because the urgency just isn’t there. However, there’s no arguing with the simplicity of the three words that compose the first sentence. He’s fucked, and that’s that.

Let’s do another example:

His eyes were blue, surrounded by aging skin that was creased with smile lines, which made them seem soft and friendly.


His eyes were blue. They were surrounded by aging skin that was creased with smile lines, making them seem soft and friendly.

In the first sentence, the fact that this character’s eyes are blue matter less than the fact that they are soft and friendly, and the color might never be mentioned again. The point of this sentence is to give the reader a general idea of how this character looks.

In the second sentence, the character’s eyes are *blue*, and the reader subconsciously expects this emphasis to be important later on. Maybe they’re blue because he’s secretly an angel, or maybe someone will recognize him by his eyes after he’s been inflicted with amnesia, or something. This sort of emphasis is a subtle and effective form of foreshadowing. Cool, huh?

For the most part, read your writing out loud to hear how it sounds; you can even record yourself then play it back to get a better idea the flow. If you don’t like what you hear, fix it. Most of us read with an internal voice narrating to ourselves, and writers need to be mindful of that fact when they are plying their craft. That’s how you create something enjoyable.

About Writing

Why I don’t read contemporary books

I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t read anything that was published this decade, because I’m a cranky bitch who hates everything about modern living … and all that. Hur hur.

I’m not doing this to be an irrational hater, but rather to analytically illustrate what I think is wrong with contemporary literature. At random, I have selected a paragraph out of a book titled, Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, because another blogger linked to it recently (hello!), and I think it serves as a good example of why I have dismissed this decade’s literature all together.

Disclaimer: I have not read this book, cannot review the quality of the story itself, and haven’t the slightest idea of what the writing is like outside of the preview available on Amazon. I have absolutely no opinion on the book itself; my complaint is with contemporary writing practices.

From the sample:

They both turned to look out of the window of the assisted living facility in north London. Issy had installed Joe there when it became clear he was getting too absentminded to live on his own. Issy had hated moving him down south after he’d spent his life in the north, but she needed him close to visit. Joe had grumbled of course but he was going to grumble anyway, moving out of his home to anywhere that wouldn’t let him rise at 5:00 a.m. and start pounding bread dough. So he might as well be grumpy close by, where she could keep an eye on him. After all, it wasn’t as if anyone else was around to do it. And the three bakeries, with their proud, shiny brass handles and old signs proclaiming them to be “electric bakers,” were gone now; fallen prey to the supermarkets and chains that favored cheap white pulp over handcrafted but slightly more expensive loaves.

First, for some unfathomable reason, authors have all decided that they have a raging allergy to commas. Maybe they think it’s more conversational, that commas are outdated and useless, or they simply never learned how to organize a sentence during their schooling; whatever the case, reading feels more like delving into an overgrown forest where one is expected to hack their way through alone. It also makes it significantly harder to read out loud, since being expected to run on and on without any pauses in one long unbroken sentence gives a monotone effect that can be really quite hypnotic … Woah, sorry, got sucked into the wrong dimension there for a moment.

The worst, in my opinion, is something that I think of as “THE TWITTER EFFECT.” You never, ever, not in a million years, see sentences longer than 280 characters (most will stay under 140, which was Twitter’s original cut off point), even in novels. Yes, I know that Moby-Dick was ridiculous for having sentences that spanned more than one page, but that doesn’t mean the answer is to only write short, choppy, status updates in lieu of actual paragraphs. I blame social media.

The longest sentence in the quoted paragraph is 258 characters, including the improperly used semicolon. Four of them are shorter than 100 characters, which accounts for more than half of the sentences in the paragraph.

So, let’s rewrite it. After all, if I’m going to claim that I can do better, I might as well back it up!

They both turned to look out of the window of the assisted living facility in north London, where Issy had installed her grampa Joe after it had become clear that he was getting too absentminded to live on his own. Issy had hated moving him so far from his home, but she had wanted him close by for her to visit, and they had no other family members who were willing to help take care of him. Joe had grumbled, of course, but he was sure to be grouchy anywhere that wouldn’t let him rise at 5:00 a.m. to start pounding dough, so he might as well be grouchy where she could keep an eye on him. The three bakeries of his past, with their proud, shiny, brass handles, and old signs proclaiming them to be “electric bakers”, were gone now, fallen prey to the supermarkets and chains that favored cheap, white pulp over handcrafted, yet slightly more expensive, loaves.

The length is the same, but I combined the seven sentences into four to decrease the choppy effect of countless periods, and enhance the overall flow of the story itself. I used a lot more commas for clear organization, and with any luck, you should be able to read that sucker out loud without stumbling. Give it a shot, and tell me if I’m wrong.

Thusly we have learned: Use commas and think longer thoughts, ’cause I ain’t got nothin’ to read.

I need a rest after writing this post. Whew.