Updated: Mar 13, 2022
I've been running the Diction report in the Pro-Writing Aid tool. Let me stop right now to say I love editing tools, so this is not a rant against the tool. I purchased a lifetime subscrition to Pro-Writing Aid, so 'nuff said. But back to that Diction report.
It pointed out some "unnecessary" words I didn't know I was in the habit of using. Most specifically, it seems I can't go a page without using the word all. All? I didn't realize it was in my vocabulary, much less I used it at least twice on every page. As a reader, I would be be tsk-tsk-tsking and muttering about sloppy writers. So, am I alone in this quirk of finding things in fiction that drive me crazy? I think not.
Buzzfeed recently ran this article: People Are Sharing Things Authors Do In Books That Distract Them, And I Agree With All Of Them. Yes, I agree with them ALL the way, but especially on the Carrie Bradshaw syndrome. Anne Allen also weighed in with Reader Pet Peeves: How to Avoid Writing Stuff Readers Hate. Totally with her on the chuckling, chortling, sneering, and hissing dialog tags.
So, what do I hate?
Dialect in almost any shape or form, which I define as spellings and misspellings, elisions, apostrophes, syntactical shifts to reproduce the speech of a person from a different time period or an ethnic, regional, or racial group. I almost quit reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because of all the pseudo-French and Russian. Novels with excessive ye, thee, nae, turrible, and gubbnah never come home with me. Sometimes I wonder if my course in French Colonial Literature (in French) triggered this particular peeve. Imagine, if you will, learning to speak English as a second-language and trying to read Uncle Tom's Cabin. All my carefully acquired French grammar and syntax rules went flying out the window. It was the last French class I ever took.
The Comma Salt Shaker, a phenomenon I first noticed as a technical editor. It seemed like someone handed out a salt shaker filled with commas. When the writer finished the document, s/he stood over it and shook vigorously, letting the commas land where they would.
A repetive silly phrase used at inopportune times. Remember the frequent use of "Oh, my!" in Fifty Shades of Grey, usually signalling the height of sexual satisfaction? Yeah, no.
Excessive grinning or shrugging impersonating as Deep POV. I get it, your character is supposed to have an interesting inner life, but a grin or shrug isn't getting me there.
When the writer doesn't visit or research what they're writing about. For example, I've been to Egypt three times. I entered pharaonic tombs that have been baking under the desert sun for about 3000 years. Those tombs are NOT cool or moist, yet they are described as such in many novels. I grew up near the town in which Gone Girl was set and drove to many of the places mentioned. There's a reason we have google and google maps, although Gillian Flynn seemed unaquainted with them. The close kin to not knowing about the place you're writing about is lack of research/knowledge on a particular subject. If you know nothing about fencing or swordfighting, don't make your main character a master swordsman. If you failed freshman biology, your research biologist MC might just be a little bit unbelievable.
Bad grammar and typos. I made a living as an editor. Self-explanatory.