What’s your pet peeve about writing?
August 20, 2016
I’ve had it with HAD.
Every reader harbors writing pet peeves, and one of mine is the word, HAD.
Not that it isn’t a perfectly good word; it has its uses. It is overuse that drives me nuts…and I’m already pretty far down that road.
The last straw? I was all tucked in and happily reading a new novel on my Kindle when something formicated* into my bed. No, not the dog, and my hubby already slept soundly by my side. It was an infestation of dreaded and dastardly HAD monsters!
Totally distracted from my almost-favorite thing to do, which is reading myself to sleep, I doggedly counted the buggers. I’m stubborn that way.
Needless to say, I am not about to name the book here and I’ve heavily edited the example so as not to have some nutso author flaming me all over social media. This is what sent me into snitdom: She had grown very old in the four years since he had walked away. They had married young, and for the most part, were happy. He had worked hard, while she had kept house and had babies. They had had an ordinary life until the day he had walked out.
Luckily my husband sleeps like a rock and is hard of hearing, for my scream was loud. In the good old days I’d’ a thrown a hissy fit and launched the book across the room, but Kindles are far too expensive to bounce off walls, so I girded my loins (I’ve always wanted to say that) and read on, albeit now highlighting HADs as I went.
I lasted for fifty more HADs until this sentence steered me into a final bar ditch: He HAD grown very old in the four years since he HAD walked away from BLAH BLAH BLAH. Not only HAD he grown old, the writer used the almost identical sentence to formally describe the wife.
The next morning—after reading another, much better, book long enough to stabilize my blood pressure and go sleepy-eyed—I Googled information on using HAD in writing and learned I was not completely off my rocker. Well, at least about the over-utilization of HAD. Scholars on the internet (so they must be right, right?) agree that overuse of the word is an indication of TELLING, rather than SHOWING, something we’ve all been warned about. Also, I learned too many HADs make for blah/bland/lazy writing, and sentences beginning with Noun/Pronoun had should be exterminated faster than a bed bug at the Paris George V.
Here’s my take. Once the writer establishes a paragraph, or even a chapter, as taking place in the past, one well-placed HAD is enough. Then, by using the proper verb tense, the reader knows they are in another time frame without being HAD to death.
Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but I hereby vow to stop reading anything after the third HAD in a paragraph, or in a flashback.** Take that, HAD!
*The other thing that ticks me off is having to look up a word.
**And another irritation? Flashbacks.
About Jinx Schwartz:
Jinx is the author of eleven book, including eight in the award-winning Hetta Coffey series.
Raised in the jungles of Haiti and Thailand, with returns to Texas in-between, Jinx followed her father’s steel-toed footsteps into the Construction and Engineering industry in hopes of building dams. Finding all the good rivers taken, she traveled the world defacing other landscapes with mega-projects in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Like the protagonist in her series, Jinx was single, with a yacht, when she met her husband, Robert “Mad Dog: Schwartz. They opted to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue racing the rat, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, turned left, and headed for Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, where many of her books are set.
Twitter: @jinxschwartz http://bit.ly/peOlj6
Blog: Water Writes http://bit.ly/PSAAxI
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/QpYtAR