It’s been pointed out that in my first two published novels I misspelled the word y’all. Those who know me well have accused me of obsessing over this error. Untrue. I make mistakes every day and painlessly move on. What I’m fixated on isn’t the misspelled word; it’s the fact that I can’t correct it.
I spelled it like this: ya’ll. In school I was taught that y’all isn’t a real word and, as such, possesses no official spelling. Online there seems to be controversy over the issue—but the y’all spelling seems to be the most commonly accepted; though I took a survey of friends and about half spelled it the way I did.
In light of this, I’ve elected that in the future I will drop the apostrophe altogether, a course of action which will be considered scandalous in that, though highly debated as to placement, the collective opinion is that there’s an apostrophe in there somewhere. There will be denigrations from reviewers and critics. My spelling will be scorned by grammarians and the IOPS (International Organization of Professional Spellers).
As the writer this is my decision. I’ve made a similar choice by using the word “alright” rather than the archaic “all right.” Even when the computer indicates that my “alright” is in error, I ignore it and continue blithely on. So far no one has voiced a protest.
Another of my rebellions is the renaming of the panhandle as “North Texas” instead of the way it’s known throughout the state, which is “Northwest Texas.” My fellow Texans have accused me of either ignorance (preposterous, as I was raised there) or of deliberately perpetrating a fraud upon my readers who are unaware of the preferred designations of the Texas regions. Because of my bullheaded renaming I have been asked if I’m even a real Texan. The truth is that I knew my title, Old Buildings in North Texas, would be met with bewilderment and vexation, but I did it anyway. Calling the panhandle “Northwest” when it’s the furthest north, but not the furthest west, has always baffled me. So unapologetically I stand, willing to take the hits, knowing that, in my small way, I have done my part in correcting what I have always viewed as a misnomer.
As well as spurning the rules pertaining to alright and yall, I have decided to incorporate a fresh way of dealing with tags. For those who don’t know, the tag is the necessary portion of the dialogue that identifies and sometimes describes the speaker. Taken fromSnoop, my mystery series, here’s the way it’s normally done:
“All the women in the building are getting fatter,” she says.
From the same manuscript, here are a few of my less conventional wordings:
“Because, Joe, I spoke with her,” said patiently, as though I’m instructing a child.
“Why are you telling me this?” Wendy wants to know.
“Hey, Miss Nosey.” Manny’s name for me.
“Yes, very much in demand, as always.” Sarcastic.
“My boss would never let me take a nap in the middle of the day,” from Joan, who lacks discipline when it comes to buying items online.
These techniques are neither typical nor acceptable. In fact, each of these five lines of conversation breaks unassailable rules. How audacious to be so disregarding. Considering that the only purpose of the tag is to let the reader know who’s speaking, it’s best if it’s unobtrusive. The tag is not a platform for showcasing one’s vocabulary; so no “opines” or “ripostes” or “retorts” to distract from the flow. The best way to maintain this link between the spoken words and who says them in an inconspicuous way is to stick with the simplest verbs like “says” or “asks” and this, too, can be distracting in that it becomes repetitive after a while. So in some instances I do away with the “says” or “asks” altogether; instead, as demonstrated above, I use a single adjective or, as with the last quote, treat the tag as a continuation of the exchange.
Why am I going on about this? For two reasons. The first is because sometimes it’s a good idea to examine goals and think about how to achieve them. How will I go about attaining my prime objective, which is to create a distinctive style that is simple yet complex, innovative yet respected by traditionalists? What decisions will I make?
And secondly, to make the point that before a person breaks the rules by doing something jarringly wrong, she must know on a profound level how to do it right. So, now that I know how to spell y’all correctly, it’s perfectly acceptable to spell it like this: yall.