Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Simple v. simplistic; Apostrophe in a simple possessive; Faulty series list

All of the grammar mistakes for this article are excerpted from the website of Tiffany Lawson Inman, a freelance editor who also conducts online writing workshops, and from her guest article at They are used under the Fair Use provision of Title 17, U.S. Code.

"Did it feel like we were in the front row for that fight? I wish I could have shown you more…Go buy the book! I’ve seen more embellished fights that I’ve liked just as much, but for this scene, her simplistic style works."

Even professional writers confuse simple and simplistic now and then. That's why there are copy editors in this world.

Info for those who don't know this already . . . when you call someone's style simplistic, you're not complimenting that person. SIMPLE means uncomplicated, straightforward, easily understood, like that, and is often used in a complimentary way. SIMPLISTIC means oversimplified, and is always used negatively. Did you pay attention to that? It is always used negatively. Don't use it when you mean simple, or even when you mean very simple. Use it only when you mean portrayed as being simpler than is actually the case . . . paying inadequate attention to applicable details or complexities.

"Get a fight choreographer/stuntman insiders view of writing fictional violence . . . ."

This is a possessive form. It requires an apostrophe between the r and the s.
"Get a fight choreographer/stuntman insider's view of writing fictional violence . . . ."

"I am a freelance fiction editor. I concentrate on concept and line by line editing, writing teacher, blogger, writer, actor, and all around artist."

The second sentence is presented as a series list, but it makes no sense as one. Item 1 ("concept and line by line editing") is fine because it associates properly with the subject/verb setup ("I concentrate on"), but items 2-6 do not belong. Items 2-6 are not additional things the subject concentrates on, are they? After the first comma, the structure of the sentence inexplicably shifts from things the subject does to things the subject is.

I'm pretty sure I know what happened here. All of these things that the subject is--items 2-6 of the second sentence--were probably meant to be appended to the first sentence, but somehow ended up being tacked onto the second sentence instead. If we relocate them to their proper place, everything makes sense:
"I am a freelance fiction editor, writing teacher, blogger, writer, actor, and all-around artist. I concentrate on concept and line-by-line editing."


  1. It's disturbing that these examples come from the website of someone who apparently edits other people's writing. I've run into the confusion between "simple" and "simplistic" in students' essays. Similarly, students (and other writers) sometimes need to be reminded that while there's nothing wrong with having an opinion, being opinionated is another matter altogether.

  2. The editor list is especially disturbing! But it's a good thing this is out there. Now writers know not to hire this person.

  3. Thanks for these examples. One of my pet peeves is the use and misuse of homophones and I'd love to see this discussed.

  4. What this blog tells me: I have a much better chance of getting a manuscript accepted by an editor if I write correctly than if I write beautifully.

    Although the two are not mutually exclusive, some of the better books I've read lately (published works) have numerous grammar, punctuation and usage errors that slipped by the editor.

    What that tells me: perhaps I am more qualified to edit than some who are paid to do so.

    Happy Friday :-)



Comments are always welcome and never moderated. You don't have to be a member or sign up for anything or eat Froot Loops for breakfast to post your observations.