Alyssa Palombo, author of "The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel," talks about the specific uses of the word "nausea" as well as a favorite book and podcast.
Grammar Girl: What’s your favorite word and why?
Alyssa Palombo: I love the word “passionate." I love what it means, I love how it sounds, I love how it looks on the page.
GG: What’s a word you dislike (either because it’s overused or misused) and why?
AP: "Nauseous!" No one uses it right. If you yourself are feeling ill, you would say “I’m nauseated.” If you’re nauseous, you are making others feel nauseated.
GG: What word will you always misspell?
AP: "Bureau." Luckily it doesn’t come up much! I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of it, but I second-guess myself every time I write or type it.
GG: What word (or semblance of a word) would you like to see added to the dictionary? Why?
AP: "Intertwangled." One of the hosts on my favorite podcast, "My Favorite Murder," misspoke once and said “intertwangled” instead of “intertwined," and I want it to be a real word so bad. It's a useful word for when things are both intertwined and all tangled up together! Also, it’s very fun to say.
GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?
AP: When people either use semicolons incorrectly or use commas in place of a semicolon. Semicolons are the best! They’re so handy! I want more people to use them (and use them correctly!).
GG: To what extent does grammar play a role in character development and voice?
AP: Grammar in how a character speaks can tell you SO much: where they’re from, what level of education they have, personal quirks, what social class they belong to, how they want to present themselves to the world. It’s definitely important for writers to think about. As an author of historical fiction, I tend to have my characters speak a bit more formally than we do—it helps give their speech a bit of a feel of the past.
GG: Do you have a favorite quotation or passage from an author you’d like to share?
AP: I recently read "Blood Water Paint" by Joy McCullough, a novel in verse, and it has some of the most gorgeous and empowering writing I’ve read. It’s hard to pick just one passage (seriously, everyone: just read the whole book), but I really love the last two poems:
“99. I will show you/what a woman can do”
“100. Everything begins from here: the viewing point,/the place where you stand,/your eye level./That single point on the horizon/where all other lines/converge.”
GG: What grammar, wording, or punctuation problem did you struggle with this week?
AP: Hmmm, I suppose it was more of a wording thing—I just started drafting a new novel, and I knew the information I wanted to convey in the very first sentence, as well as the feel I wanted it to have, but it took me a few tries to word it. It still isn’t quite right and I’ll have to tinker with it some more. But it’s fine for a first draft!