Grammar Girl talks with Ali Land, author of the best-selling novel Good Me Bad Me, about the Greek word "meraki," the spelling of rhythm, and how "nonversation" should be added to the dictionary.
Grammar Girl: What’s your favorite word and why?
A: Meraki. It’s a Greek word that means to do something with soul, creativity, or love. To put something of yourself into whatever it is you're doing. It’s my mantra, not just for writing, but for life.
GG: What’s a word you dislike (either because it’s overused or misused) and why?
A: Amazeballs. It has such an insincere, throwaway quality to it. And why stick balls on the end of a perfectly good word anyway? There are more than enough balls in the world as it is, surely?
GG: What word will you always misspell?
A: Ryhtm. Eri single time.
GG: What word (or semblance of a word) would you like to see added to the dictionary? Why?
A: Nonversation, which refers to worthless conversation and small talk. This is the introvert in me desiring less noise in general. Come on, let’s hold hands and watch the world go by. In silence.
GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?
A: When more words are used than necessary. Keep it lean and clean. And vary the sentence lengths, show readers you can dance. Not just the Viennese Waltz but the Polka, the Tango, and the Rumba too.
GG: To what extent does grammar play a role in character development and voice?
A: My debut novel Good Me Bad Me was bought as a partial manuscript based on the strength of the voice and the unusual cadence of my writing. The darkly intense and, at times, staccato rhythm allows the reader to authentically experience the mind of the teenage narrator at the heart of the story. I wasn’t sure how readers would respond to it, it has a different style to many other books in the same genre, but as a creative I believe in pushing the boundaries and being experimental on the page. I want the books that I write to provoke thought and create discussion. The rules that exist around grammar don’t interest me, what interests me is diving as deeply as I can into the mind of my characters and taking readers with me as I do.
GG: Do you have a favorite quotation or passage from an author you’d like to share?
A: "Crazy isn't being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It's you or me, amplified." – Susanna Kaysen, author of Girl Interrupted.
It’s tough out there. It could happen to any of us so be kind and seek to understand the Why.
GG: What grammar, wording, or punctuation problem did you struggle with this week?
A: I’d take any of the above over perspective which is currently what I’m obsessing over in my second book. Who should tell the story and why. The struggle is real. However, if anybody is wrestling with grammar/wording/punctuation my advice is to read your work out loud. Joan Didion famously said ‘Grammar is a piano I play by ear.’ I’m with her.