Grammar Quirks: Scott Oden on Double Spaces After Periods

Scott Oden, author of "Twilight of the Gods," talks about his dislike of "corporate-speak," his love of the word "stygian," and onomatopoeias in his writing. 

Scott Oden, Writing For
3-minute read

Grammar Girl: What’s your favorite word and why?

Scott Oden: One of my all time favorites is “stygian."  As far as color descriptors go, you can’t really get more atmospheric than that.  It calls to mind sorcery and secrets better left to the void.

GG: What’s a word you dislike (either because it’s overused or misused) and why?

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SO: I dislike a whole class of words, those we call “corporate-speak.”  It’s a lackluster jargon filled with watered-down words, weasel phrases such as "take it to the next level" and "corporate values," "reach out," and "impact."  Can we not just say what we mean, anymore?

GG: What word will you always misspell?

SO: Ironically, I always misspell “misspell."  “Pseudonym” gives me fits, too.

GG: What word (or semblance of a word) would you like to see added to the dictionary? Why?

SO: I don’t have anything specific in mind, but I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a word I created become so popular that it ends up being added to the OED.  That would be tantamount to saying, “Why, yes, I invented the sticky note” or somesuch.  I doubt it will happen, of course.  Most of my made-up words are merely onomatopoeia for weird guttural noises, like "faugh."

GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?

SO: Not sure if it's a grammatical issue or not, but people who insist on only one space after a period are probably sociopaths or something, and not to be trusted in polite society.  You can pry that beloved second space from my cold, dead typing fingers!

You can pry that beloved second space from my cold, dead typing fingers!

GG: To what extent does grammar play a role in character development and voice?

SO: For me, it’s crucial.  My current work involves taking the fictional race of orcs and inserting them into our world, via Norse history and myth.  To that end, they speak in kennings and curses; profane in one breath, and as shrewd and wise as quotes from "Hávamál" in the next.  All of that is accomplished through grammar, dialogue cadence, and word choice.

GG: Do you have a favorite quotation or passage from an author you’d like to share?

SO: From "Boy’s Life" by Robert McCammon:

“See this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God's sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they'd allowed to wither in themselves.”

GG: What grammar, wording, or punctuation problem did you struggle with this week?

SO: Ellipses . . . I have an issue with overusing ellipses . . . no, really . . .