Monday, October 17, 2011

A Foot in the Mouth?

How many times have you stuck your foot in your mouth lately?

Not so bad, perhaps, if you have feet like this:

But rather lousy if you have feet like this:

I wonder what Abraham Lincoln was thinking when he said,

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”          

Wonderful advice, and very helpful if we heed it.

As writers, we have an advantage. Putting pen to paper adds more more hoops to jump through before we risk a foot or two in the mouth.

Pondering this, I mentally listed the things I do to avoid this dreaded occurrence.

  • Spell check - It may not catch the foot before it heads into the mouth, but it can signal something wrong or out of place, making me slow down and rethink it.
  • Reading my work aloud -  Spots rough or awkward text, one more opportunity to think about what I said before tossing it out there.
  • Critique partners - Another set or two of eyes, what a blessing! I have a handful of people I trust for good, honest input.
  • Letting it rest - I try to give finished work at least a day to rest, then check it again before sending it out. If I don't have a day to spare, then whatever is possible, even if only an hour or two. I can lose my objectivity (and just get tired of looking at it) after working on something a while, so a step away is a big help.

So, okay, I still stick my foot in my mouth on occasion, but I have noticed that my writing has enhanced my awareness of what comes out of my mouth. Most of the time. Just ask my husband. :)

Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Rhonda Schrock, the winner of The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund! Thanks to everyone who stopped by last week for the interview.

How do you keep from putting your foot in your mouth with your writing? Care to share any foot in the mouth episodes with us?

Happy writing,

Photo credit: Stock Exchange


  1. Definitely has to be sending it out to betas in my enthusiasm before it's ready! :o)

  2. I read everything back through, even short emails that don't seem all that important. Especially in correspondence like that, I try to catch any spots that could come across the wrong way or in the wrong tone, when the reader won't hear my voice. :)

  3. Great advice and those pink tennis shoes make me go awwwww.

  4. I wish I had sound advice to pass on but honestly I live with my foot in my mouth. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  5. The fourth one is something I need to practice. Great advice.

    Congratulations, Rhonda!
    :) :) :)

  6. Critique partners and test readers are a must! They catch most of my stupid stuff.

  7. Jessica,
    What a great thing to have! The writing community is such a blessing. :)

    I usually do too - emails, even a chat on FB. I still can go back and catch mistakes occasionally. Working to be sharper. :)

    I know, aren't they cute? I need to pick up a few pairs for my baby nieces, :)

    Yeah but you know what? I don't think it's as much as you think. You make great and humorous points on your blog! :)

    Every once in a while I skip that stage if I am really pressed for time. So I should start earlier. lol :)

    Ah yes, the stupid stuff. :P I hear you. Me too!

    Happy Monday,

  8. For myself, reading out loud is very helpful to find those 'bumpy' areas, and forgotten words. Now, if only I could practice a sentence out loud while in a conversation so I avoid all those awkward 'foot in the mouth' moments!

  9. I did it a few weeks ago when I sent my critique partners some work that I hadn't let sit and really reviewed first. So now I try to let my work simmer even more!!

  10. This was a good post - for writing and for living. sandie

  11. Congratulations, Rhonda!

    Great tips, so we don't put our written foot in our mouth.

  12. This is why I prefer writing to public speaking, although I love to speak, too. And when I put my foot in my mouth, the audience loves it! I think I make them feel comfortable with their own foibles.

  13. Wow!! What a very nice way to start my week! Thanks heaps. I'm thinking my Highlander Grogg coffee will go with that very nicely.

    Foot in Mouth disease? Lord, have mercy! I missed one typo before sending in a column once in which I was recounting something I used to do with my father. I meant to say "sat on his lap" to do a pumpkin roll. Instead, "lip" slipped through.

    Red, red face, for sure.

    And now for that coffee...

  14. Lynn,
    Reading out loud is one of my favorite editing tools. Yes, if we could rehearse conversations first...:)

    Yes, I agree, simmering is a good thing. I need to schedule better with this in mind!

    This is a good point! I forget how it relates to real life as well!

    I like the way you said that - our written foot. Good term! :)

    I'm with you on the writing vs. speaking thing. Although you are right, people like the real deal.

    Congrats again! Jody said she would get it out this week. Oh my, a red face, I can so relate. Thanks for sharing!


  15. Guilty!

    I do notice, though, that over the years I've learned to be much more judicious in what I actually speak. You know what they say about "fools rushing in where angels fear to tread". Well, I'm doing better at lining up with team angel, and less for team fool. I have fewer headaches that way :)

  16. Yeah, I've put my foot in my mouth. A. Lot. LOL!

    Nice post!

  17. Karen:
    Congratulations to Rhonda. I know she will enjoy the book.
    I try to let my blog entries 'perculate' before I post them.
    When I was in a writing group, we presented something to be critiqued on a rotating basis. One of the women gave me a complex when she commented on my work.
    I have tried to read my writing aloud. It seems to help.

  18. In my writing life, I depend on your tip about reading our work out loud. In my personal life? Ummm, I'm still trying to learn the secret, especially when it comes to giving advice to my adult kids who have kids of their own! Great post, Karen :-)

  19. That Lincoln quote is so true. I've thought that many a time when I'm in a meeting.

    Great points about the manuscript stuff though. Excellent, actually.

  20. Lots of editing hours and rounds of editing!

    I count on critique partners for this too!

  21. Kathleen,
    Me too. Although, like you, I have learned a little over the years...:)

    So we'll just say we are works in progress. You in?

    That's a good way to think about it - percolate - I like that! I like reading aloud too; it's a great tool.

    Hey, I am learning that too with my adult kids! Getting better, but it can be hard. If they knew what I DIDN'T

    I know, I think of it often! He was one smart guy. Thanks so much, glad you liked the points!

    Yes, you are right on those two. Boy does it take time, huh? :)

    Blessings all,

  22. Foot in mouth moment:

    Me: Ah, so that's where you got your pretty eyes from.

    Student: That's not my mommy.

    Turns out she was in foster care. Oops.


    Join me in the Trick or Treat Spooktacular! Could you help make the Grand Prize a brand new Kindle Touch?

  23. Congrats, Rhonda!

    Karen, what an entertaining way to illustrate a point! There are communication gaps on both sides of the fence.

    Susan :)

  24. J.C.,
    Oh my. :) Well I suppose it could have been worse? As for me, I will NEVER ask when the baby is due until I am POSITIVE they are expecting. And that's something I am very careful about normally. Talk about a foot in the mouth...

    True, very true. I think we all have a filter that processes things differently. And sometimes, no matter how well intended, people can take something wrong.


  25. Great advice, Karen. The only thing I don't do is to read it aloud. Need to try that.

  26. I just called out for ARC readers today. Just a little more feedback before the final read through edit.

  27. To lessen the incidents of foot-in-mouth, I ask my husband to read my work. He encourages me and helps me to improve my writing by "calling it like he sees it" when reading a piece I wrote.

    While, I retain ultimate veto power over any suggested revisions (insert toothy grin here), I almost always heed his supportive and objective critiques.

    Enjoy your week!

  28. Rachna,
    Thanks so much. :) Yes, I think the reading aloud thing is a great help. Give it a try!

    The ARC is an important part of the process. I've read some at this stage. It's always exciting.

    It's great to know you have someone on your team to support you like this. :) What a blessing!

    Happy Writing,

  29. Well, I can think of a few glaring examples with my writing - like sending it out before it was really ready - not doing a read aloud first. I often have a few "foot in mouth" moments on my blog, and I need to work on that.

    Great advice from Lincoln, and from you. Thanks!

  30. Hi Karen .. don't we all and even as wisdom appears with age .. it can still happen and then we start digging that hole - and as someone up at the Nursing centre said to me .. stop stop you'll never dig yourself out ... let's laugh and move on!!

    I try and filter myself and my words .. and use the delete button .. but they slip through .. I hope I catch the worst (though I've been known to email - help pls delete!)

    So feet in mouth still allowable I'd prefer the pink ones with pink icing .. cheers Hilary

  31. Tyrean,
    I've done that too. In my haste to get something out, I neglected to check guidelines thoroughly, etc. Live and learn, right? :)

    I like the advice to stop! My sisters and I will often tell each other to stop talking if we think we are treading near to the foot in the mouth thing. :) The pink ones - me too!



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