Monday, May 16, 2016

Are You Guilty of Overstating?

The view from my front porch. :)

5 Questions 

To celebrate the grand re-opening of the Coffeehouse for Writers, Jennifer Brown Banks is spotlighting the instructors in a 5 Questions series on her blog, Pen and Prosper. I have the privilege of teaching the Boot Camp for Writers, so I'm featured in this post.  I invite you to stop by if you have a moment. :) 

Overstating, Are You Guilty?

Strunk and White had this to say in The Elements of Style:

“Do not overstate. When you overstate, the reader will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in his mind because he has lost confidence in your judgment or your poise.

Overstatement is one of the common faults. A single overstatement, wherever or however it occurs, diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of the writer’s enthusiasm.” 

I must admit, overstating puts me off. You might say it's one of my grammar pet peeves. For example, I cringe when I get an email that includes something like this: 


Why must we shout? Isn't it more civilized to simply say, 

"We must stop the atrocities."

Is it just me, or is the extreme capital emphasis distracting? My interest in the message wanes, and I feel like I'm being coerced into taking it seriously and pressured into embracing the cause. Making a point is necessary and commendable, but there is a better way to achieve respected, professional results. As Strunk and White state, overemphasis "diminishes the whole". 

The exclamation mark also suffers from overuse. Its true purpose of course, is for commands or exclamations, like: 

Stop, thief!  or Your book was published, hooray!  or I haven't had my coffee yet! 
It works for informal correspondence like in social media, emails, texts, or blog comments. But I've noticed their generous use elsewhere and I wonder, how excitement worthy are these statements? Are we shouting and exclaiming when simply stating will do? 

One veteran writer's take on the subject advised counting the number of exclamation marks in a piece. He then said to eliminate all but one and to prudently consider even the lone remainder. He asked, is such emphasis necessary? I thought this advice interesting; it now factors in to my editing process.

And since we're on the topic, there's the obvious overstating with excess words and modifiers. When revising and editing I'm on the lookout for extras like very and really, and repetitive phrases such as free gift.

While there is a place for using all caps, exclamation marks, and even bold and italicized print, I believe a good balance equals better communication. Well chosen prose combined with class and common sense never goes out of style.  

What do you think? Do you agree with Strunk and White? What grammar mishaps make you cringe

If you have time, don't forget to stop by Pen and Prosper for my interview. Thanks so much!   

I'm taking a break for a few weeks, but will return on June 6 with an interview with author Sarah Sundin. Enjoy the remainder of May
Happy writing,
Karen :)

Photo credit: Karen Lange

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Strong Legacy

Although Mother's Day here in the United States is over, I wanted to share this tribute to my mother and grandmothers. This was a guest post on the Coffeehouse for Writers' blog a while back; I hope you don't mind if I share it with you here.

I'm guest posting at Tyrean Martinson's blog for her 5 Reasons to Write series, so if you have a minute, please hop over and see us! 

A Legacy of Strong Women 

When I reflect on how I became the woman I am today, I think of the women who were most influential in my life. These women were there from the beginning, from my infancy through high school, marriage, and beyond. They demonstrated class and style to my sisters and me as they loved, lived, and overcame obstacles.

Edith Pearl, my paternal grandmother, surrounded us with the kind of attention and love us girls relished. I remember fondly time spent at her home, when my sister, cousin, and I got to dress up in Grandma’s clothes and fancy shoes. She arranged our hair, bought us pretty dresses, and played Canasta with us. With her encouragement, we tried new and exotic foods. Imagine the giggles that ensued when she introduced us to the pu-pu tray at a Hawaiian restaurant. When she and Grandad traveled, they brought us gifts, among them pearls from Majorca (which I still have and wear). She gave us the gift of knowing we were treasured and special. 

Caroline Alicia, my maternal grandmother, wasn’t afraid to try new things. Someone told her that she wasn’t smart enough to learn to sew. What did Caroline do? She took a class and became the best seamstress around. My sisters and I would spend part of summer vacation with Grandma and Grandpa. Though this city-fied girl wasn’t keen on weeding their huge garden, she did learn a few things about hard work. How much did groceries cost in the summer of ’73? I don’t recall, but I do remember Grandma’s ability to stretch a dollar and make good meals. Time with Grandma also included games – Scrabble, Canasta, and one of her favorites, Rack-o. Even my children now think of her when the Rack-o game comes out. Caroline’s loving, caring and can-do attitude lives on. I often pause and wonder how she would handle a situation – sewing, gardening, family, or otherwise.

After I had my three children I told my mother, Linda Rae, that I owed her a million dollars. I take that back. There isn’t enough money on the planet to pay her back for all she did for us. In addition to the sacrifices she made for my three sisters and me, she was the best cheerleader a girl could ever have. As a slightly chubby preteen, she dried my tears in the dressing room at the clothing store, telling me “You just have broad shoulders like your father.” She’d make every effort to find something flattering and suitable for the occasion. 

My sister Wendy and me. I'm the one driving. :)
While she couldn’t instantly remedy my figure, Mom helped make me feel valued and pretty. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that it occurred to me that my shoulders might not be so broad. No matter, Mom’s sentiment still makes me smile. She cheered me on through marriage and motherhood lending savvy, not meddlesome advice. I think of her every day.

These dear ladies each hold a special place in my heart. They taught me to nourish the inner beauty and let special qualities shine, to learn and push through challenges, and to cherish and love unconditionally. Their legacies live on through memories and the generations of strong women they left behind. I miss them all.

Don't forget to visit Tyrean's blog if you have a minute. Thank you! :)

What women were influential in your life?

 Happy writing, 

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, May 2, 2016

Meet the Blogger with Sandy Sieber

Author and Pennsylvania resident Sandy Sieber joins us for this month's Meet the Blogger. PA is near and dear to my heart, born in Lancaster, I've loved the state for as long as I can remember. :) So when I met Sandy, I knew we shared common interests Sandy has written numerous books, including The Flying Banana, which is a fun workbook designed to teach children the history of transportation in Pennsylvania. Her approach has kid friendly appeal, always a good thing to help the learning process.

Sandy's blog, paHis features a delightful assortment of Pennsylvania related topics - history, customs, news, and more. Recent posts include info on Centralia's mine fire, Amish customs, and products native to the Keystone State. Her posts offer interesting tidbits and links; I always learn something new 

Hi Sandy, welcome to Write Now! Why did you start blogging? How long have you had your current blog? 

Thank you, Karen! I started my blog as a way to connect with people who might be interested in buying my books. I’ve written my blog, paHis, since September, 2011, when I wrote about Blue Jacket, a Shawnee Indian. A rumor said that he had been Marmaduke Van Swearingen, a white boy from Pennsylvania. My great-grandmother would have been a descendant of Marmaduke’s uncle. DNA tests proved the legend wrong. 

Now there's a bit of interesting history, or local lore, depending on how you look at it! What is the main theme of paHis

My blog is mostly about Pennsylvania, past and present, but I also write about another topic dear to my heart, homeschooling. 

Both subjects are near to my heart as well. Have you gained any benefits through blogging? 

First of all, I enjoy local people telling me that they like reading what I write. Second, I’ve gotten to connect with some wonderful people including you, Karen, as we feature each other on our blogs. I received the greatest thrill from blogging when my post about Mexico, Pennsylvania reached over 13,000 views. 

Wow, that's wonderful, congratulations on so many views! I too, am glad we met, It is good to connect with so many great people. What projects are you working on now? 

My ongoing project is to produce a full Pennsylvania history curriculum for 4th through 8th grades. I have four workbooks finished. Right now, I’m writing a historical fiction short story collection to include in the section of the curriculum about industry in Pennsylvania. The first short story is about a charcoal furnace journeyman. In the second story, a monkey boy employed by Edwin Drake’s oil drilling rig is the main character. The last story will be about the coal industry. 

The curriculum sounds great. As for including fiction, that's the icing on the cake. There's nothing like a good story to help bring history to life.  What might people be surprised to learn about you? 

They might be surprised to learn that I walked barefoot across a manure-laden barnyard to earn a dollar from my brothers when I was young. My feet sure stunk afterwards! 

Ooooh...I bet! I hope that dollar was worth it! :) What advice would you offer a new blogger? 

Read other blogs to see what you think works or doesn’t work. Choose topics that you already know or that you don’t mind researching. Also, include pictures when you can. 

Excellent tips, Sandy. We can learn so much from other blogs and from writing about topics we know. Thanks so much for joining us this week. Wishing you well with your books! 

Thanks Karen, for the opportunity to appear on your blog!

More About Sandy

After 20 years of homeschooling her four children, Sandy Sieber now works two part-time jobs, one being a substitute teacher. She and her husband Rusty go on used textbook buying trips periodically for Follett Corporation. Sandy likes to walk, write, read historical fiction, babysit her grandchildren, and visit Pennsylvania tourist sites. Her blog name paHis stands for Pennsylvania belongs to God. Purchase her books,The Flying Banana, Phacops Rana and Other Pennsylvania Symbols, Archbald Pothole and Other Pennsylvania State Parks, and William Penn and Other Pennsylvanians on her website.

Connect with Sandy


Have you ever lived in or visited Pennsylvania? What is your favorite vacation destination?
Happy writing,


Photo credit: Free Images