What’s Your Literary Pet Peeve?

Posted by on Aug 12, 2013 in Uncategorized | 7 comments

I have to admit, I hate the word porcelain.

I just don’t like it when writers compare skin to porcelain. It is the bane of my existence. It is anathema to me. Use anything else—milky, creamy, half-and-halfy—just don’t call it porcelain.

I know it’s not that big of a deal, and used inventively, any word can be turned into something fresh and meaningful. Porcelain is just a pet peeve of mine.

I’ve noticed this with others, as well. One of our readers seems to loathe it when poets use the lowercase “I” without reason. I know our editors are constantly fussing over non-blinded submissions (Remove your names please!).

So I’m wondering, what are your literary pet peeves? What’s that one thing that may not make you stop reading a piece, but sits on your shoulder like a little gremlin poking you in the back of your head?

Considered by some to be the greatest wizard of modern times, Mark-Anthony Lewis is particularly proud of his parents’ appearance on Soul Train in 1986, discovering of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood, and having successfully been left-handed for his entire life. Mark-Anthony enjoys pumpkin whoopee pies and Awful Awfuls (though they really should be called Awfully Awfullys). Find him on Tumblr or follow him on Twitter @M_Lewis. 


  1. My literary pet peeve is definitely non-blind submissions! I never knew (until I was an editor) how big of a deal that is!

    But in regard to words that I do not like, it would be the word “snip.” It makes me shudder. This is a great post Mark-Anthony, because I’m sure that I have a bunch of other pet peeved hiding under the surface.


  2. What a great question! One of my small pet peeves is repeated use of the word “literally,” especially when used to describe something that is not meant in a literal sense.

  3. Lauren, I have to agree with you. I literally died when I read your comment!

    Though, I recently came across a video from Mirriam Webster discussing this very phenomenon, and the lexicographers at Webster’s seem to feel that since “literary” has been used hyperbolically for over a century (and by such famous literary figures as F Scott Fitzgerald himself) that our derision is unwarranted and pedantic. Well, whatever.

    “I could care less” still sends me over the edge, though.

  4. Mark-Anthony, you crack me up! Erin

  5. Thanks for the link, Mark-Anthony! I suppose that if so many esteemed writers have been in favor of the non-literal use of “literally,” I’ll have to consider letting it slide. . . “I could care less” is a whole other story though!

    I do have another pet peeve that I doubt I’ll be able to get beyond: the incorrect use of they’re/there/their. And, seeing “your” when the writer means “you’re” makes my brain hurt a little bit. 🙂

  6. I stand by my peeve. Only e.e. cummings managed to make the lowercase “i” work, because prior to his work, it hadn’t really been done before, and the unconventional typography of the work was in itself an innovation. I myself was guilty of the lowercase “i” (as a very novice poet) until I realized that in post-cummings poetry, there really has to be a reason for the uncapitalization– unfortunately, it’s my peeve because it’s terribly abused. A poem does not magically become deep of impart meaning by uncapitalizing the “i”–the words must spring to life regardless of how the poem “looks”, unless the look of the poem is a conceit of the poem as well.

    Another pet peeve is European conventions in writing where it’s obvious from the voice or narrative that those conventions are out of place and being utilized for pomposity. To me, that’s about the same as effecting a British accent because you think it’ll make people think you’re terribly cosmopolitan.

    I also dislike poems that use vague “concept-words” whose definitions vary from reader to reader without couching those words in some sort of specific, to give the reader context. I generally find vague concept word heavy writing to be an indicator of the author not really trusting that the very specific thing they want to say is “important enough” so they bring the whole world into the narrative, instead of zeroing in on the one corner of it that they’d like the reader to see.

    What a neat idea for a post! Love it!

  7. I love Allie’s lengthy response to this. It’s about as long as Mark-Anthony’s post. I love e.e.cummings. I know that really has nothing to do with the post anymore, but I just thought I would share.

    (I briefly considered responding with all lowercase i’s to this post, but I figured I would be nice.)

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