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MY SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF WRITING Options · View
Sherzahd
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 5:36:23 AM

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THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF WRITING (in my humble opinion)

At the risk of sounding pompous or arrogant; I’ve compiled a list of things that I have found to be the seven most common mistakes made by us amateur writers. I am in no way saying that I am a good writer; in fact I will be the first to admit that I myself am guilty of committing most of these sins, but I do feel that the first step to improving your writing is to know what to avoid doing.

I promise to try and be as brief as possible and to keep it relatively painless.



“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
Sherzahd
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 5:37:50 AM

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First Deadly Sin – Passive Voice

For the benefit of those of us who do not know the difference between active voice and passive voice, I will explain it in terms that are hopefully easy to understand.

I will start with active voice, as it is the simpler form of writing. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action.

For example, “Jessica wrote the letter.”

“Jessica” is the subject of that sentence, and she is the one doing the action, or “acting upon the verb”, so this sentence is said to be in the active voice.

Thus it stands to reason that in passive voice the subject of your sentence receives an action.

For example, “The letter was written by Jessica.”

“The letter” now gets promoted to being the subject, yet isn’t “doing” anything in the sentence, instead it is being “acted upon”, so this sentence is said to be in passive voice.

Most editors advise that you avoid writing in passive voice if you are writing a creative piece. I am not saying that the use of passive voice is wrong, as there will be times when it is entirely acceptable, but generally when writing a story, it is best to avoid it. Passive voice comes across as unclear and oftentimes confusing or vague, whereas active voice tends to be more concise.

Classic examples of passive voice can be found when listening to politicians speak. Have you ever noticed how they can talk for hours without really saying anything at all? Or without taking any real responsibility for their actions? Lawyers use it as well, it helps them to intentionally hide intent and keep all references to the subject vague.

There are times when passive voice would be the more effective option though, for example when you are writing a mystery novel or any other piece that requires suspense and an element of ambiguity or vagueness.
For example, “The editor was murdered by a writer.” And “A writer murdered the editor.”

The first sentence is in passive form, which makes “The editor” your subject, whereas the second sentence is in the active form, which now promotes “The writer” into being the subject. While neither sentence is incorrect, the sentence in passive form would be best suited to a mystery novel, as it draws your focus to the crime that was committed, rather than to the perpetrator of the crime, which would be what you need in the initial stages of your story.

I feel like I will be drifting too far off my intended point if I continue, so I will rest here for now. I trust that this will help at least one person in writing more effectively.


“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
Sherzahd
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 7:34:30 AM

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Second Deadly Sin – Improper Use of Apostrophes

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I know that personally I get very annoyed when I see writers using the apostrophe where it does not belong. I can overlook this when reading chat messages from friends who have English as a second language, I can even overlook this when I find it while grading a 5th grader’s essay, but I think that it is inexcusable when an adult writer uses it. We should know better.

Basically, you use an apostrophe in two cases.

To show possession. For example:
Helen’s car broke down.
Grammar is everyone’s friend.
One has to choose one’s words carefully.

Here you are quite simply showing possession.

Bear in mind though, this does not indicate plural. The examples as shown above apply only to the singular form of a noun. If however, the noun is in its plural form, which likely will have the word ending in an s, use the apostrophe after the s.
For example:
We visited his sister’s house. (this indicates one sister)
We visited his sisters’ house. (whereas this indicates more than one sister)


Is this clear? I trust that it isn’t too confusing.

There are also exceptions to this rule, which may seem confusing. Nevertheless I will attempt to explain it as simply as possible.
This rule never applies to personal pronouns (words like I, you, she, he, we, they, it). These words indicate possession by becoming a whole new word, therefore they don’t require an apostrophe.
Here are some examples :
The teacher said the book was hers.
The dog shook its head.
The choir claimed it was theirs.
But really it was ours.

The other purpose of the apostrophe would be to mark omitted letters in contractions.
Some examples of contraction are:
Don’t – Do not
Aren’t – Are not
Can’t – Can not
They’ve – They have


I need to mention that it’s/its are two of the most commonly confused words, so be sure that you are using the correct form in the proper context.
It’s is a contraction for it is. It’s is NEVER a possessive.
Its is the possessive for it.
For example: It’s a brave cat that shakes its tail at a dog.

Enough said? I think so.



“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
Sherzahd
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 7:59:16 AM

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So much for being brief..... 588-rolleyes

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
ladysharon
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 8:43:04 AM

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Keep posting more of these, yas. I know I've committed at most three of them.
Guest
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 2:17:10 PM

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teach me teacher I need you
Sherzahd
Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 3:28:50 PM

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I thought this would be easydontknow to be continued tomorrow.....

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
scooter
Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 4:51:01 AM

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OK Yas, it's tommorrow now.
For one who never liked school, I'm enjoying the lessons.
I should print these as completed, and hang them as reminders.
Now, if I could just do something about all my other sins.
Sherzahd
Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 7:00:02 AM

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Third Deadly Sin – Verbosity

This is one of the sins that I often find myself guilty of, blah5 as I have proven with this rather wordy forum post. When I talk about verbosity or wordiness, I am not talking about word count; I am talking about when you are saying so much that you lose your readers.

Eliminating wordiness makes for a stronger, more concise writing style that is easier to read. In contrast, a wordy style obscures your ideas and leads to inattention; it may take the form of redundant expressions or phrases that needlessly distracts the reader.

When editing, try eliminating unnecessary words, you may find that your story will stand up without them, making it more concise. Once again, active voice comes into play, as it makes your point as succinctly as possible.

AVOID........................................... USE INSTEAD
For the purpose of............................. For
In spite of the fact that....................... In spite of
In order to.........................................To
Due to the fact that.............................Due to
Because of the fact that.......................Because
Until such time as...............................Until
The reason why is that........................The reason being
First and foremost...............................Firstly
In view of the fact that.........................Since

There are many phrases like these that can be cropped to avoid clumsy sentences.


“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
ladysharon
Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 10:34:44 AM

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That's one of my peeves when I read someone's writing. Makes me go into Grammar School teacher mode adn mark up every single thing.
DirtyMartini
Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 11:54:21 AM

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Sherzahd wrote:



I need to mention that it’s/its are two of the most commonly confused words, so be sure that you are using the correct form in the proper context.
It’s is a contraction for it is. It’s is NEVER a possessive.
Its is the possessive for it.
For example: It’s a brave cat that shakes its tail at a dog.

Enough said? I think so.



I always got confused by that one, and have been rather guilty of making that mistake...though I understand it now...

It seems to me that the possessive form of it should be it's...just like the cat's tail or the dog's bark...

But, I'm not going to try to understand it...I know now that unless you are using the contracted form of "it is" that you omit the apostrophe...

'nuff said...

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

Lisa
Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 3:51:14 PM

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Joined: 7/12/2010
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Sherzahd wrote:
I promise to try and be as brief as possible and to keep it relatively painless.


Thank you for these posts. It's amazing what a difference it makes to writing when you know what to avoid.
scooter
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 4:33:20 AM

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Location: Lake Erie
I agree Yasmin, You're doing a fine job.
It's hard to be brief, when there's so much to learn.
Louise
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 7:13:26 AM

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Location: United Kingdom
Yasmine, my pet hate is the aprostrophe thing. It makes me want to tear my hair out when I read something that doesn't denote possession with an apostrophe or contractions of words. It turns me off reading it.

The fourth sin should be run-on-sentences...

New Poem out

The Observer
Louise
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 7:16:01 AM

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Posts: 285
Location: United Kingdom
Sherzahd wrote:
Third Deadly Sin – Verbosity

This is one of the sins that I often find myself guilty of, blah5 as I have proven with this rather wordy forum post. When I talk about verbosity or wordiness, I am not talking about word count; I am talking about when you are saying so much that you lose your readers.

Eliminating wordiness makes for a stronger, more concise writing style that is easier to read. In contrast, a wordy style obscures your ideas and leads to inattention; it may take the form of redundant expressions or phrases that needlessly distracts the reader.

When editing, try eliminating unnecessary words, you may find that your story will stand up without them, making it more concise. Once again, active voice comes into play, as it makes your point as succinctly as possible.

AVOID........................................... USE INSTEAD
For the purpose of............................. For
In spite of the fact that....................... In spite of
In order to.........................................To
Due to the fact that.............................Due to
Because of the fact that.......................Because
Until such time as...............................Until
The reason why is that........................The reason being
First and foremost...............................Firstly
In view of the fact that.........................Since

There are many phrases like these that can be cropped to avoid clumsy sentences.


(giggles) - In the corporate world you have to use all these phrases in emails and other documents otherwise you come off as bolshy lol

New Poem out

The Observer
Sherzahd
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 2:32:48 PM

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Fourth Deadly Sin: Incorrect Punctuation of Two Independent Clauses

We all know that proper punctuation is the cornerstone of good writing, but very few of us truly know how to use it. It’s a lot simpler than most of our teachers made it sound, once we learn how to recognise a clause.

A clause is basically words strung together that forms a complete thought, which means that it contains at least one subject and one verb. There are more than one type of clause, but for the purpose here, I will only focus on one type.

An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence.
For example:
I despise lofty women. They often amuse me.
The above clauses each have a subject and a verb and they stand alone, thus they are independent clauses.

Sometimes we combine clauses in a single sentence to emphasize the relationship between ideas, but many of us battle when trying to get the punctuation right. Here are a few simple rules to follow:

Separate independent clauses with a comma when using a coordinating conjunction (but, or, yet, nor, and, etc).
For example:
I despise lofty women, yet they often amuse me.

Separate independent clauses with a semi-colon when no coordinating conjunction is present.
For example:
I despise lofty women; they often amuse me.

Separate independent clauses with a semi-colon when using a conjunctive adverb (also, however, thus, hence, therefore, nevertheless, etc).
For example:
I despise lofty women; nevertheless, they often amuse me.

I have developed a fondness for semi-colons. With a period, the writer has said all he has to say, it’s a ‘read my thought and move along’ punctuation, whereas the semicolon offers a measure of expectancy. Think Please note that this has nothing to do with grammar, just my personal view.

Semi-colons should be used sparingly though, and only when the two independent clauses involved are closely related and balanced in length.


“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
Sherzahd
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 2:38:19 PM

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I do apologise for how long it is taking me to complete this, I've had little free time and this is a lot more time consuming than I expected it would be.

I am writing this mostly to remind myself of the countless d'oh! mistakes I make when writing. Each of these are 'sins' I have been guilty of, so I hope it can help others as well.

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
ladysharon
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 4:53:48 PM

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Posts: 410
Location: Chicago
Yas, I was thinking about adding to your deadly sins list. Wanna discuss it later?
DirtyMartini
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 5:12:15 PM

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Posts: 3,402
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You two sinners going to come up with a big sin list? Shouldn't be that hard...

I could probably come up with a couple myself...but, I try not to think about it too much...

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

Louise
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 2:10:46 AM

Rank: Forum Guru

Joined: 8/22/2010
Posts: 285
Location: United Kingdom
Sherzahd wrote:
Third Deadly Sin – Verbosity

This is one of the sins that I often find myself guilty of, blah5 as I have proven with this rather wordy forum post. When I talk about verbosity or wordiness, I am not talking about word count; I am talking about when you are saying so much that you lose your readers.

Eliminating wordiness makes for a stronger, more concise writing style that is easier to read. In contrast, a wordy style obscures your ideas and leads to inattention; it may take the form of redundant expressions or phrases that needlessly distracts the reader.

When editing, try eliminating unnecessary words, you may find that your story will stand up without them, making it more concise. Once again, active voice comes into play, as it makes your point as succinctly as possible.

AVOID........................................... USE INSTEAD
For the purpose of............................. For
In spite of the fact that....................... In spite of
In order to.........................................To
Due to the fact that.............................Due to
Because of the fact that.......................Because
Until such time as...............................Until
The reason why is that........................The reason being
First and foremost...............................Firstly
In view of the fact that.........................Since

There are many phrases like these that can be cropped to avoid clumsy sentences.



I was looking at Dr Suess quotes and this jumped out - funny

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.
Dr. Seuss

New Poem out

The Observer
scooter
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 6:56:36 AM

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Joined: 7/1/2011
Posts: 155
Location: Lake Erie
Louise wrote:
[quote=Sherzahd]Third Deadly Sin – Verbosity

I was looking at Dr Suess quotes and this jumped out - funny

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.
Dr. Seuss


Thats a good one Louise. You can hardly top Dr. Seuss

Here's a couple apples for all my favorite teachers.


Mebe some day I'll figure out how to post a picture.
gypsy
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 7:20:25 AM

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Joined: 10/13/2010
Posts: 1,594
DirtyMartini wrote:


It seems to me that the possessive form of it should be it's...just like the cat's tail or the dog's bark...

But, I'm not going to try to understand it...I know now that unless you are using the contracted form of "it is" that you omit the apostrophe...

'nuff said...


Copy this part of the explanation out, read it a hundred times, then eat the paper in order to ingest the information totally:

Quote:
This rule never applies to personal pronouns (words like I, you, she, he, we, they, it). These words indicate possession by becoming a whole new word, therefore they don’t require an apostrophe.
Here are some examples :
The teacher said the book was hers.
The dog shook its head.
The choir claimed it was theirs.
But really it was ours.


The section I hightlighted in bold gives the clearest reason I have come across: they become new words. Ah how nice! Easy-peasy Alan.



The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. Junius



gypsy
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 7:22:58 AM

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Joined: 10/13/2010
Posts: 1,594
Yasmine, these are wonderful articles. Please continue when you can.

Louise wrote:
Yasmine, my pet hate is the aprostrophe thing. It makes me want to tear my hair out when I read something that doesn't denote possession with an apostrophe or contractions of words. It turns me off reading it.

The fourth sin should be run-on-sentences...


My favourites! I can't wait! hello1





The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. Junius



Sherzahd
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 8:02:53 AM

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ladysharon wrote:
Yas, I was thinking about adding to your deadly sins list. Wanna discuss it later?


Golly! Looks like this might end up being a list longer than 7..... would love to discuss it, Sharon. :)

I was inspired by the 7 Deadly Sins you posted, thought it would be a good idea to remind myself of the 7 worst 'sins' I commit when writing. As I worked on these initial 7, I found myself thinking of all the mistakes I've seen other writers make as well. Hmm.... the end is definitely NOT in sight....

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
Sherzahd
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 8:07:17 AM

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Louise wrote:


I was looking at Dr Suess quotes and this jumped out - funny

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.
Dr. Seuss



I love that. I am a huge Dr Suess fan, funny that I've never read that one before. Thank you, I will be using it in the classroom. Applause

“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
DirtyMartini
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 8:18:12 AM

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gypsymoth wrote:

The section I hightlighted in bold gives the clearest reason I have come across: they become new words. Ah how nice! Easy-peasy Alan.


Gee...thanks for that Gypsy...I must have been out that day in English class, or asleep...no doubt one of the two...

I'll just have to find some flavored paper or something...funny though, I can't seem to find "easy-peasy" in the dictionary...

Let me go look again....icon_smile

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

Sherzahd
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 12:26:47 PM

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Fifth Deadly Sin: Ambiguous Pronouns

A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun.

Personal Pronouns: I, me, she, he, it, you, her, him, we, they, them

Possessive Pronouns: Its, his, hers, yours, ours, theirs

Relative Pronouns: That, who, whose, which, whoever, whichever

Reflexive Pronouns: Himself, herself, myself, yourself, ourselves, themselves

The above list is merely to demonstrate what a pronoun is, as well as to refer back to once my explanations become too confusing. confused1


A poorly chosen pronoun can obscure the meaning of a sentence, so always be sure that your chosen pronoun refers to a specific noun, as ambiguous use of a pronoun creates confusion.

For example:

The cakes delivered by the caterers were damaged, so I sent them back to the confectioner.

This is a classic example of an ambiguous pronoun. What am I talking about? Did I send the cakes back? Or did I send the caterers back? Are you confused? Good. You should be.

The cakes delivered by the caterers were damaged, so I sent the cakes back to the confectioner. Better?

Let us try that again… (trust me, I have seen this line in a story… names have been changed to protect the identity of the owner of said tarts)

Katie told Mary that her tarts were delicious.


Once again, who are we talking about? Does Katie or Mary have delicious tarts?

Katie told Mary that Mary’s tarts were delicious.

Alternately, you can use dialogue…

Katie says, “Mary, your tarts are delicious.”

Is the ambiguity clear or do I need better examples?


Point I am trying to make? If even a hint of ambiguity exists, use a noun instead.


While we are on the subject of pronouns, please indulge me while I touch on something we call “Agreement error”.
A pronoun agreement error refers to instances where the pronoun doesn’t match the noun it refers to.

I can see you scratching your head; let me use an example…

If every politician avoided this in their speeches . . .


Can you see the error here? It is okay if you do not, I will explain.

“Every politician” (the noun) is a singular noun

BUT…. “their” (the pronoun) refers to a plural noun

If every politician avoided this in his/her speeches . . . (both singular)


If all politicians avoided this in their speeches . . . (both plural)

How do we fix this? First thing you do is identify all the pronouns in your sentence. Next you find the nouns they represent. A singular noun requires a singular pronoun; a plural noun requires a plural pronoun. The same rule applies for gender pronouns.



And just when you thought I was done… I just remembered, there is one more thing I need to mention.

Reflexive pronouns can be very tricky to get right. Reflexive pronouns should only be used when referring back to the subject, and will always end in self (singular) or selves (plural).

Examples explain things much better than I do, so…

My sister and myself went shopping.


My sister and I went shopping.

Can you tell which example is correct? In the first example, “myself “ is not referring back to any particular noun, therefore this is incorrect. The second example would thus be correct.

Let me demonstrate where reflexive pronouns may be used.

She called me herself. Or She herself called me.
– herself refers back to the word “She”, which is a noun.

You yourselves are responsible for the trouble you are in. Once again, “yourselves' refers back to the noun “You”.

I baked it myself. Or I myself baked it. – Once again… can you see the pattern forming?



I think I have said more than I should have, probably guilty of verbosity, so I will let it rest here.


“Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”
DirtyMartini
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 1:10:14 PM

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Wow...my head is spinning now, and we still have more sins to go...

I'm still working on eating my possessive lesson...does anyone know if a little hot sauce would make that taste better? Talk about eating your words...

I might have to go revise all of my stories after this is all over...icon_smile

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

ladysharon
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 1:57:42 PM

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Don't worry, Alan. I have a couple of pet peeves I'm about to throw into the mix.
DirtyMartini
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 3:07:52 PM

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ladysharon wrote:
Don't worry, Alan. I have a couple of pet peeves I'm about to throw into the mix.


No problem Sharon...as long as you don't use my stories as an example of "what not to do"...icon_smile

I once knew a drinker who had a moderating problem...

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