This blog was featured on 03/10/2020
Watch out for Writing "Tics"
Written by
Maria Murnane
March 2020
Written by
Maria Murnane
March 2020

I love reading; I read a lot (a lot). But I don’t like it (actually, I can’t stand it) when authors abuse italics and (or) parentheses and (or) semicolons; that annoys me. In fact, just last week (true story, not joking), I began reading an indie novel that wasn’t bad, but the author had an irritating habit (a really, really irritating habit) of using italics and parentheses and semicolons all the time. I mean all the time; the author used them nearly every page. By the end I was rolling my eyes; I was literally (not figuratively) rolling my eyes. 

Are you as annoyed from reading that paragraph as I am from writing it?

That was a gross exaggeration of the type of writing I encountered in the book in question, but the sentiment is true. When I read a novel, I want to forget that I’m on a crowded subway, or that Monday morning is looming, or that I should really get off the couch and clean my room. I want to immerse myself in a fantasy world, and tics, such as overuse of uncommon punctuation, prevent that from happening by yanking me out of the story.

Other writing tics include:

  • Exclamation marks! I’m guilty of this, often right here in my blog! But I get so excited!
  • Repetition of uncommon words, including gestures. I once had a beta reader tell me he was going to pull his hair out if my protagonist “bit her lip” one more time. That still makes me laugh.

A good copy editor will catch problems like these before you submit your manuscript to agents or publish it yourself, which is why I always recommend hiring someone to read it for you. If you can’t afford a professional, bribe your most meticulous friends with a bottle of wine. You won’t regret it.

Maria Murnane writes bestselling novels about life, love and friendship. Have questions? You can find her at











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