Dear Writers

dear author

of the 3200-page fantasy epic I just finished rereading and quite enjoyed even while marvelling that it seems a kind of Ur-text for Diana Wynne Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland and despite my frequent grumbles that you don’t need a strained “evocative” simile every. other. damned. paragraph and though I died a little with each comic-book !?,

I will pass over your struggles with transitive lay and intransitive lie. Evidence suggests you or your copyeditor were aware of the problem and you did get it correct roughly half the time.


In English the third-person personal pronouns (she, he, they…but not it, poor it), like the first person (I, we), retain case markings as the vast majority of nouns do not. If you are going to name numinous personages with pronoun phrases—She Who Must Be Obeyed, let’s say—those numinous pronouns really ought still to behave like pronouns.

That is, when in a sentence said numinous personage is the object of a verb or preposition She becomes Her, He becomes Him, They become Them. Simply substitute the pronoun alone for the entire name to see how, honestly, stupid it sounds when done wrong (i.e., how you did it): She asked He to deliver a thing to They.

No no no.

She Who Must Be Obeyed required Him Who Always Follows to convey a quest object to Them Who Stand in the Background.

And if one of your mortal characters addresses such a numinous personage directly, let’s say in prayer, for clarity’s, grace’s, and syntax’s sake third person really should become second: Oh, You Who Must Be Obeyed, hear my plea!

Also finally, although my unabridged assures me the battle was lost years ago and mutter living language mutter, I personally was for precious seconds thrown entirely out of your imagined world every time a character flaunted the rules rather than flouting them.

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