Century or decade? Who knows?

This habit of using the **00s to refer to an entire century is really quite irritating.

It’s a good idea for your prose to be clear. The story may be ambiguous, the narrator may be unreliable, but the readers should not be scratching their heads about what the sentences actually mean.

1800s (for instance) could refer to a single decade (1800 -1809) or the entire 19th century. I have to look at context to figure it out. And these days writers sometimes don’t even supply the context.

I know it must be hard to remember that 18** happened in the 19th century (I’ve fallen foul of this myself. It can be embarrassing) but that is no excuse for sloppy ambiguous writing that leaves the readers scratching their heads.

PK’s Caveats: Caveat 1: I may not know what I’m blathering about. Caveat 2: There are no rules about writing, there are just things you can get terribly wrong. Caveat 3: If people apply the words never or always to storytelling techniques, ignore them.

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Filed under General rants., Style and Voice

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