Dialect in Writing

 

Dialect 

If one or more of your characters have a dialect or accent that you feel is important to note in your novel, I would suggest that unless you are very familiar with those regional speech patterns or accents, use them sparsely so they  don’t distract from the story. The safer way to do it would be to choose a few instances of the dialect and use them in dialogue. Try as much as possible to have the rest of the writing in plain English.

Falling out of character by messing up the dialect is going to do damage to your credibility as a writer and to the credibility of the character.

I’d like to give you some examples of how I have used dialect of a character in my novels.

One of my secondary characters in The Wind Weeps is Monique, a French-Canadian girl. I wanted to show that she spoke with a French-Canadian accent, but I didn’t want the phonetic spelling of every word of her speech become a chore for the reader. My solution was to limit Monique’s dialect and accent to a few of the most obvious speech habits that were typical of French speakers of English.

Saying the soft sound of “th” (as in “they”) is often difficult for speakers of French origin,  so, for example, instead of saying “there,” Monique would say “dere.”  For the hard sound of “th,” she might say “somet’ing” instead of “something.”

In French the sound of “h” is not used, so in English, Monique would have a habit of dropping the sound of the letter “h.” I showed this by placing an apostrophe in its place.  If she were saying, “It’s time to have something to eat,” she would say, “It is time to ’ave somet’ing to eat.”

That reminds me of the last clue to Monique’s speech being different; she would not use contractions. Instead of “can’t,” she would say “cannot,”  or she would say “it is” instead of “it’s, and “I ’ave” instead of “I’ve.”

By using these three changes in the dialogue, the reader could instantly identify that it was Monique who was speaking.  Just to be sure, I gave Monique two more habits of her own. I added the odd case of her swearing by having her say, “Tabernac,” once in a while. I also had her use an expression that was all her own by having her conflate two common phrases she had heard used in English. When she wanted to say “For sure” or “Sure thing,” as she had heard others say, she ended up saying, “For sure t’ing.”  Whenever this came up in the book, we would always know it was Monique speaking.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, you can find The Wind Weeps and its sequel, Reckoning Tide, at all amazon   (click on amazon) outlets and at smashwords.com (Click on smashwords.com).

My books are all marked down to 99 cents US so you can load your e-reader with bargain reading.

You can find a review of The Wind Weeps, by clicking on this blog post by Diana Wallace Peach,

P.S. For those who follow both my blogs, I have copied this post for both this one time. I don’t intend to make that a habit.

 

 

Point of View

When I first began to write seriously, I was surprised to find out that using the omniscient point of view, as our great authors of 200 years ago did, just wasn’t done anymore.

“What is point of view anyway?” I wondered. I thought all I had to do was pretend that as the author, I knew everything and I could see into every character’s head and tell what each one thought and felt.

That may have been all right in times of old, but apparently it is frowned upon in modern times, and aspiring authors certainly don’t want to be frowned upon before they even make their debut.

Point of view, usually called POV, is not, as some might at first think, someone’s opinion. It refers to the character through whom we are seeing the story unfold. As the writer, I can pretend that my main character has a camera mounted on his or her head, and whatever this magic camera can see, hear, touch, smell, feel, or know is allowed to be told. The “camera” cannot know what another character is thinking, unless the thoughts are spoken aloud in dialogue. So I am limited in what I can tell about another character’s emotions. I’ve had to become more skilled at letting the reader know what a secondary character might be feeling, through dialogue and by showing that character’s body language. Are his fists clenched? Is his jaw working? Are his eyes filling with tears? Are his eyes narrowing and his brow furrowing?

POV can be a problem if the POV character is not present in a scene that needs to be told. For that particular scene or even a chapter, the main character may be someone else, and the camera can be in that person’s head for the duration of that section. Just be sure the reader can immediately identify the POV character in the first sentence or two. The writer needs to stick to one person’s POV for each scene and not go “head hopping” throughout the scene.

Some of the most popular POVs used are first and third person (“I” and “he” or “she”), and can be in the past or present.

I would like to give you some short examples of some POV types.

First I want to show you something really, really horrible that I discovered in my novel, Marlie — a blatantly obvious (to everyone but me) POV error. In the section marked in red, I had slipped into first person when I should have been in third person POV. I have fixed that error and now I can sleep at night.

He took hold of both my upper arms and looked into my eyes. “Is it so hard to see that I really care about you?”

She swallowed hard. “I do too … care about you, I mean.” That was an understatement. She was totally lost, in love with this beautiful man.

Brent hugged her and muttered, “Clancy is going to pay.”

In spite of the warmth of Brent’s hug, she groaned and shivered in fear for him.

*****

 

In this excerpt from “Marlie” we have the POV in third person, past tense, and we are in Marlie’s head. This is how third person should be done, with no slips into first person.

“You were going to show me your carvings,” she said.

“Oh yeah.” Clancy took a swig and set the beer down on a wooden crate that served as coffee table. “But first, I need a little kiss.” He pulled her close and kissed her with that horrible beer breath.

She pushed him away, but he kept an iron grip on her upper arms.

“Clancy!” She hit at his shoulders and twisted away. “That’s not funny.”

He grabbed her wrist tightly. “No, not funny,” he said, “but it’s fun.” He laughed and yanked her closer and tried to kiss her again, groping at her breasts with one hand. “Told you we’d have fun.”

Now she was scared. She was all alone in the bush with a guy she hardly knew. What ever had possessed her to come here alone with him? She must have been crazy. She didn’t know Clancy. She’d only met him two weeks earlier and the comments from people who knew him had nothing good to say about him. Why hadn’t she listened? She was only trying to be polite, coming in to see his artwork. Suckered! She couldn’t believe she was so stupid.

Clancy grabbed the back of her hair. “I love your hair, Marlie. There’s so much of it.” He pulled it back so hard that her knees buckled and she fell backwards onto the couch, just as he must have planned it. She scratched his face to make him let go, but he threw his bloodied head back and laughed like an insane man, taunting her with a sound like a cat yowling. “Bit of a wildcat, eh?”

When she bit his arm he jumped back, shocked, and then slapped the side of her head with the back of his hand. Her head roared inside like blood rushing around in her skull, and her ears were ringing. Clancy reached up and grabbed a coil of rope that hung on a nail by the door.

 

*****

This section from Orion’s Gift is in first person, past tense. We are in Sylvia’s head.

I asked directions and learned that the Banamex was only a few blocks away in the business part of town. As I entered the bank, the security guard gave me a disapproving look. He stole frequent glances in my direction as I sat in the row of chairs in the waiting area with my queue number in my hand. A woman sitting at the far end of my row gave me the same disapproving look.

Do I have a smudge of dirt on me? For sure something was wrong. I felt very uncomfortable, as if I didn’t belong here. I settled back to wait my turn. The young Mexican woman sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Is your way of to dress.”

I looked down at my shorts and T-shirt and realized I had dressed like a camper, not a business person.

“Is not the custom to have the arms and the legs so … not covered,” she whispered. “Not in the bank. Maybe … en la playa … the beach.”

“Oh, dear.” I felt my face get hot. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“I know. Is why I tell you. For next time.” She patted my hand.

“Thank you so much. Muchas gracias.” I winced and gave her a little smile as I curled my shoulders, trying to shrink inside myself.

I couldn’t wait to escape. When my queue number came up on the digital display, I paid my tourist card fee and changed more dollars to pesos. The teller, a woman about my age, with her black hair pulled straight back and fastened in a chignon, was all business. She raised her nose slightly higher in disdain, brightly painted orange lips twitching disrespect. I scooped up the pesos she shoved through the wicket at me and rushed out of the bank. As I glanced hastily over my shoulder, I saw the security guard craning his neck for one last look at my legs.

*****

Some stories are better told in first person and some are better in third person. Some lend themselves to the present tense while others are better in the past tense. If you’re not sure which is best for your novel, why not try a few paragraphs in both and compare? Just don’t leave any loose threads like the ones I confessed to earlier in this post.

*****

If you go to amazon.com or amazon.ca you will see all my books on that page. They are also available on smashwords.com where you can download them in a format to suit your brand of e-reader.

The Necromancer’s Daughter

 

Author, Diana Wallace Peach has written another wonderful novel for your entertainment.

She started writing later in life when years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books. She was instantly hooked.

Peach lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two owls, a horde of bats, and the occasional family of coyotes.

There, she lets her imagination run wild and reshapes these ideas into novels that you will find absolutely spellbinding.

Her latest, The Necromancer’s Daughter will have you turning pages and not wanting to take a break from reading it.

My review of The Necromancer’s Daughter.

Necromancy, the art of communicating with the dead and bringing them back to life, seems like a sinister practice, but in Diana W. Peach’s fantasy novel, The Necromancer’s Daughter, it is presented as a good thing—for the most part, that is.

The characters who practice necromancy in the novel are all healers, well-intentioned people who are motivated to help the sick and injured get well—in some cases, even after the patient has died. Nothing sinister about it. We see the good that can come of restoring a life nearly lost forever, but we also see the dark side that lurks behind this skill. Some who are outside the circle of the healers, are convinced that bringing someone back to life is more akin to witchcraft or the black arts.

Aster, the newborn daughter of the king, died at birth, but was secreted away and revived by Barus a poor crippled young man who had learned about medicines and healing … and necromancy.

As Aster grows up in his care, she learns the healing arts, including necromancy, and uses them to do good. When she meets Joreh, about the same time as a struggle develops over the lineage for the throne, sparks fly between them. But when Joreh sees for himself that Aster practices the black arts, he is conflicted and unsure if he can, in good conscience, continue to protect her.

Joreh and Aster are meant for each other, but their beliefs seem to be in constant opposition. Joreh’s father is actively trying to gain control of the kingdom by destroying Aster, her physically disabled “father,” and possibly even his own son.

Beautifully written in rich language, The Necromancer’s Daughter is a “must read.” Not only is a fantasy world created perfectly, but the interpersonal relationships are skillfully crafted within the story. This book easily earns five stars, but only because that is the highest number available to give it. Otherwise I would give it more.

Don’t miss out. You will love this book.

 

The Necromancer’s Daughter Links:

Amazon Global Link: http://a-fwd.com/asin=B0B92G7QZX

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-necromancers-daughter-d-wallce-peach/1142003172

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-necromancer-s-daughter-1

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-necromancers-daughter/id6443278849

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1160370

 

 

 

Verbs Again

Many times we use sentences that have clauses with a second verb in them. It’s important to keep the sense of time accurate. I liken it to keeping the boat on an even keel. We don’t want to lose balance, rocking the boat, and potentially ending up in a shipwreck.

I’d like to show some verb tenses and examples of how they can be used.

present/present

She knows the parade passes by her house every year.

present/past

I hear that you fell and broke your leg. What I don’t understand is why you climbed that tree in the first place.

past/past

I rushed out to the street when tires crunched, and a voice called for help.

past/prior past

We saw that George had hurt himself in a riding accident two years ago. He ignored the trainer’s instructions.

In this case, we are using the past tense to say that we knew about George’s accident. Then we use the prior past (often with “had”) to show that the action happened even earlier. Once that prior past is established  we don’t always need to include “had” in the verbs for the reader to know that we are still talking about the prior past. It can be done to reinforce that past setting but isn’t always necessary. You don’t want to end up with too many “had had’s.”

Above all, don’t mix your verb tenses randomly or you will confuse the reader and frustrate them, sometimes causing them to close your book forever.

We don’t want that to happen.

Knowing Your Characters – Part Three

For readers to enjoy your book, it is most important that your characters and their behaviours are believable. I remember in my early efforts at writing, I created good characters who did everything right, and bad characters who did everything wrong. It was really hard for me to give my good characters any flaws, or to give the bad guy credit for doing anything right or having any redeeming qualities.

It took a lot of rewriting to shape believable characters for my first novel. But trust me, it gets easier. Think of any person you know and like a lot. Are they really perfect? Just because we easily forgive their shortcomings, doesn’t mean they are perfect and have no flaws. We just like to bury those flaws. Look hard and you will find a flaw that your character might have which the reader will forgive, but which also makes the character more human.

The same goes for someone we may not like. If we took the time to get to know them, we would have to admit that they’re not ALL bad. Give your antagonist some redeeming quality. You’ll be surprised how the reader will then care about what happens to him, or at least feel some empathy for his situation.

Using these flaws effectively can help enrich your novel and make it easier for your readers to believe what your characters do, and it enhances our emotional involvement with those characters. If we don’t care about the characters, why bother to read the book?

So we have to know our characters if we are to tell their story. We need to know their long-term goals and their short-term goals. We don’t want the reader to wonder, “Why would he do a thing like that?”

In building the background for the character’s motivation, we might work in some family background, some incidental things that help the reader understand why the character would react the way he does as the story develops. Short flashbacks can lay the groundwork for what has shaped the character’s emotional growth, his attitudes, and his ways of dealing with situations that will come up in your plot.

How else do readers learn about the characters?

  1. The author can simply tell about the character. This is probably the easiest way but not necessarily the most convincing.
  2. Have the character tell about himself.
  3. Have another character tell about him. (This way is more believable.)
  4. Show what the character is like by his actions.

All of these methods can be used, but the last one is probably the most effective and the most believable.

Body Language

If you take the time to find stronger verbs when the character is doing anything, you can often come up with something that more precisely describes how the character behaves. Does he stand or does he slouch? Does he limp? If so, why? Does he move erratically or are his movements smooth? Find the verb that accurately describes this.

For every action the character does, consider whether the verb you use is the best one to describe his particular way of doing things.

Emotions

You can show the character’s emotions using physical descriptions (sweat beading on his forehead, slumped shoulders, furrows in the forehead).

Another way is to show some action that tells how he might be feeling. Is he drumming is fingers, sighing heavily, flexing his jaw muscles, squinting or rolling his eyes, waggling his head, lifting his chin, biting his lower lip?

Dialogue

What a person says and how he says it can tell you a lot about how they are feeling and about what kind of person they are. This is a huge topic and I would like to deal with that in a separate post.

*****

Meanwhile, study the people around you and make a note of their flaws and their redeeming qualities. You’ll be surprised how useful these can be when you incorporate them in your writing.

Knowing Your Characters – Part 2

All people have their own peculiar mannerisms. Sometimes they are immediately obvious to others; sometimes they are only noticeable in certain situations (possibly when emotions are running high). A person may make a certain movement with their arms, legs, fingers, shoulders, or facial features when they are particularly anxious or stressed, fearful, angry, or even when they are anticipating a happy event.

It may help your story to give your character some “tell” to bring the reader into the character’s state of mind to raise anticipation whenever this “telling” action happens. In my novel Julia’s Violinist, Karl had a tell. His eye twitched when he was angry and the reader knew that perhaps some explosive action was building.

Other “tells” could be:

slight shrugging of the shoulders

facial tics of all sorts

slight jerks of the hand or shaking of the wrist

rubbing the thigh

squinting the eyes

wringing the hands

stammering

stretching

quivering lips

chewing fingernails

twirling a lock of hair

biting lower lip

quietly humming a few notes

taking a deep breath through the nostrils.

“People watching” is a good way to gather a collection of ideas for flinches, tics, or subconscious behaviours to add to your list of possibilities.

When you’re sitting in the car waiting for someone, or if you’re in a coffee shop,  always try to have a notebook handy. It’s a perfect time to do some people watching. You may not have time to see the repetition of a mannerism, but you can get ideas for some small actions that you can develop into an ongoing “tell” in your novel’s characters. Jot down the most obvious behaviours or anything special you notice about passersby and you’ll soon have quite a collection to choose from when building your character.

Even if you don’t pick up on a flinch or a nervous tic, you might notice some other bonus — a wild flair in the way they are dressed, or a different gait — something special about that person, that you can use to give your character some unique identifying trait.

If you have introduced the behaviour subtly in previous scenes, the reader can, in later scenes, surmise who the character is without him or her even being named.

A few examples:

“You can’t do that. I won’t let you.” His cheek twitched, as he backed away.

He hummed a few tuneless notes and picked up the carving knife.

She worried her thumbnail down to the quick. She knew what was behind that door, but it was her only chance to escape.

*****

The unique behaviours you choose for your characters need not, and probably should not, be too weird, so as to remain believable. Neither do you want to overdo the frequency of the unique behaviour appearing. A small identifying trait that pops up once in a while is usually enough.

 

Knowing Your Characters – Part 1

Apologies to one or two people who have read this post about seven years ago. I hope to do more than one post about developing characters. Here is the first, with a link at the end to a related post.

How well do you know the characters you build your novel around? Do you know them well enough that you find yourself thinking about them when you’re not writing? Without realizing that you’ve slipped into their character, do you ever find yourself talking the way they talk? Do you find yourself using their pet expressions? If you do, then chances are that your readers will also be thinking about these characters while they read your book and after they finish it. But, as authors, how do we achieve this level of intimacy with our fictional characters?

When I first started writing, I sometimes caught myself assigning the wrong physical traits to my characters. Maybe the man had blue eyes at the beginning of the story and brown eyes later in the book. Or maybe he was 5′ 11″ at first and a week later grew to be 6′ 2″.  Once published this kind of mistake can be  a serious  threat to your reputation as an author, especially if you have a wide, soon to be dwindling, readership. Luckily, I caught these mistakes in time and I was determined to avoid them in the future.

The discrepancy in physical appearance is not the only problem we need to be aware of. We also need to take care with the actions we have our characters performing. We need to know our character’s personality well enough to determine if they would behave the way we have them doing in the book, or speak the way we have them speaking.

Before you write, it’s a good idea to do a character analysis for your main actors. It need not be fancy or in depth. A few notes will do, but if you have them written down you can refer to them any time you are unsure of what attributes you gave your hero back in chapter two.

Charts and lists are available from a variety of sources. Simply google character analysis  or character profiles for writers and you’ll find them.

I’d like to list some of the basic points of information you should have written down somewhere (be it on post-it notes or on a computer file or on paper) before you begin your novel.

  • Name, gender, age and physical appearance are the first, most obvious, ones.
  • How the character feels about his/her appearance. (This can have a profound effect on his/her behaviour in the book.)
  • Family, friends, education, and domiciles
  • Marital status, job experience, relationships within the family and with co-workers.
  • Sex, religion, political and moral beliefs
  • General health, intelligence
  • Manner of speaking, voice, dialect, slang, accent
  • What is he/she proud/ashamed of?
  • The character’s goals in the story, and what stands in his/her way

Once you have made notes on this character, you will feel as if you know them in real life and this will most likely transfer to your readers’ perception of that character too. It doesn’t matter if you don’t use all of the information in your book. What matters is that what you do write will be plausible behaviour for that character.

My French-Canadian character, Monique, in The Wind Weeps, had a habit of conflating two English expressions when she was trying to learn that language. She had heard, “Sure thing,” and “For sure,” but in her case it came out “For sure t’ing.” While I was writing this novel, Monique was in my head a lot. I felt as if I really knew her. When she reappeared in Reckoning Tide, the sequel to The Wind Weeps, did I recognize her by her speech?

For sure t’ing!

Was I glad I had done a character analysis of her before writing?

For sure t’ing!

Did I get to like her a lot as I wrote this book?

For sure t’ing!

Will it help you to write your novel if you do a character analysis first?

For sure t’ing!

Will readers internalize these characters more readily and love to read about them?

For sure t’ing!

 

About four years ago I did a post about gathering information to use for my characters while having a bit of fun. It’s all about people watching. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here:  https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2018/05/05/people-watching/

Verb Tense and Other Issues

iStockphoto.com DenisTangneyJr

I followed her down the dark street, gradually closing distance between us. She glanced over her shoulder and her high heels tapped on the sidewalk faster. She’s getting nervous. I could tell from the way she leaned forward that she was hurrying to reach her car faster. It doesn’t matter. I was going to catch up to her in a few seconds and then she will be mine, all mine.

Hard to believe, but this jumble of verb tenses is similar to something I came across in a novel recently. I almost put it down in disgust, but I wanted to know what happened. Still, the poor writing took all the enjoyment out of reading this crime novel. The plot was good, but the delivery was not.

Most of the story was told in third person, past tense. The trouble started when the author switched to the killer’s POV and told us his thoughts in the first person. That, in itself is not so bad, but within these sections, when we see the story from the killer’s POV, the author slipped back and forth between the past and present tense in a way that did not work. It could have been done if we were  made to believe that the killer is thinking in the present, and telling us about a past event, but that was not the case here. The author simply slipped back and forth between tenses haphazardly.

It told me that the author had not mastered the art of writing yet, and that he had not run his manuscript by a critiquing group, and certainly not a copy-editor, any of whom would have enlightened him.  Even his greatest fan, Aunt Mary, would have noticed the errors in the changing of the tense.

When you write, why not have someone else read your first drafts and offer some suggestions? A critiquing group or even a writing buddy can be good for this. You don’t have to accept what these readers say, but it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion and ponder it. Of course I’m going to say, “If you’re serious about publishing, get yourself a good copy-editor,” because that is what I do, but really, having a clean manuscript before you publish is so important.

The book I’m reading now, which has so many problems with verb tense, is full of other small errors. Some are typos, and others are grammatical errors, but the verb tense problem was the icing on the cake.  Although the author has some serious writing issues to resolve, this work was salvageable, if only he had not published too soon. As it is now, this novel will never be remembered as a great book. It could have been a good one, if he had taken the time to have someone read it over and point out the errors, and if he had hired a copy-editor to catch those many small mistakes along the way.

Self-publishing should not mean that the writer does it all himself, without the help of a critiquing group or a copy-editor. Yes, you can upload your ms and be your own publisher, but as a publisher you also need to deal with things like getting a professional to do your book cover and one to check your manuscript for errors before you bare your soul before the world of readers.

Easily Overlooked

You’ve written your first draft and you’ve read it over, perhaps focusing on some particular aspects of writing (like using your pet words too much, or checking for “ly” words), and after rereading your manuscript until you think you could recite it from memory, you feel ready to publish.

Not so fast! First, let’s check for some common mistakes. In a novel I recently read, I was reminded of two kinds of errors that are easily overlooked.

One involves words left out, and the other, words left in.

Here are some examples.

Sometimes, as you re-read, you realize that you’ve used a character’s name too many times within a few sentences, or you might have used too many pronouns when you should have used a name once in a while. So you make some changes. Let’s say you’ve used the name too often, so you put in “her” instead of “Miss X,” but you don’t take out “Miss X” until you’ve had a chance to reread the whole section, checking for a good balance of names and pronouns.

You get into your self-editing and several pages later, you remember that you should read it all over. This is when the brain and the eyes start fighting. You’re already getting tired and as you read, your brain tells you, “I know what this is supposed to say. I wrote the thing. I know what it says.”

Your eyes tell your brain, “Yes, that’s what it says. I know because I’ve read it so many times already. It’s fine.”

But is it?

“Miss X” is mentioned several times in the chapter, but now, one of the sentences has “Miss X” AND “her” as well.

The road was rough and the driver reached over to check her Miss X’s seatbelt.

See how easily that slipped in there?

Very often, mistakes like this are added to the text with the purpose of fixing a problem, but it ends up causing a different one.

*****

Correcting sentences where words have been left out is even harder to do. Again, our brains tell us what we know the text to be, and the eyes go along with it in agreement. But as we read work over too quickly, we think that all the necessary words are in there. That is how many small words are left out (words like: to, at, in, an, it). A good way to catch these omissions is to read your work out loud.

A similar error occurs when we type “and” for “an” or “it” for “if” or “in,”

*****

A word of advice:

Don’t work at your self-editing for too long in one session. Take breaks. I have often noticed that when I find mistakes in the writing, they occur close together within a page or two. This tells me that the writer was probably getting tired at that point.

*****

 

 

Scare Quotes, So-called, and Italics

Sometimes we use terms in unusual ways and we want to alert the reader to that fact. Perhaps we want to draw attention to the irony of using a certain word, or the fact that the term is not normally applied this way. By putting quotation marks around the term, it draws the reader’s attention to the unusual usage.

Examples:

The “caregiver” neglected his patient whenever possible.

The bulldog wore a collar that had a watch as a buckle. Now he was a “watchdog.”

 

The standard way of using the quotation marks for these so-called scare quotes is with double (rather than single) quotation marks. The British system uses singles, but in my posts here, I will always be using the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines, so doubles it is. (The British would reverse the rules for single and double quotation marks).

The exception to using double quotation marks for scare quotes is when that term is already inside doubles as in dialogue. In that case you would put singles inside the doubles.

Example:

When I saw the bulldog walking, I said to his owner, “Oh look at that cute collar. Your pet is a real ‘watchdog’ now.”

If I wanted to refer to the bulldog I mentioned above, I could say that I meant the so-called watchdog. In this case, where the term “so-called” precedes the word I wanted to emphasize, I would not put quotation marks around either word.

It would be:

the so-called watchdog

the so-called caregiver

*Most North American writers use the American style guide and so scare quotes would never be used with single quotation marks (unless they were already inside doubles, as shown above).  Check your manuscripts and see if you’ve used singles instead of doubles.

You may be wondering if you could just put the scare quotes in italics instead. Italics would be used in the case of a foreign word or phrase used in English writing, unless it is a proper noun (such as the name of a city or person).

Italics would also be used to highlight key terms the first time they are used in a piece of writing.

Example:

We will be studying biodiversity in these workshops.

Have fun sorting these out. You’ll get used to it after a while.