Anyone here a Bon Jovi fan? I AM! LOL I love his song “I’ll Be There for You”—I’ll try to include a link here before the end of the post. This is one saying that I see a LOT when I’m editing. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, I edit a LOT of historical fiction. I don’t remember ever hearing it “back in the dark ages” of the 1950’s and 1960’s…so I guess maybe the 70’s was when it got to be popular. The 1970’s, not the 1870’s, y’all. I don’t believe a knight would tell his lady he’d “be there” for her…at least not for another 500-800 years, or somewhere around that, anyhow.

Here’s another one that’s jarring to me—the use of “morph” for “change”—it reminds me of those wonderful days when my son Casey was a young boy and so, so crazy about the Power Rangers. Anyone remember them? They were popular in the 1990’s. Five teenagers—two girls and three boys—who had the power to change from mere teens to THE POWER RANGERS! How did they accomplish this? They gave each other meaningful looks and said, “It’s morphin’ time!” And with some fancy camera work, there they were, in their Power Ranger color-coded uniforms. All…morphed…


How about the response to “Thank you.”? Truly…can you picture a knight responding with “No problem.”? No…me either. Yet, sometimes that’s the response that crops up in historical manuscripts. It doesn’t matter how politely one responds, the response has not been invented or introduced into thought or speech patterns of that time.

Another simple one that turns up a lot in response to “How are you?” is … “I’m good.” When did this phrase come into existence? I don’t ever remember this being said until only in the last couple of decades. When talking about someone else—“He’s good to go.” No…you might hear that on Blue Bloods or Law and Order, but not so much in 1860’s Indian Territory.

  “Marshal Tilghman, how are you today?” “I’m good.”

Here are a couple of words that tend to creep in a lot—and shouldn’t—flashback and replay. Remember what these words are really saying, what they convey to people of this day and age who are reading the stories we’re writing. A medieval knight or a drifting cowboy will have no idea what “replaying something in his mind” even means—or that he’s having a “flashback” to when he was fighting at the battle of Honey Springs. Or that he’s “flashing back” to something that might have been a sweet memory in his early years. These characters are going to just be remembering, recalling, or thinking back to something… When you use this type of modern wording that refer to contemporary actions/equipment, it’s easy to pull readers out of the story. Because my husband is such a sports fan, I can’t hear or read the word “replay” without thinking of the sports connotation it carries. Flashback—this conjures up images of Hollywood movie scenes.

“Well, it’s all about you, isn’t it?” This is one that creeps in every so often, too. It “being all about” one person or another—or NOT “being all about” them is something that should never, ever, ever show up in any kind of historical writing. It’s easy to do—these contemporary sayings are so normal to us we can’t imagine NOT using them in daily conversation—problem is, it’s our job to check and double check what our characters are saying. If we don’t, they go out into the world showing that we have not “brought them up” correctly.

That reminds me—do you know the difference between being “reared” and “raised”? The standard saying used to be that “Children are reared; livestock is raised.” Those lines have blurred in modern times. I still remember my mother talking about children being “reared” and her brother “raising” cattle. She was born in 1922, so I would say that distinction has faded only during my lifetime.


This is “picky” but it’s the sort of thing that readers will seize on—and there are certain word usages and phrases that will definitely pull me right out of a story that’s written in historical times, so I’m sure that’s true of others, as well.

One more biggie–the use of “bleeding out” in describing someone’s medical condition from being stabbed or shot. I don’t ever remember hearing this until detective and police shows became so popular on television in the last several years. And when I asked a Scottish doctor friend of mine what a correct historical term would be, he replied that “bleed out” is not used in Britain to his knowledge even today. If you’re wondering, “exsanguination” is the correct medical term for “bleeding out”–but of course, that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

These are a few of the many “uh-ohs” I see when I’m reading/editing. These are kind of fun to think about, but good golly–we have to watch what we put into our stories, don’t we?  What are some words or phrases you’ve come across that don’t belong?

If you are a FRIENDS tv show fan, you know that there is another “I’ll Be There for You” – the theme of the show by the Rembrandts. There’s also a Kenny Rogers song that uses that phrase. But I promised you Bon Jovi! Here he is singing “I’ll Be There for You”—a wonderful song to turn up loud and belt out when you’re driving…just remember, in historical fiction writing, we have to find another way to say this. Kinda makes me sad, but we have to wait for it to be invented.




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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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  1. Edit reviews are tough. The words can fly in the face of a reader and the mood or scene is just gone. Research is so important when writing historical stories. Thank you for the enlightenment. Research. Research. Research. Or a great story can be lost on a word or phrase.

    • Jerri, that is so true. And naming our characters is something else to be aware of–modern names that creep in to historical fiction really pull me out of the story, as well. Thanks for stopping by today!

  2. Cheryl thanks for a great blog. I love Bon Jovi. Yes research is a must in writing a historical and it also is a must in any book. The more an author gets things correct the more she is respected by her readers, plus we all love to learn, so any tidbit we actually absorb.
    Have a great day, my friend.

    • That’s so true–the “devil’s in the details” for any genre! I’m the same way, Tonya–I absolutely absorb what I read and I really get disappointed to come across something that shouldn’t be there. So glad you stopped by today!

  3. I had noticed some of that in books as well. Makes me shake my head. I think exclamations are also misused.

    • Debra, you’re right. Sometimes exclamations are misused. I remember when I first started writing and submitting stories, and I had a very patient editor who gently explained that I didn’t need to use so many exclamation marks. LOL I was very careful after that!

  4. I’m not a writer, but I do a lot of editing when I write reviews and post on my blog. I’m sure I still leave some mistakes behind because I am far from perfect. So, I’m not real picky when it comes to missed errors in books. I know authors are human too and sometimes mistakes happen and get overlooked during editing.

    • Right, Janine. I’ve discovered in writing westerns that readers are more unforgiving over details of weaponry or specific battles being wrong than about anything else. These things are really important. I’m picky when it comes to people using things that haven’t been invented yet…like calling jeans Levis or jeans before they’ve been invented or using medicine that hasn’t come along yet, etc.

  5. I am a big Bon Jovi fan!! I wonder sometimes if authors do there research about words and phrases of the time that their book is written in. Good thoughts Cheryl…

    • Kathleen, I just love Bon Jovi, still. I have a CD I play when I drive most places. LOL (If I don’t have hubs in the car with me.) Which reminds me…I left out “have a nice day” from my list above! How could I have passed that one by? LOL Glad you stopped by today!

  6. Cheryl, good points. I write both historical and contemporary and have to really watch myself in the historicals.
    One novel I read recently did this well: Heidi Chiavaroli’s “Freedom’s Ring.” It’s one of those back-and-forth historical/contemporary things, you know the genre, it’s Monday morning and I can’t think of the word, but Heidi really masters slipping back and forth from her two eras, with a totally different tone for her Colonial/Revolutionary chapters from her contemporary ones. Doesn’t miss a beat.
    Thanks Cheryl, and I will watch my idioms! I shall become an Idiom Savant!

    • HA! Kathy, I love that–“Idiom Savant”–so perfect! LOL Boy there are a LOT of them, too, that you have to be aware of. But thank goodness for Google, right? Now you’ve added another book to my TBR list, I hope you know! I love that type of story, and a wonderful storyteller that can master that “back and forth” style. It’s not easy! Thanks for popping in today!

  7. Oh my, I will never look at, or read actually, my HWR books in the same way again. I already balk at editing errors that weren’t caught. Great blog and it reminds me of one of the many reasons I could never be a writer much less a HWR writer. I love to learn the history in HWR and have learned more from them than I ever did in my History classes in school/college. Now I’ll be scrutinizing when I read. Loved this blog and as always it’s been enlightening! It also reminds me I need to read another one of your books soon!

    • Hey, Stephanie! Prairie Rose Publications has a LOT of great boxed sets for your Kindle for only .99–Under a Western Sky was the last one we did and it has one of my books in it–the very first one I ever published, FIRE EYES. But if you’ve read that one, there are other sets that are great bargains and all wonderful stories!

      I’ve learned one thing in my years of editing. It doesn’t matter how many times you read through it, the author reads through it, a beta reader, and all the others you get to read it…there will always be an error or two that will still be there when the book is published. It’s almost impossible to find them all and get them corrected, no matter how many people read it. I agree–reading HWR is a wonderful way to learn all kinds of fantastic things while we’re being entertained!

    • Hi Glenda, so good to see you here! I love Bon Jovi, too. Not only do I love their music, but Jon Bon Jovi is such a good human being, that makes me love them all the more. LOL Glad you stopped by!

  8. Hi Cheryl, good points. I can understand how modern words do creep into our historicals though. I often struggle with finding the right way to convey meaning to the reader that they’ll “get” when the modern word or phrase is the best and what they know. I get in trouble all the time by my Sourcebooks editor over letting modern terms creep into my story.

    Hey, great to get the day started with Bon Jovi! Love him.

    • Linda, it is very hard! You know, it reminds me of how some languages have certain words or phrases that aren’t found in other languages that just “say it perfectly”…that’s how some of our modern words and phrases are, and they’re hard to leave behind when we go back in time. LOL Glad you’re another Bon Jovi fan! Thanks for stopping by, my filly sis!

  9. Are you seeing these modern terms more in new submissions to you or in experienced authors? I would guess more of the former, right? I worked primarily with experienced authors so I didn’t see much of this. Luckily! Besides research, I think all of this has to do with a writer being very well read and having “an ear” from that well spent time.

    Speaking of contemporary idioms… I find it interesting that in the first printed bible in English (King James, 1611) older terms were purposely used, like thee and ye, when the word you had already come into use. It was done (I’ve read somewhere) to make the bible sound more authentic or older (although it was only slightly older English and not from the first or second centuries, of course).

    “In a period of rapid linguistic change the translators avoided contemporary idioms, tending instead towards forms that were already slightly archaic, like verily and it came to pass. The pronouns thou/thee and ye/you are consistently used as singular and plural respectively, even though by this time you was often found as the singular in general English usage….”

    Ecclesiastes is right: “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”

    • All very interesting information, Eliza! I did not know this! Thanks so much for stopping in and reading and commenting. Hope all is well with you in your corner of the world.

  10. My grandmother was born in 1882 and when I read historical romance from the late 1800’s early 1900’s I occasionally find myself thinking there is no way Gram and her friends would have used that phrase or word. One of the ones I think we take for granted but I can’t imagine being used then is “he (or she) wanted her(him) so much” or “I want you”. I’ve never researched the phrase but it seems like late twentieth century to me. Picky me but “want” seems to go along with our modern attitude about love and sex, not 19th century morals.

    Great post. Glad to know I’m not the only one whose reading pleasure gets disrupted by phrases from the wrong time period. However, I also am in awe of those of you who write and all the effort you put into getting it right.

    • Alice, I hadn’t thought about that, but you are right. I think that’s true, too, about our modern “take” on things = “wanting”. I’ve not researched it either, and I admit, I’ve probably been guilty of that one myself. But in my defense…(and that of others) in this case, in Spanish that designation is very thin and used interchangeably. I was trying to think of a way to explain it (no I’m not proficient at Spanish but I do know a little) and I came across this explanation on the internet (spanishdict.com), which is perfect:

      ***********QUESTION: In the context of relationships or romance, how do you differentiate between ‘I want you,’ and ‘I love you,’ since both could technically be ‘Te quiero’? Since ‘te quiero’ is used more often to suggest ‘I love you,’ should you say ‘te deseo’ to suggest wanting the person? Thanks!

      ANSWER: In some parts of the spanish-speaking world you use mostly ‘amar’ or ‘querer’ – one of these two.

      Imagine a situation: girl says to her friend ‘I don’t love you, but I like you’.

      No te quiero, pero te quiero. – a little bit funny. You can say : No te amo, pero te quiero.

      Or, girl asks her boyfriend ‘ You love me, or you want me’ – ‘me quieres, o me quieres’.

      Here, I would say – ‘Me quieres(amas), o me deseas(quieres)’. It all depends on the context, situation. When you say to someone ‘te quiero’, then the meaning will be different, depending on the situation, and your voice.

      So you may better use ‘desear’, ‘amar’, ‘gustar’, when needed.**************

      So even here, it must have come about sooner in Spanish-speaking countries than in the English-speaking ones…at least, I would think that…maybe it requires more research! LOL Now you have me thinking, Alice.

      Thanks so much for your very kind words. So glad you stopped in!

  11. Cheryl, this is a great post. I cringe when I see the wrong use of a word and typos. They tend to pull me out of the story.

    • Hi Caryl! Glad you enjoyed it. I’m the same way about the wrong use of a word. Typos do happen, even when it’s been gone over umpteen times, but of course, editors strive to keep those from happening, too. But the wrong word or phrase…or the wrong era for those words or phrases are harder to forgive. LOL Thanks for stopping by!

  12. “just saying” doesn’t belong in historical fiction, but yet, I saw it in the book of a bestselling author–one whom I really love.

  13. Now that think of it, I have been pulled out of stories by a word or phrase or action that just didn’t fit. I realize that editing isn’t all that easy, but there seem to be more missed mistakes lately than ever before. Either those editing aren’t as good, or it is being done by computer which would not catch the subtleties in language a person would.

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