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An anachronism is anything in a time period where it doesn’t belong, and it can bring your reader’s experience to a jolting halt. Copyeditor Nan Reinhardt from Romance University, discusses anachronisms at length and why they are so bad for your story. I am pretty sure I never want to play against her in Trivial Pursuit. Read the article and you will see why. ; )
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Now a Word from the Copy Editor . . . Nan Reinhardt
Copyeditor Nan Reinhardt gives us a new word of the day – and a reason to hope we never get to use it when writing our books!
Anachronism—it’s a great word, isn’t it? I love words and this is one of my favorites because if you don’t already know it, you can’t even begin to guess the meaning. Am I right? And when someone uses it in a sentence, like “Kind of anachronistic, don’t you think?” you have to be right in the moment to get the meaning and even then, it might not be obvious. No, most of us don’t get this word from context and I confess, as a newbie copy editor, the first time I heard a project editor use the word, I had to look it up. I wasn’t going to be able to “watch for anachronisms” in the manuscript I was editing if I didn’t know what the devil an anachronism was.
So, Webster tells us an anachronism is “an error in chronology; a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other; a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially one from a former age that is incongruous in the present; the state or condition of being chronologically out of place.”
Make sense? Try this, in a historical romance I once read, the setting was pre-Civil War Georgia and the heroine was having a ball to celebrate her engagement. A friend came to the plantation and admired the flowers—dozens and dozens of orchids—that the heroine had used to decorate the ballroom. The heroine said, “Aren’t they lovely? I had them flown in from Bermuda.” Okay . . . hmmmm. Interesting. First of all, who flew them in? In 1856, the only things flying were birds and hot air balloons, neither of which could have brought hundreds of orchids from Bermuda to Georgia. Anachronism! Maybe in 1956, she could’ve had orchids flown in to Georgia, although if she’d done some fact-checking she’d have discovered that orchids aren’t indigenous to Bermuda—they don’t grow well in the ground there, so even Bermudans have to import orchids if they want them or grow them in pots.
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