Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Paroxysm of An Underlining Habit

I have a habit. It's one of many. I call this one My Underlining Habit.

I'll be reading a book and come across a word that's unfamiliar. Oftentimes, the word isn't completely foreign to me, but perhaps one I seldom use. If I want to befriend the word for the purpose of easing it into my vocabulary, My Underlining Habit kicks in.

Here's how it works: When confronted by the word, I underline it. Then I flip to the blank pages at the end of the book where I copy word and page number. Afterwards, my intention is to research the meaning, hopefully committing it to memory. However, in most cases I hardly ever get past the go step of jotting down the word and page number. Except recently, while reading "The Testimony," by Anita Shreve.

Accompanied by two grandchildren, I scooped up a copy of this tragic and scandalous tale during an affordable shopping spree at the Dollar Store. Good fortune abounds when I find a literary work by an esteemed author for only a dollar plus tax! The copyright was indeed dated, but it was an Anita Shreve novel for one dollar. Sold!

In the solitude of the guest bedroom, late that snowy night, I commenced reading. It wasn't long before I found one of those words. I underlined, flipped, copied and researched at The Free Dictionary:

Paroxysm -  (prk-szm)
1. A sudden outburst of emotion or action: a paroxysm of laughter.
2. a. A sudden attack, recurrence, or intensification of a disease.
b. A spasm or fit; a convulsion.

In the first 129 pages of "The Testimony," I found 20 words of this nature. I can now hereby attest that this is one time that I actually followed through with My Underlining Habit.

Coincidentally, while in the process of writing this post, I enjoyed a luncheon with my friend, Lesley - also a writer, and in some ways, a mentor. While the two of us shared an abundance of delectable sushi, enhanced by chopsticks, Lesley mentioned an article that she read in the English 'Writing Magazine.'

The columnist pointed out that many writers were not that articulate in conversation, rather, their skills lie in the written word. Whereas, TV presenters who interview writers are chosen for their verbal skills, but probably couldn't write a novel. Lesley stated, "Of course, there are writers who can do both - articulate and dominate a conversation." I aspire to be the writer that can do both and My Underlining Habit is a means to that goal.

And now you know three things: 1) I have an Underling Habit; 2) Underlining Habits are the reason for blank pages at the end of a book. 3) Many writers are not that articulate in conversation.

What about you? Do you have an Underlining Habit?


  1. I’ve always been loathe to mark up a book. It seems sacrilegious! However, I’ve made exceptions with writing manuals. Perhaps I’ll use a pencil to underline and make notes in the backs of other books. Thanks for the tip, Jeralyn!

  2. I have no problem marking up the white pages, nor doing the underlining, but I am loathe about folding the pages as book marks. That I will not do!

  3. Nor me! That's the ultimate of book abuse!