Dun Writin’—Now Whut? – 56 ‘Shoulda Woulda Coulda’ (A series by Susan Uttendorfsky – Owner of Adirondack Editing)

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Shoulda Woulda Coulda

These three words are sometimes used together as a phrase, implying regret: A writer should have hired an editor, would have used some beta readers, or could have spent more time on self-editing in order to dodge the poor reviews he’s received.

While that shoulda-woulda-coulda phrase might be accurate for an Ape blog post on how to improve your sales or reviews, that’s not what we’re focusing on today. We’re going to look at the actual words.

First, let’s clarify the correct usage. Slang in speech has reduced this to “should of,” “would of,” and “could of” in writing. That’s completely incorrect, even in dialogue, although an editor might leave “shoulda” alone in slangy dialogue. What you’re hearing is the contraction for “should have,” aka “should’ve.” The same with “could have/could’ve” and “would have/would’ve.”

But we’re not even looking at dialogue today. We’re looking at should, would…

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