Just thinking a little more about my post about picking the right words and how the telephone might ring. Perhaps the writer just means that the phone rang “unexpectedly”. That makes sense to me, and I guess I’m being too pedantic.
Thinking about my other post on using the word “Literally” to mean “Figuratively” – actually sometimes I think “literally” can work well: when something really does happen, but it’s surprising. “The cat, stuffed with explosives, literally exploded.” Actually, that’s a lame example, but I made it up just now. I’m sure there are better examples. But “literally” can work for emphasis if used with care, I guess.
Something that’s bothering me lately is trying to use words that work. I read something recently – “… suddenly the telephone rang …” Goodness me, how else do phones ring? Gradually? Limpidly? Gotta say I’m just as guilty too, was scanning something I’d written a while back (in my thesis, where I should have been at the top of my game) where my character was staring ” … utterly transfixed …”. Good grief, Sean, surely if you’re transfixed, the utterly is implied? Perhaps the alternative could be something like “vaguely transfixed” or “inattentively transfixed”. Yes, I like that last one better :-/