Stylistic Differences in Aggravated

Parts of this were used in Aggravated.

As I worked on the book, I found myself making a number of grammatical and stylistic decisions that varied from standard acceptable usage. I’ve detailed them here in case you found them to be cumbersome when reading the book and wanted to know why I used them that way. So here’s a list of the most important deviations, plus a quick primer on how to pronounce Sirois.

Listen to Michael read the Pronunciation section:

People often found a number of incorrect ways to pronounce our name when I was growing up (coming up with “creative” variants like Serious, Psoriasis, and Cirrhosis). The ‘s’ on the end is silent, though. The French pronunciation is close to SIR-WAH, or SEER-WAH, but my family always pronounced it SIR-ROY, like Illinois. I started saying it the French way in 1970 when I moved to Houston. So many people had previously butchered it that I figured I had an equal shot of them getting it right if I used the French pronunciation. It didn’t seem to make much difference, though. Steve pronounces it like the rest of the family, so think Sir-Roy, when you see it in the book.

For uses of Sirois as a possessive pronoun, I spelled it Sirois’ (SIR-ROY plus apostrophe). It’s pronounced SIR-OIZE, as in “the Sir-oize house,” but it wouldn’t be “the Siroi-zes house” or “the Siroi-ses house.” I used that same possessive form for any names ending in “s,” even if the “s” is sounded, like Henry Ross, for example. The possessive form for ownership of his pets would be Ross’ dogs, and would be pronounced Ross-es dogs.

Grammar and Format: In the previous post, I showed you how I collapsed some dialogue from interviews and from the trial transcript to save space. In some sections of the book, though, especially when there was an extended passage of dialogue that would have taken up pages, I used a different collapsed form where I identified the two speakers, and then used the exact wording from both people, but always placed the witness’ words in quotes. It was helpful in drastically reducing long passages, but was hopefully still clear who was speaking and who was answering. In that form, the short passage from the previous post would look like this.

Ross asked Hanna, Had you told anyone about this? She said, “No.” — Ross: So, what happened the next time? You say it was about a week or two later; is that right? “Yes, sir.” — Ross: And where did this happen? “I don’t remember.” — Ross: Well, at what residence? “75 to 80 percent of the time it was always at his house.”

Compressing the dialogue both ways used less than half the space the transcript did. I wouldn’t compact dialogue that way in a novel, of course, but doing it like that made this book hundreds of pages shorter. I have done my best in each case to make sure that no meanings were altered, and I have tried to use the full quote of the witness (which was usually Hanna) wherever possible.

Illustrations: There are several illustrations in the e-book, and a couple in the print version. All have been converted to grayscale to better accommodate most e-readers, but there are color copies of all of them here on the book’s blog. Check out the Images Index on the menu bars at the top and bottom of each page.

Ellipses: Much of the dialogue in the book came from recorded interviews. When I originally transcribed them I often used ellipses in front of a word to indicate an …interrupted thought in a sentence or a …brief pause to show that the speaker took …a beat before continuing. Ellipses used in that way will show up more often in quotes from recorded interviews. An ellipsis placed between words with no extra space between them, though, like this…still (as stylebooks dictate) indicates that some text has been removed from the sentence at that spot.

Numerals and Dates: I used two-digit numerals more frequently in the book than I normally would (like “75 to 80” instead of “seventy-five to eighty”). They did that in the trial transcripts, possibly for clarity, so I followed their example in the book. Also, I repeat a lot of dates in the book, mostly for the sake of clarity. The order in which some statements were made is important to understanding how a particular lie was shaped over time. Rather than having you flip back and forth constantly to figure out when something was said, I repeated dates frequently.

Emphasis: I sometimes needed to point out specific words or phrases when analyzing testimony or quotes from interviews. Instead of saying something like [the emphasis below is mine] every time, I underlined specific words or phrase, and/or bolded certain words.

Alleged and Allegedly: I believe that Hanna’s descriptions of her molestation are false. I don’t think the abuse happened at all. Or, if those things did happen to her, they were done by someone other than my brother. If I use the words “alleged” or “allegedly” every time I describe an incident, though, it’s going to grow old quickly. So, when I write about an incident, whether I call it an alleged incident or not, just assume that I don’t believe it happened that way, or happened at all, unless I say otherwise.

If you’re a stickler for grammatical rules and sentence structure, I apologize. It may take a little getting used to when you read the book, but I hope it won’t be too bothersome.

Michael Sirois

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