Archives for “writing”
“Plain language” is a movement away from legalese, and toward clear language that people can understand. It turns out that contracts and laws don’t have to be written in gobbledygook afterall. My friend Cheryl Stephens has been a pioneer in the plain language movement. She’s on a blog tour this week, promoting her book, Plain [...]
Writers who defend their clichés on the grounds that "they wouldn’t have become clichés if they weren’t good" may have a terrific point. And they should enjoy that, because what they won’t have is successful writing.
Clean, Effective Articles and Exposition At the coffee shop where I like to work in the mornings, you can get whatever you want for breakfast, as long as it’s either a scramble, or an omelet. I tease them, “Can I choose which one?” See, in my house, you ask for an omelet, and you might [...]
The Conspiracy Editors get a bad rap. When I meet someone new and mention that I’m an editor, I’m likely to get a suspicious look, as though I’m part of a conspiracy to make English too difficult to leave to amateurs.
Remember to always split infinitives. Well, ok, not always. But often. Whenever it works. We have this handed-down wisdom that says an infinitive, a verb of the “to form” — to walk, to amble, to mosey — must always be preserved intact. Rules like this cripple writing. Even the esteemed editors of the Chicago Manual [...]
Why was the road crossed by the chicken? When a sentence starts with the thing being acted upon rather than the thing doing the acting, that sentence is in “passive voice.” For example, if you ask me where the hat is that you lent me, and I reply, “It got lost,” I have used the [...]
An exasperated author I know once wrote back to me saying, “Yeah, everybody says that: ‘show, don’t tell.’ But I can’t figure out what they mean! How do I know which is which?”
When you sit down to write, anything you can get on the screen (or paper) is a victory. That’s not the time to worry about making sure you have a powerful beginning. Too much of that kind of thinking can keep you from getting anywhere at all.
When I’m looking over a manuscript that’s been submitted to me for publication, the first thing I do is read the first five pages. At that point, I might toss it, or I might decide to read more. Apparently I’m not the only editor to take this approach. Noah Lukeman is a successful literary agent, [...]
"There are two kinds of editors. One sticks in that wherever it will fit. The other kind takes it out. They’re both wrong." — P. T. O’Connor Woe is I is subtitled “The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English,” and I can’t describe it better than that. O’Connor solves many of the stranger [...]
"A merely good piece of description can be transformed into a memorable one by cutting away what disguises it." — T.R.A. Cheney Getting the Words Right is full of detailed explanations of how revision can improve a piece of writing. I’m especially fond of the first section, "Reduce".
Have you ever written something really powerful, then later, when you wanted to write, thought, “How did I ever do that?” You try to reach that level again, and… nothing.
Writers who defend their clichés on the grounds that “they wouldn’t have become clichés if they weren’t good” may have a terrific point. And they should enjoy that, because what they won’t have is successful writing. A cliché is a word or phrase that’s been overused. It may have been a clever phrase when it [...]