The Fall 2010 issue of JALWD (Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors) has hit the streets. The theme is metaphor and narrative. If your job is persuading others, then metaphor and narrative (storytelling) are tools you need in your toolbox—otherwise you’re probably failing at your job. So what are you doing hanging around here? Go there and start reading. (Hat tip to Legal Writing Prof Blog.)
A: It removes the characters from the story. Which pretty much wrecks the story. Sometimes that’s your goal. Usually it isn’t. For a fuller explanation, visit Plot to Punctuation. (Hat tip to Jane Friedman, via Mark Allen.)
Writing tics. We all have them. And we’re all oblivious to our own. Which is why every writer needs an editor or someone else to offer an objective critique. For more on this topic, visit The Subversive Copy Editor Blog.
It seems that Sarah Palin has come up with a portmanteau word: refudiate, combining refute and repudiate. I have two reactions:
- I won’t use the word myself, and I don’t recommend adopting it. Refute or repudiate work fine.
- I won’t dump on Palin for using the word herself. When she uses it, I know instantly what she means. If the listener instantly understands what the speaker is saying, then the speaker has done her job.
If you’re reading this blog, you know who Bryan Garner is. If you’d like to receive Bryan’s Usage Tip of the Day, then click here, and look for the e-mail subscription box on the right side of the screen. (Hat tip to Mister Thorne.)
Writing for the general public is different from writing for courts, colleagues, or clients. For tips on how to write effectively for the general public, read Crafting Public Messages by Gregory C. Colomb, English professor at U. Va.
For a fine collection of on-line writing guides and Twitter feeds, check out this column by Erin McKean. Erin is the founder of Wordnik, which is billed as “the most comprehensive dictionary in the known universe.”
If one of your secret pleasures is intentionally godawful prose, then you’ll want to peruse this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Winners. The contest is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose inspired Snoopy with his famous opening, “It was a dark and stormy night....” My favorite is by Dennis Doberneck, runner-up in the Purple Prose category:
The wind whispering through the pine trees and the sun reflecting off the surface of Lake Tahoe like a scattering of diamonds was an idyllic setting, while to the south the same sun struggled to penetrate a sky choked with farm dust and car exhaust over Bakersfield, a town spread over the lower San Joaquin Valley like a brown stain on a wino’s trousers, which is where, unfortunately, this story takes place.
Americans are allowed to use “Americanisms,” which I define as standard American usage. But it’s always good to ask whether there might be a better way to express a thought than the way we’re used to. If you agree, then have a look at The Economist’s take on many Americanisms. (Hat tip to Johnson.)