Need a little inspiration? Check out this post at Good Copy, Bad Copy, illustrating and analyzing the former with an exemplary piece by Lord Denning.
For those whose only persuasive style is bombast, let me paraphrase Otis Redding: Try a little empathy. For example, note how the good folks at Jack Daniels reacted when someone published a book with a cover emulating the Jack Daniels label. Instead of threats, the letter-writer aimed for persuasion through empathy, with the goal of persuading the other side rather than trying to beat them over the head. The result: everybody won.
Hat tip to Doug in Wisconsin.
p.s. Perhaps Otis’s last performance of “Try a Little Tenderness”:
Are your prose lean or flabby? If you really want to know, put them on the Writer’s Diet, an on-line test cooked up by Helen Sword. Just copy and paste some of your writing into the little box, run the test, and get back the kind of information about your writing that your doctor gives you about yourself when you get your annual physical.
Speaking of Helen, check out her article in the NYT about nominalizations.
Do you think that there’s some grammatical rule against starting a sentence with a particular word or part of speech? If so, you are misinformed. Any word, any part of speech, can be at the front end of a sentence. Lynn at Business Writing has a little reminder about this, but if you doubt her, let me know and I’ll whack you over the head with Fowler and the King James Bible.
If you’re going to use an idiom, you may as well get it right. You may even want to cite the original source. So bookmark Phrase Finder, and refer to it the next time you want to quote, say, a memorable line from a Star Trek movie. (Hat tip to Daily Writing Tips.)
If you’re not, someone like Judge Posner may slam you in full color.
West’s headnote of the day:
In the statement of the issues on appeal, every ground of appeal ought to be so distinctly stated that the reviewing court may at once see the point which it is called upon to decide without having to “grope in the dark” to ascertain the precise point at issue.
Jones v. Lott, 692 S.E.2d 900 (S.C. 2010).
John McIntyre has posted some worthwhile thoughts on grammar-and-usage superstitions. The whole post is worth reading, but my favorite part is why these superstitions should not be passed on:
In the first place, they don’t teach you in school how to dress or what booze to drink, but they are supposed to teach you how to write. And if they are wasting their time and yours with a load of codswallop, they are inhibiting your ability to use the language with facility and grace.