A lot of writers seem to think some words are capitalized because they are important. For instance, author Gloria Watkins uses the pen name “bell hooks.” She has been quoted as saying she uses lower case because the most important or significant aspect of her work is the substance of her books, “not who I … More Capital-ism

Pop goes the culture

Cultural references can be stylish shorthand for getting a point across. The trouble is, they work only when the writer and the reader are both familiar with the reference. People who studied the classics in school will instantly recognize “he crossed his Rubicon” as meaning that someone has made a life-altering decision that can’t be … More Pop goes the culture

Lend me your ears

You’ll often hear that you should write the way people talk. That’s never more important than when what you write is going to be read aloud. The eye can easily handle an ungainly phrase on a sheet of paper, but those same words can get mangled by a person saying them from a podium. I’m … More Lend me your ears

Sez who?

We’ve already looked at why “said” and “asked” are the go-to words for quotes and dialogue. Today let’s look at how to identify the person speaking. Give us the quote first, and then tell us who said it. That’s because the words are almost always more important that the person. We don’t (at least, we … More Sez who?

He said, she said

When you quote someone or create dialogue, you can get plenty of mileage out of “said” and “asked.” Readers are used to seeing these simple, direct verbs. In fact, readers are so used to seeing them that the words barely register. That’s good. It means your readers can sail along unimpeded. Some writers seem compelled … More He said, she said

Filler clichés

What’s worse than a cliché? A cliché that doesn’t tell you anything. If someone writes, “He walked through the room as quiet as a mouse,” at least I’ve learned something that I would not have learned if the sentence had read, “He walked through the room.” I learn that he did it quietly. But if … More Filler clichés