Fresh gibberish

Good editors help their clients to write clearly. At least they try to. Unfortunately, some clients dislike the simple, declarative sentence. This can be especially true with business executives who want to brag about how wonderful their companies are. They’ve been tricked into thinking that dense, convoluted sentences convey a kind of corporate gravitas. Or … More Fresh gibberish

Words and music

Dorothy Hammerstein was not shy about making sure that her husband, Oscar, got credit for his lyrics. There are several variations of an anecdote where she corrected someone who gave Jerome Kern all the credit for writing “Ol’ Man River.” “Mr. Kern did not write ‘Ol’ Man River.’ Oscar wrote ‘Ol’ Man River,’ ” she … More Words and music

Realism vs. reality

  For an exercise in fiction writing, record a few minutes of casual conversation between two people and then type it all out. Very quickly you’ll notice that most people don’t converse in carefully measured prose. No, they interrupt each other. They talk over each other. Speak in fragments. Go off on tangents. They repeat … More Realism vs. reality

Original thinking

“Avoid clichés” isn’t very good advice by itself. First, it doesn’t explain why we should avoid them. Second, it doesn’t tell us how to do it. So today let’s turn the advice into something useful. Clichés are trite, worn-out expressions. Quite often they are very good, colorful turns of phrase. A mouse can be extremely … More Original thinking

Better, more or less

Several times I’ve mentioned that cleaning up a sentence and making it stronger often results in making it shorter. Shorter isn’t always better, though, especially when you get beyond the individual sentence to consider paragraphs, chapters and entire books. There are times when you need to stretch out and add detail, and there are times when you … More Better, more or less