Naming names

If you are writing fiction and having trouble making up character names, take a cue from people who have had to name themselves in real life. It’s hard for a cowboy to swagger into a saloon when his name is named Marion Morrison. But once he changed it to John Wayne, he sounded like he … More Naming names

Showing some style

Today’s advice comes from Kurt Vonnegut, but you should also say thanks to International Paper. As part of its 1980 advertising, the big corporation convinced the author of “Slaughterhouse Five” to jot down 1,300 words or so under the heading “How To Write With Style.” I don’t entirely agree with Vonnegut, which I realize is … More Showing some style

Precision vs. accuracy

You never know where you’ll stumble over some good writing advice. This week I stumbled into a technical paper on analytical instrumentation systems. Stick with me. This will make sense in a minute. When laboratory technicians want to analyze a sample of something, they want the results to be accurate. They also want the results … More Precision vs. accuracy

It’s a sign

Some words get under my skin. One of them is “signage.” At some point it seemed like businesses and government buildings couldn’t have plain old signs anymore. In almost every discussion I’ve read or heard where signs are mentioned in recent years, it’s called signage. When something like that really bugs you, it’s usually worth … More It’s a sign

And you can quote me

If you want some inspirational quotes about writing, the website Goodreads has more than a thousand for you to browse through. You’ll find that some of the quotes contradict other quotes. Some quotes may not have originated (or may never even have been said) by the people whose names are attached to them. But that’s not important. … More And you can quote me

Who talks like that?

We’re told to write the way people talk, which is fine if you hang around people who talk in clear, complete sentences free of stuffiness and jargon. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who don’t talk like that. It’s especially true when they are speaking in a professional capacity and want to sound authoritative. That’s … More Who talks like that?

Speak their language

If you were going to write something for an audience in Marseille, and you wanted them to respond enthusiastically, you’d have your work translated into French. That’s a no-brainer, right? If your audience were in Sao Paulo, you’d get it translated into Portuguese. If they were in Bangkok, you’d want it presented in Thai. Those … More Speak their language