Category: Effective Writing

Media Watch

Posted on Monday, May 29, 2017, at 2:43 pm

These articles used to be a lot more fun to write, but that was before newspapers and magazines went on life support. Mainly, we do “Media Watch” for the copy editors, those unsung word nerds who make journalists watch what they say and how they say it. When companies struggle, they downsize, so we shudder …

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Word Choice: Small Is Still Better Than Big

Posted on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, at 4:26 pm

The true size of the English language is often debated and probably impossible to determine. Those who do try to quote the count tend to agree that English includes about 250,000 to 300,000 distinctly usable words. The second edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary (2009) comprises 171,476 words in current use; 47,156 obsolete words; …

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Tightening Verb Phrases for Making an Engine That Purrs

Posted on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at 10:11 am

Imagine the English language as a car that can keep its body and performance pristine if driven and maintained correctly. Think of nouns as the wheels that keep it rolling; adjectives as the chassis riding the wheels; adverbs as the paint job (some say the less flashy the better); and all other parts of speech …

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That’s What That Means?

Posted on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at 11:02 pm

I know many avid readers, and I wish I read as much as they do. But to my surprise, very few of them read with a dictionary on hand. When I ask why, the answer is some variation on “It ruins the mood” or “I want to relax, not study” or the most self-deluded one: …

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Striking the Surplus from Tautologies

Posted on Monday, April 24, 2017, at 11:37 am

The English language includes the tools it needs to communicate with beauty, depth, and precision. Like any other healthy entity, it also moves most swiftly without extra weight. In the world of words, flabby noun phrases are known as tautologies. Merriam-Webster online defines a tautology as “1a: needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word.” …

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