Category: Effective Writing

Verbal Illusions

Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, at 7:05 pm

During a recent gubernatorial campaign, a reporter asked a local to comment on one of the candidates. The reply: “I can’t say too much good about him.” Someone reading that might conclude the statement was negative, but anyone listening knew it was just the opposite. From the way he said it, the man clearly meant, …

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Go Trendy, Stay Alive

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, at 11:09 am

Americans used to love their newspapers and magazines. Now a whole generation regards them as quaint curiosities. Here’s a day in the life of a late-twentieth-century big-city newspaper: “The newsroom was packed with reporters keeping very close watch on every institution in town. They had two reporters covering city hall, three reporters covering the police …

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Beware the Internet

Posted on Monday, November 14, 2016, at 10:33 pm

Our Virginia: Past and Present is a fourth-grade history textbook that was in wide use in Virginia’s schools until a few years ago. Then it was found to be rife with misspellings and blatant falsehoods, such as: The Confederacy consisted of twelve states (actually eleven). The United States entered World War I in 1916 (it …

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Attention-Span Blues

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, at 11:50 pm

Fewer and fewer of us curl up with a good book anymore. Who can read nonstop for more than an hour, if that? I won’t bore you with my deep thoughts on why this is—not when I can bore you with so much other nerdy stuff. But I will say this: American attention spans started …

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What Is-Is Is, Is Exasperating

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 1:15 pm

Leave it to academia to invent lofty labels for obnoxious habits. You might not know the term nonstandard reduplicative copula, but you probably know what it refers to, and chances are it drives you crazy. We call it “the is-is hiccup”: the addition of a redundant second is in sentences like The truth is is …

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