Write Like You Mean It 4

An erratic guide to consistent writing. Alternate Alternate is one of those unfortunate words which is very close in appearance to a word whose meaning is both more useful in most conversations and yet also whose own meaning is just close enough to be confusing. To alternate means to take turns repeatedly; it also can…

Write Like You Mean it 3

An erratic guide to consistent writing. Last week I started writing about Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind and why I had to stop reading it only to discover that Mythcreants had beaten me to it by months, drawn the same conclusions, stopped in the same place, and been much funnier about it than…

Write Like You Mean It 2

An erratic guide to consistent writing. Arcane Thanks to the fantasy authors following in the literary tradition of, er, Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks, arcane is assumed to be something to do with magic, chiefly magic done by wizards instead of by priests. In fact, arcane simply means, secret, unknown to most people. In that sense,…

Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe

We live at a time in which not only is language changing around us, but we can look back over the centuries of linguistic change that have informed the present. Despite all our recent achievements, to find the paragons of the written word we must look to the past. Unfortunately, what we find there can…

Passive Activism

Thanks to Thematically Meandering for featuring my article about the passive voice. Follow this link for the original article and TM's own journey of discovery in the wacky world of words, as well as his reflections on the hard life of doctoral study. If, like me, you learnt to type in the 1990s or early…

Style Guides and How to Avoid Them

Today we are going to take a break from the constant stream of dragons and magic to talk about something fun instead: grammar and style guides. Woo. Some of you may remember a little while ago when I compared the cover of Strunk and White's magnum opus to what happens after flushing. The first lesson…

Split Infinitives and Dangling Participles

Katie Bouman's algorithm helps linguists externalize visualize the crushing oblivion that awaits a society in which minor grammatical errors are tolerated. A while ago I found myself in a discussion with an acquaintance who pointed out that, despite my frothing aversion to split infinitives, the authorities at the OED blog had declared them acceptable because…

Grammar Matters

Grammar is usually portrayed as the boring, necessary bit of language. Unwanted, unloved, it sits around like a pedant blogger, complaining about things it dislikes and expecting to be taken seriously by people who have better things to do with their lives. Woah there... Grammar is like a toolkit. A mechanic needs to know what…

Smoke and Mirrors, part 2 or ‘Unfortunate Lay’

Spoilers for Hollow Knight (computer game). Clarity in writing flows from choosing the correct word. To paraphrase both Antoine de Saint-Expuréy and Josef Pieper, you will know that you have the correct word when no other word fits its place better. Nothing says, 'I promise this won't be pretentious' like casually dropping Antoine de Saint-Expuréy…