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BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?

katlaughing 23 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM
Dave the Gnome 23 Aug 07 - 02:17 PM
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Subject: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 02:08 PM

I am testing for a freelance editing job and was asked this question. I'll post my short answer, later. In the meantime, how would you answer this question?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 02:17 PM

As long as it makes linguistic sense and holds the readers attention - None!

D.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: M.Ted
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 02:37 PM

Good writing is clear and direct. And brief.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rapparee
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 02:38 PM

Clarity, brevity, and wit (in every sense of that word).


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Alba
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:04 PM

I would suggest reading some of the posts on the Mudcat Bad Writing Contest Health Warning: Might be an idea NOT to read every example on that Thread as one can only handle so much bad writing!! By reading few of the posts there you will find yourself becoming VERY aware of the absolutely never do's when it comes to writing ...*Grin*
If the above sounds like more than even the most hardened reader could take then.....
It might be more pleasant to just read a lovely Book by Author Kat LaFrance called 'Wind Words of Wyoming'....You'lle get the drift about the absolutes right there..:)

Love to All
Jude


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Ian cookieless
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:06 PM

Avoid cliches.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: gnu
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:14 PM

Hmmmm. That's a poser. Perhaps I should refrain from being pedantic. However, I know you will appreciate constructive criticism in humourous form. Sooooooo.... perhaps you meant to ask, "What are the absolutes of writing well?

Sorry. I couldn't resist. I hope you did see the humour and that all is well and good.

Of course, the fact of the matter is old grammar rules and definitions are broken down every day. Modern writing is not so confined as my "example". I highly recommend realtively new texts dealing with "modern effective writing". While there are many simplistic changes as of late, such as "Here is..." instead of "Enclosed please find...", many of the texts delve much further into the topics raised in the posts above and are worth reading.

An engineering professor who taught me at Uni used to give us writing exercises that were gruelling! For example, he forbade the use of the word "the" in one research report. (Oops.... For example, he forbade use of the word "the" in one research report.) And, there were others. "That" was never allowed at any time. Paragraphs limited to three sentences.... etc... excellent brain exercise. Especially for lydexics me like.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: gnu
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:18 PM

Oh yeah. I've posted this many times before.... and, if you are to be an editor, maybe you can help to rid the world of, "I will try AND do..." It IS, "I will try TO do..." Makes my skin crawl.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:21 PM

If you don't know how to use an apostrophe, don't use it. Too many apostrophes make you look far stupider than too few.

Stamp out extraneous apostrophe's apostrophes!

Oh, I suppose you could argue that I'm talking about good grammar and not good writing - but I think a reasonable ability in grammar is absolutely necessary for a writer. So, grammar is an absolute. Otherwise, you look dumb.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: gnu
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:26 PM

Heheheheehee!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:29 PM

One thing that is constantly being hammered home to me about writing...

The most important thing about writing is having something worth writing about. Content.

The next most important thing about good (sorry, gnu, but it's an adjective modifying a noun) writing is knowing how to make the writing as transparent as possible. If you don't know the rules of grammar well enough to accomplish this (I usually don't), then you better have some other really good rule-breakers that folks find enjoyable.

Finally, if you don't have content that's worth writing about, then you need to have a few good tricks up your sleeve to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear you've been handed.

I've read some pretty good silk purses that began their lives as sow's ears.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Ebbie
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:39 PM

I think the 'flow' from one sentence to another makes the difference between a book well worth reading and a book that is almost too much effort. I will read a first person account that may use clumsy and fragmented sentences and thoughts but only if it is on a subject that I find compelling. I much prefer graceful writing.

Who was it who said: Forgive the length of this letter; I didn't have time to write a short one.

I agree with those who say that clarity and pithiness are essentials of good writing. I can't always do it but I know it when I see it. *g


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:43 PM

Cleave to brevity; cleave to the Anglo-Saxon; cleave to the ineluctable; stimulate thought and pictures.

And remember that absolutes are unobtainable.



A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: gnu
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:49 PM

I stand corrected. But, I ain't never gonna tell me mum the difference if she ever corrects me again. Even tho I outweigh her by a good hunnert pounds, she's well bigger 'n me.

My apologies, darlin.

gnuslinkingawayinshame


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: alanabit
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:54 PM

As an occasional translator, I would be happy if someone were to impress upon Germans the diference between a sentence and a paragraph. Too much of the drivel, which I have to unravel, is written by people who have a disticnct aversion to using full stops.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 03:57 PM

I'm with ebbie on flow. If I'm reading something and i suddenly hit an awkward phrase, it stops me cold. A recent example in a book I'm reading right now by a writer who I value as high as anyone: "She could hear him smile from the other room." C'mon!!!!!! What, he has really bad braces and they click when he smiles?

And while you're at it, I'd appreciate it if people would take it easy on adjectives.

My favorite book on writing is Bird By Bird by Amm Lamott. The book is hilarious and wise.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 04:41 PM

"She could hear him smile from the other room."

Nice turn of phrase. I don't mean to be contrarian, and maybe it doesn't fir the flow of the rest of the text, but I am reminded of hearing a radio guy once say that it was very important for him to learn that his radio audience could tell when he was smiling. It made me start noticing the same thing -- that even a singing voice will reflect a smile. Listen to John Pizzarelli some time. You can definitely "hear him smile from the other room".


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 04:43 PM

End all sentences with a preposition!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rapparee
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 04:57 PM

Try, try very very hard, to know the difference between "it's" and "its". (Hint: one is an exception to the rule that an "'s" is used to denote ownership.)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Seiri Omaar
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 04:58 PM

1. Good grammar. Already discussed. And Jerry, SPOT ON about adjectives.
2. Good flow. Already discussed. But spice it up every once in a while.
3. No cliches (unless trying to be cheesy). Next.
4. No long paragraphs of unnecessary description. Being bored to sleep is NOT a goal in writing.
5. Albert Camus' L'Etranger is NOT good writing, in either English or French. *shudders*
6. Minimal or no plot holes. Minimal or no holes in arguments.
7. If you can read the last few pages of a novel and have a good idea about the story as a whole, it is likely bad writing.
8. Be concise, be brief, don't use big words just for using big words.
9. Repetition is good. But don't overwhelm the reader with it (ie. No Great Mischief). Then it is just annoyance and page filler.
10. Consistency in style (unless TRYING to call the reader to something. Know the rules before you break 'em).
11. Proper quotations... PLEASE!

I'd rant some more, but thinking about this stuff makes my brain want to beat its way out of my skull.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Ebbie
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:12 PM

This thread is fun to read!

I agree with John Hardly about 'hearing' someone smile from the other room ONLY if the someone is speaking. One can hear the smile in someone's voice but it is well nigh impossible to hear it if they are silent. *grin* (loudly)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:14 PM

Alanabit told us:

I would be happy if someone were to impress upon Germans the diference between a sentence and a paragraph.

I would be happy if someone were to impress upon Germans the difference between a word and a paragraph!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:17 PM

The absolutes of good writing?

It's extremely important that it be expressed in words, and rendered in writing or printing!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:20 PM

Ineluctable is Anglo-Saxon? Them damn roamin' Romans more likely! And those Norman frogs were just as bad!

And don't start a sentence with and.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:29 PM

Variety in the length and complexity of sentences. Intelligent use of connectors (conjunctions, howevers, therefores, etc). Big vocabulary. The courage not to be stuffy.

When I was in high school, I was required to memorize the list of subordinating conjunctions. It has been an aid to writing and thinking ever since.

Best of luck in your job quest, kat.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:30 PM

avoid bollox. and text spk. and not using capital letters...

:D


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:34 PM

In the book, the person smiling (as assumed) didn't make a sound. I can understand someone envisioning someone smiling, knowing that they'd react in that manner if they hear something. But "hearing" something when there is no sound seemed too showy for my taste. This from a writer who is endlessly inventive.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Don Firth (computer still in the shop)
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:37 PM

A copy of The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. Also, a good dictionary, a good thesaurus, and a good style manual.

To be a successful selling writer, Robert A. Heinlein came up with five very good rules:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must not revise what you write except at editorial request.*
4. You must submit what you write.
5. You must keep submitting it until it sells.
Sounds about right.

*The one thing I disagreed with on this list was item 3, about revising. Then I read an explanation of what Heinlein meant:   don't keep fussing and tinkering with the piece or you might never finish it. Get it done! Computers, as great as they are for editing, can be a trap if you let them be. I found that what I have to do to avoid this trap is (with the excepting of correcting typos and other obvious goofs as I write), don't stop to rewrite anything. Speed write. Don't stop to revise, rewrite, or edit until you have the piece finished. Then you can go back, read it over, and start changing words, moving phrases, rewriting sentences, and such.

I learned this the hard way. Editing on the computer is so easy that I would write a paragraph, read it over, and then start changing or moving words and phrases and sentences. After several hours, I would have one lousy paragraph. Brilliant, glowing prose! But only one paragraph! Then, the following day I'd pull it up on the screen and read it over, and . . . nowhere near as brilliant as I thought it was! That's when I started to blaze through and complete a first draft before I went back to revise and edit.

My stuff is selling a bit. I have about twenty articles published so far.

And, lemme see, there was one other thing. . . .   Oh, yeah. Brevity!

I'm still working on that one.

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:38 PM

Hearing the smile in the next room, precisely because it's impossible, is an effective use of hyperbole. You just know the fellow had one hell of a smile!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: alanabit
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 05:39 PM

LOL Uncle Dave! I note that in a thread about good writing, I have had the misfortune to type the word "diffference" with one less "f" than it requires!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 06:13 PM

I KNEW there'd be a great discussion of this at Mudcat! Thanks, folks! Thanks, esp. to Alba for the *endorsement* and gnudarlin' for being a gracious darlin'...and leeneia for the well wishes. It's a freelance job reading manuscripts to see if they are "worthy." They gave me a neat list of requirements and rating points to add up for the sample ones. They were really awful and I gave them a "reject."

Don, I agree with Heinlein and one of the best books on writing which I have ever read is "On Writing" by Stephen King.

Here's what I sent them:

Good writing must make sense with appropriate use of language. It must intrigue, engage, be coherent, inspire, delight, awaken images in one's mind and sometimes, in one's heart and soul, and be based on a solid premise.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 08:02 PM

That's great, Kat: You got the job..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 09:14 PM

Thanks, Jerry, I hope so!:-) I love to help folks figure out what it is they want to say.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: bobad
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 09:20 PM

George Orwell: 12 Writing Tips

Orwell George Orwell has earned the right to be called one of the finer writers in the English language through such novels as 1984 and Animal Farm, such essays as "Shooting an Elephant," and his memoir Down and Out in Paris.

George expressed a strong dislike of totalitarian governments in his work, but he was also passionate defender of good writing. Thus, you may want to hear some of George's writing tips.*

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

   1. What am I trying to say?
   2. What words will express it?
   3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
   4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

   1. Could I put it more shortly?
   2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

   1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
   2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
   3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
   4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
   5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
   6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.   

* From "Politics and the English Language" by George Orwell.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 09:38 PM

1. Bloviate excessively, making sure to use as many exotic and arcane words as you possibly can. Use really BIG words and really RARE words. This will stun the reader with awe at your knowledge and erudition.

2. Elaborate, elaborate, elaborate! I cannot stress this too highly. Where a word or two will suffice, a veritable flood of them is always better.

3. Use the word "like" as often as possible, even when you're not sure if, like, it should be there. (Example: "I'm like, whatever!" exclaimed Sir Walter Raleigh to the Queen. "He's like, whatever," said the Queen later that evening to her minister of justice. "I'm like, chop off his, head!" "I'm like, consider it done," replies the minister, licking his, like, lips with anticipation. "I'm like, scuppered!" exclaims Sir Walter, as they, like, haul him off in chains to the, like, Tower.)

Note: That is how young people talk nowadays. I was sitting next to a table of 20-somethings today at the Sushi bar, and I swear, they were talking just like that! I swan! ;-) So if you want your writing to appeal to younger people, use "like" at least once in every sentence.

4. Make verbs out of nouns. Make nouns out of verbs. NEVER use adverbs, just replace them with adjectives.

5. Hyphenate frequently. Hyphenated words carry much more authority than non-hyphenated words do.

6. Make sure that all your plural's have apostrophe's. It's not good grammar to use an apostrophe in a plural, but it is popular, and popularity is what really matters in this world. Fuck grammar! Go for popular acceptance every time. Examples: CD's, shoe's, pickle's, 1900's, walruse's.

7. Use popular, well-known buzzword's and phrase's, like....

"Let's run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes!"
"let's take the ball and run with it!"
"I don't want to see anyone drop the ball!"
"Money talks, bullshit walks!"
"Now, let's get out there and kick ass!"
"You go, girl!"
"Have you mistaken me for someone who cares?"

Your casual and jaunty use of these clever contemporary phrases will show all that you are a mover and a shaker, a person on the inside track, definitely someone to be taken seriously in today's competitive environment.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 09:48 PM

The finest way to learn what makes good writing is to put your butt in the chair and write...write much...write often. If you have nothing to say, write about the nothing that you have to say. Describe, report, speculate, converse.

Write as though composing a letter to favorite, trusted aunt.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 10:02 PM

Like my Aunt Lucrecia...


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rapparee
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 10:11 PM

If you're writing fiction you can't go too far wrong with the laws laid down by Mark Twain in his essay on James Fenimore Cooper's literary sins.

Here are some other things he said about writing:

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.
- Letter to Orion Clemens, 3/23/1878

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
- Letter to Emeline Beach, 2/10/1868

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
- Letter to D. W. Bowser, 3/20/1880

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.
- Letter to H. H. Rogers, 5/1897

No one can write perfect English and keep it up through a stretch of ten chapters. It has never been done.
- "Christian Science"


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 10:14 PM

Good stuff! I dearly love Mark Twain's writing and his wit.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 10:25 PM

Hell, them's good rules for nonfiction, too. I

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 10:43 PM

oh dear. I had trouble with the comma after sometimes, but this is not copy editing but editing for meaning and beauty etc. so it probably doesn't matter..but once a nice Catholic girl is set loose on the world, she will automatically be diagramming sentences in her head. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Don Firth (computer, etc.)
Date: 23 Aug 07 - 11:26 PM

Great answer, Kat! I agree with everything you said. Especially the "awaken images" part. I think one of the greatest reading experiences a reader can have is when they get into a piece of writing so thoroughly that they cease to be conscious of the fact that they're reading. The images flow into the mind as if they are watching a movie, or are actually in the writing themselves.

And that takes some pretty good work on the writer's part!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 02:32 AM

From a poem by Archibald Macleish

"a poem should be palpable and mute
as a globed fruit"

I always thought that said something true about writing.
I liked the 100 word story exercise in one of the Mudcat threads, and the concept of paring down writing to the very briefest and most basic words necessary to convey the meaning. And then paring it again.

I admire Hemingway for his economy of language, and Wolfe for the realism of point of view and description, but I believe that the essential element of interesting writing is in character creation, and specifically through utilization of the telling detail.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 02:52 AM

I suppose I got it reasonably right in post 2 then? Maybe in fewer words than Kat as well:-)

I knew I could be a good writer!

Dave


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: s&r
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 06:18 AM

Who are you writing for? Much more important than anything else.

Stu

Or 'for whom are you writing', for the pedants.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rapparee
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 09:22 AM

I suppose I got it reasonably right in post 2 then? Maybe in fewer words than Kat as well:-)

I knew I could be a good writer!


Tsk. Fewer words make better writing:

"Post 2 got it right? Maybe fewer that Kat."

See, that's paring the writing down to the bone. From nineteen words to nine -- allowing you to bank ten words for later use or to sell to politicians trying to wiggle out of something.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 09:54 AM

About twenty-five years ago, I set out to write a manual for new people in my field. But what sort of shape would it take? What would I say?

Luckily, I was on what was then an early dedicated word processor; this was before the IBM PC came out. As I thought of topics or gems of wisdom, I'd jot down not just the subject but a central thought about it, or maybe a pearl of phraseology. I didn't know where it would appear in the book, but I knew something like it would need to be there. Store it.

Then another subject or shining phrase. Store it for later. And so on, with no pressure to produce anything final.

After a while I had enough fragments that I could see general themes that might make chapters, and thanks to the magic of the word processor I was able to move the fragments around, and sketch in transitions between them.

In this way you might say I assembled the manual, with much rewriting and pushing and shoving, transplanting, trimming, and polishing. "Can I say this shorter?" "Can I work in a wisecrack that will liven things up?" "Wouldn't this be better said in the chapter about ***?" "Do I even need to deal with this subject?"

This approach would be possible but awkward with hard copy from typewriting, and I think would be less applicable to writing fiction. It has served me well, though, in writing the manual and various articles through the years.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 10:08 AM

I think it works for fiction, sometimes, too, Uncle DaveO, as I rememebr reading about an author who would write things on index cards, as they came to her. Then she'd lay all of the cards out on the floor and reassemble them in coherent order. THEN she'd get to writing with them as prompts!

I suppose I got it reasonably right in post 2 then? Maybe in fewer words than Kat as well:-)

I knew I could be a good writer!


"Pared Kat, Writer Dave. Well done!"

Ha! From nineteen to nine to six!**bg**


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: jonm
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 10:29 AM

Aoid cliches like the plague, and double negatives are a real no-no.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 04:32 PM

Hehehe - I knew I could talk bollox as well:-)

How about -

Right and writer me!

Suppose it breaks rule 1 though!

:D


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 04:33 PM

Oh - and we are on the second page so...

Two to me too:-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 04:46 PM

One word: DaveRwriter!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 04:57 PM

Thanx kat!

Takat?

kata?

D.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 05:06 PM

To my list above, add Cleave to brevity.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 05:17 PM

Right.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rapparee
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 06:19 PM

"Eschew longevity" says it in two words instead of three, Amos.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 06:38 PM

A lot of it depends on who is expected to read it.

         Also what the subject matter is. I would write differently for a rifle magazine than I would for the "Mississippi Review."


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 06:54 PM

That's right. There are actually several different kinds of good writing, I should think, depending on whom one is writing for.

Furthermore, styles of writing have changed greatly with the passage of time. Many of the officially "great" books of 150 to say, 300 years ago seem very long-winded by today's standards. They were written for an audience with a different mindset.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 07:13 PM

Rapaire:

See the earlier rule: Cleave to the Anglosaxon.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 07:33 PM

Know your audience.
Know your subject.
Write the way you speak or think (the real work comes in re-vision).
Seek criticism from those who are proven competent.
Write all the time.
When you aren't writing, read.
Don't mimic other writers. Be your own person.
Publish (there's nothing like it!).


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 07:41 PM

doesn't cleave mean to cut something? mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 07:49 PM

Q:
"And don't start a sentence with and."

Luke Capter 2 V1:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

If it was good in the 17th century, it is still good now!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 07:50 PM

"They were written for an audience with a different mindset." Little Hawk

Not to mention a longer attention span.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 08:10 PM

Dave Polshaw, OR:

Takat (as in Taw!)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 08:17 PM

No, in this sense it actually means to adhere to something.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Bobert
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 08:48 PM

Finally!!! A thread that this ol' hillbilly can sink his teeth into...

(Hey, Bobert, you just ended a sentencewith a preposition...)

Hey, at least I din't dnagle no corpusles, 'er nuthin' important like that...

But firget dangling corpusles fir just one danged minute whilst I tell you all about good writin'...

First of all, way back when I was in English Comp 101, which i had started a week late due to a case of mono, I had this assistent professor whoes name I have conviently forgotten who had asked one of my fellow classmates out on a date who, BTW I ended up marryingm and this guy said that a sentence had end by the 17th word... Nope an 18 word sentence, written by Hemmingway or Wadsworth was junk... I think that was a tad on the annal side and therefore, other than the mere fact that the student he was intersted in was my new girlfriend, assured me a big ol' "F" at the end of the semester...
Remember that little wiezel on Mash??? Well, this was this guy...

(BTW, my first sentence contained a couple hundred or less words in it but well over the "17 Rule" that Professor Wiezle said was thwe absolut limit...)

Okay, that was RULE ONE...

RULE TWO is a tad harder to explainerate 'cause it has to do with "topic"... In every family in the universe there is "this" uncle... In some there also "this" aunt... And in jy family we had both a "this" uncle and a "this" aunt... You all know excatly waht I am talking about here... These folks would go on and on and on about abosutely nuthin'... There was enever a point to be made... Never a period at the end of a sentence... No, jus' no-stop blah, blah an' more blah...

So RULE TWO is that don't write if yer, ahhhhh, friggin' brain dead!!!

Now we come down to the nitty gritty of writin' and that is THE COMMA... When I was in high school doin' my best to maintain my D averaghe I had this lady whoes name I have conviently forgotten who said when it comes to commas "When in doubt, leave it out"??? Well, I like commas much as the next D student an' word 'round school was that she was a spinster... You know, a 61 year old virgin... Now when it comes down to RULE THREE I don't wnat it to come from a 61 year old virgin... No, I want it to come from like Racheal Welsh... But over the years I have figured out why this lady was so intent on teaching "When in doubt, leave it out..." This wasn't about grammer... This was some kinda Freudean thing... I don't know... Maybe she had some potty trainin' issues... All I know is that RULE THREE sucks... I like my commas and, by golly, I'm gonna stick 'um wherever I think they look good...

So, my fellow Mudders, that's 'bout all ya' need to know 'bout writin' good...

Let's do a little review here:

RULE ONE: No sentences over 17 words unless a couple hundred works better...

RULE TWO: Don't write nuthin' if you is a moron...

RULE THREE: Don't ever believe a 61 year old virgin... Somethin is drastically wrong with these folks...

Now I'd like to introduce RULE FOUR, which BTW is my own, and that is that writin' is jus talk that has been put into script and so it ain't 'bout commas, 'er jealous professors, or even moronish stuff... It's 'bout who you are and what you feel and all that kinda sappy stuff...

That's my 2 cents worth and given that the phrase "2 cents worth" goes back to, ahhhhhh, maybe a hundred years and adjusted by the value of the dollar, inflation an' all them other economics stuff is prolly worth about a buck these days...

Bobert


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 08:55 PM

Yeah, Guest, you are so right that they had a longer attention span. ;-) I was thinking that, but I didn't say it. Those people grew up in a society without TV, telephones, and radios. They wrote long letters to loved ones. They read long letters that they had to wait weeks or months for, and they focused intensely on every word. They were accustomed to paying full and proper attention to one thing at at time far more than people are nowadays.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Seiri Omaar
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 09:04 PM

And hence why Gulliver's Travels became a literary classic.
..
...
....
*shudders* God, I hate that book.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: JennyO
Date: 24 Aug 07 - 11:21 PM

Here's a little ditty by one of our National Treasures, Bruce Watson - well at least, here's the chorus. I don't have the verses.

Be sure to never split an infinitive,
Never use no double negatives,
Never generalise, that's a rule you'll see everyone break.
Choose your words well, profread everythnig well,
Keep everything clear, don't be vague.
And avoid cliches like the plague.

And as Bruce says - WHO NEEDS RHETORICAL QUESTIONS?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 12:43 AM

So far no one has mentioned one very important factor. If you know what kind of people will be reading the thing, then craft it to meet their needs and expectations.

My husband has done much technical work for a company from Taiwan. For a long time, reports were greeted with frustrated cries of "It doesn't make any sense!" I suggested that he try writing reports that contain as few abstract nouns as possible, because the Chinese are used to writing that is based on pictures, and pictures are based on concrete objects.

That company had gone through 11 consultants in 10 years. They have kept my husband on for nine years now.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 12:48 AM

That's interesting leenia. Can you compose a few sentences that demonstrate our approach and the chinese approach, so as to show the differences?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rapparee
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 11:04 AM

Our approach: You got that sucker turned on, dummy?
Their approach: You got that computer turned on, stupid one?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Don Firth (I get my computer back next week)
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 11:23 AM

". . . depending on whom one is writing for."

Tsk tsk, Little Hawk! That should be either ". . . depending on who one is writing for," (which ends the sentence with a preposition, but that seems to be more acceptable these days), or ". . . depending on for whom one is writing," (which is more formal).

Mrs. Beezley


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 11:34 AM

Ours:

If even this does not remedy the problem, you may be dealing with a condition known as FBKC (failure between keyboard and chair). In this case, please restore your computer to its orignal packing and return it to the vendor for a complete refund.

Theirs:

You are spawn of a devil and do not deserve a computer. Surrender the computational unit and all containers to the State and await reassignment.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Don Firth
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 11:42 AM

The only way they'll get my computer away from me (once I get it back from the shop) is to pry it off my cold, dead desk!

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 01:23 PM

LOL!!! (snort!) MORE, people, give me MORE examples of Chinese translation!!!

To say "on who" in any context is grossly incorrect, Don. It has to be "on whom" to be correct, because "whom" is the object of the preposition "on".


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 01:51 PM

Ms Beezeley, you are sadly, deeply, in error.

Little Hawk, for once, is precisely correct.

So va fingule.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 02:02 PM

Once again proving that anyone can eventually hit the bullseye...if he just fires enough arrows...

Right, Amos? ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 02:14 PM

I think you are both wrong. It definitely should be whom but not for the reasons stated. I think depended on is one of those phrase verbs and whom is not the object of the preposition on but the object of the phrase period. But that could be argued. I also think that whom is the object of the preposition whom and that there is a hidden or assumed object..such as "the person" .... so the phrase or clause of the sentence is really (I am rusty obviously)
is really

depending on (verb phrase..but that is arguable) (the person...assumed object) whom one is writing for (or for whom one is writing).

I am Catholic. We know these things, or at least used to. mg


Tsk tsk, Little Hawk! That should be either ". . . depending on who one is writing for," (which ends the sentence with a preposition, but that seems to be more acceptable these days), or ". . . depending on for whom one is writing," (which is more formal).


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 02:34 PM

oops ..I meant whom is object of preposition for. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 03:43 PM

(laughing in disbelief here...)

Ummm...yeah. Right...

Have you considered getting treatment for your condition, mg? Try freebasing some "Little Friskies" in order to attain greater clarity.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 04:38 PM

One does not "write for who". C'mon For is the preposition directing the verb to write, and whom is the object of it.




A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 25 Aug 07 - 11:49 PM

Ah so Amos-san. I believe acronym is PICNIC (Problem in chair, not in computer). Guest Leeneia, see my earlier post: Know your audience, Know your subject. To wit, four time better than half-wit.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 10:11 AM

Amos said:

One does not "write for who".

Many of us (including me) tend to glaze over when given the technical grammatical reasons for approved usages. I flatter myself that I can write well and write grammatically, but somehow my English teachers never made most of the terminology relevant or meaningful.

There are simple procedures, though, that accomplish the same (and correct) result, without resorting to grammar jargon.

In the case of who/whom, the decision of which to use is always solved by retaining the sentence structure but substituting "he" or "him" ("she" or "her").

In Amos's example above, "One does not write for he" is immediately recognizable as wrong. It has to be recast as "One does not write for him." Thus, "write for whom" is indicated.

I have never seen this test fail to indicate the right usage.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:28 AM

Uncle DaveO you've got a good test, and for people who don't know the answer instinctively it can also be used to resolve the I/me question. BUT.... You've allowed Amos to lure you away from the phrase at issue. It is depending on who, not write for who. I wonder if Amos would ever write depending on whom you ask. For my money Mrs Beezley was right and deserves to have her PC returned.

Notwithstanding his pontificating on the subject, George Orwell had a ponderous, sometimes laboured style. However he did write (in a different essay) "The art of writing lies largely in the perversion of words." He was bemoaning gaps in even in the colossal English-language vocabulary and must have had a point or Edith Sitwell would not have needed to write: "The morning light creaks down again."

A well-known British author Alan Sillitoe has always tested the quality of his writing by seeing how it sounds when he reads it aloud.

Rapaire, there is nothing exceptional about it's and its. One is a contraction, the other is a personal adjective like his. Or should that be hi's?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:42 AM

I beg to differ,, Pete. The clause "depending on for whom one is writing" is built around the verb construction "writing for whom". A parallel example would be "depending on whom's ox is being gored.". Obviously, whom is incorrect in the latter example. It is facetious. It is not about depending on someone, but rather an idea that depends on for whom one is writing. The concept is what is depending, and it is depending on a fact.

If the verb to depend meaning "relying on a person" was being used, the construction might be, for example, "depending on who is depending on whom." :D


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:51 AM

Maticulously correct grammer is not something I consider to be an absolute of good writing.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 12:52 PM

Janie told us:

Maticulously correct grammer is not something I consider to be an absolute of good writing.

Meticulously correct grammer spelling, however should be considered an absolute of good writing!

Actually, grammar (despite what our grade-school teachers may have told us) is not that absolute in itself. Every one of us speaks at least one (probably more) dialect of the language, and perhaps writes a somewhat different dialect. And each of those dialects has its own grammar, understood and followed by its speakers/writers.

Cockney has its own understood rules. Gullah has its own understood rules. Ebonics (remember that?) has its own understood rules. Geordie has its own understood rules. And on and on. The set of rules we generally refer to as "good grammar" represents an attempt to codify what is expected in high, formal English.

Every one of those grammars (and there are hundreds if not thousands of them) is subject to change over time. The formal grammar I was taught sixty years ago is recognized today by the foremost English mavens as severely outdated in many respects. What passes today for educated high English grammar will be laughably outdated in another sixty--actually, in another fifteen or twenty--years.

The trick is to recognize at what level of formality one intends to write or speak, and to what audience, and in what dialect.   Then apply the appropriate grammar to that standard.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 01:44 PM

Yes, it would properly be "depending on whom you ask", since "whom" is the object in that case, and "you ask" is not the object. The again, it would properly be "depending on who does it". That's because in that case the object of the prepostion "on" is an entire phrase "who does it", so the word "who" in that entire phrase remains unchanged. The word "who" is the subject of the phrase "who does it", while the phrase itself is the object of the preposition "on".

Confused yet? ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: mg
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 01:55 PM

whom is the object of ask. You ask whom. I still think there is a hidden, assumed, object there. Whom you ask is a phrase that goes with the hidden object. Depending on the cat whom you ask. Depending on the sailor whom you ask. It is like a contraction where the word is implied but not spoken.

But you could have one of those intransitive verbs and then who would be ok. He is the person who wrote the book. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 02:05 PM

You're right, by golly, "whom" IS the object of "you ask"...

There are a lot of lonely "whoms" wandering around these days, because so few people can be bothered to use them.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 02:31 PM

Many people in today's world see "whom" (in whatever context) as hifalutin', and wouldn't use it to save their lives. A little hyperbole there, but you get the point, I'm sure.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Don Firth
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 02:47 PM

"This is the sort of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put!"
                                                                           --Winston Churchill

Don Firth


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 03:29 PM

true...and most of us don't speak that way...I rarely use whom in speech and quite often break the rules in writing. But it is part of my religious heritage to at least know the rules...mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 03:37 PM

A well-known British author Alan Sillitoe has always tested the quality of his writing by seeing how it sounds when he reads it aloud.

I've always done that with my writing, too. It makes a big difference sometimes.

I am going to send a link for this thread to the senior editor to whom I sent my editing test. I am sure it will get a chuckle and then, he'll probably want to hire the lot of you! Oops, maybe I'd better not until I know I have the job!**bg**

I agree with Janie and Uncle DaveO,though, a creative writer will use various voices depending on their characters and thus "correct" grammar will vary also.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 04:08 PM

Hi Kat,

The magic words are "Strunk and White". (Beg, borrow, steal, .....)

And: Eschew any obdurate propensity for sesquapedalianim.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 04:21 PM

Hi, Frank, yes, thanks. I still have my copy from Junior High! But, for editing it is the Chicago Manual of Style which happens to be online now! Of course, I'll have to subscribe if I get the job and want to be able to access all areas of the publication.:-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: M.Ted
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 04:30 PM

It is probably best not to ask this group any question that requires an absolute answer.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 04:43 PM

Dave O. is absolutely write about the spelling. I knew it didn't look right but was too lazy to check it. My bad.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 04:50 PM

"My bad" is not good English, Janie! It indicates that one is not willing to expend the energy required to say something with more than 2 syllables in order to express the concept that they are in error. (grin!)

This could yet become a classic thread for we pedantic types to frolic in...


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 05:08 PM

If I ain't a gonna expend the energy to check my spelling, I sure ain't gonna expend the energy to go beyond 'my bad' :>)

Specific to Mudcat, I do wish it had a spell check feature. Typing to another program with spell check and then copying the edited result to here doesn't make having written conversations worth the effort, much, though not all of the time. I am not an effective proof reader of my own work. I don't know what has happened to my spelling, which used to be quite good. Now I often can not remember how to spell words, or don't recognize that I am mispelling them. On top of that, I am not a great typist. Whine, whine, whine.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 05:32 PM

GUEST,mg said, in part:

I agree with Janie and Uncle DaveO,though, a creative writer will use various voices depending on their characters and thus "correct" grammar will vary also.

Yes, mg, that's right. But I wasn't referring to the language you'd put in the mouths of fictional characters. I meant our own voices in different circumstances.

What I meant (and evidently didn't make clear) is that we tend, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes by design, to blend into the society we frequent. If I should be (as occasionally has happened) in the company of garage mechanics and truck drivers and other good ole boys from southern Indiana for a period of time, my pronunciation, my vocabulary, and my grammar will tend to blend toward their dialect. If I go all the way, I'll be adopting the grammar of that dialect. In that company, that's not ungrammatical, except if one tried to judge it by the standards of a more formal dialect that just doesn't apply.

I worked for many years for a federal judge--a brilliant, well-educated man with a doctorate in law from times before a mere law degree got to be called a "Juris Doctor". His legal writings were not only well-reasoned but expressed in fine grammatical English style.

But there were times when, in an access of informality, he'd come out with shocking down-home southern Indiana expressions like, "I come downtown and eat breakfast this morning," which would never, ever, have flowed from his pen. He was speaking in dialect, by reflex.

I remember teasing him a little about this in an informal setting, and I said, "I think, back in the days when the Judge was engaged in down-and-dirty politics in southern Indiana, he spoke as his constituents did for political effect, and blended with the voters so thoroughly he internalized their way of speaking, and it's still there years later, just waiting for an opportunity to break out."

He nodded. "That's right."

To one degree or another we all do that.

No grammatical scheme is absolute in all circumstances. There is no such thing as "The English Language;" there are only many dialects we lump into a group we call "English". So far as that goes, there is no "Language"; it's all dialect. And every dialect has its own grammar.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 05:36 PM

Little Hawk, you said (and in a thread about good writing and grammar, no less!):

This could yet become a classic thread for we pedantic types to frolic in...


"For we"???

That would be "for us pedantic types to frolic in." Tut-tut!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: JennyO
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:30 PM

for us pedantic types to frolic in.

Never use a preposition to end a sentence with :-)

How about "in which we pedantic types can frolic"?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:35 PM

That's more or less a myth--prepositions are okay to end sentences with. ;-D It's a normal speech pattern, many people have stopped fighting it.

SRS


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:40 PM

Dave O. is not only write. He is also right. (See what I mean about being proofreading challenged? I've come back to this thread several times, and just now caught that one.)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 26 Aug 07 - 11:58 PM

A classic frolicking ground for us who are pedants.

"My bad" is perfectly acceptable vernacular American English. It is not formal language. It has become widely used as informal acknowledgment of error. And it is a LOT faster to say than, "That was my mistake. which I acknowledge."




A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 12:58 AM

Uncle DaveO was wrong in one instance, though.:-) It was me he was quoting rather than mg about agreeing with him and Sins, etc.

And further, Dave, I know what you mean. My dad used to drive my mother nuts when he would get on the phone with other oilfield workers. He'd slip into the "ain'ts" and other "improper" words/grammar when she knew darn good and well he knew better. It was his way of working with them, though. He never held himself above any of the workers, even if he did have a marvellous command of the language.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Rowan
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 01:34 AM

I've always been a bit parsimonious about parsing. But I know one shouldn't use "But" or "and" at the beginning of a well-written sentences; one's likely to get a foot up the butt! Although around here it's usually expressed as "a foot up the khyber!"

I'll get out of your way now.

Cheers, Rowan


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 01:43 AM

Write the way you talk (see above). What is the purpose of your writing (know your audience, see above)? If you are writing for yourself then the problems should be minimal. For a class? Find out what the instructor considers grade A work. For a Publisher or an editor? Good luck. If one should take time to actually comment on your submission, highly value whatever they tell you.

If you write using your normal speech patterns and grammar, the creative process will flow much easier. Never consider your first draft a finished work. Get it down. Work it. re-work it. Let it incubate. Come back to it after a while. Show it to another writer whom you trust, or who you trust. Details like grammar you can work out later.

Read Hemmingway, Mark Twain, Jack London (his "Martin Eden" is a fine read, semi autobiographical, about a young writer, no less!), Jack Kerouc, Ray Bradbury, etc. Read the greats and study how they do it. Tennesee Williams uses a million words, like little bush strokes in a magnificent painting. Hemmingway paints a picture with a few broad strokes and leaves you to fill in the details. Develop your own style.

You asked the question so I have to assume you enjoy writing. Make the enjoyment your highest goal. If other people enjoy what you have created so much the better, but have a blast doing it!!!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 03:06 AM

Actually, Uncle DaveO, I agonized for at least 30 seconds over whether to type "us pedantic types" or "we pedantic types". I did. I finally settled on "we pedantic types" because it seemed like the better choice. If I were to go into the deeply complex issues concerning why it seemed to be the better choice, I fear it would take an inordinate amount of time and typing.

Therefore, I'm not going to. ;-)

I also agonized briefly about whether to end the same sentence with the preposition "in". Very briefly. ;-) ;-) I think it's okay to end sentences with prepositions.

Like my dog, I am a law unto myself, so I do all these things with the sublime assurance that I am right, after agonizing for what seems a suitable period of time.... (big grin)

Amos, I realize that "my bad" is considered acceptable by many people now. But then, so is rap music! I rest my case. (smile)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 07:14 AM

Was that really you, Uncle DaveO, writing about "an access of informality"? Oh dear....

I'm drifting towards Amos's position re depending on who/whom one is writing for - but I don't buy his explanation. For a start, what he cites as a parallel example (depending on whom's ox...) introduces the posessive case. In the original we're looking at a noun clause I think. Thus it could have been "depending on the weather." So I think we parse it independently of all else. In that case the verb (with auxiliary) is "is writing" and "one" is the subject. Ergo "whom/whom" is the object so "whom" is correct.

Little Hawk and mg, it is verbs that take objects, not prepositions.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 10:16 AM

Peter K, yes, that was me--or I suppose I should say "that was I".

And I meant it. You apparently thought I meant "excess". I meant the word "access".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 10:27 AM

BTW - ending with a preposition and splitting infinitives were rules formulated out of classical Latin, in which neither could be applied. Why on earth we should continue to apply the rules of a long dead language is somewhat a mystery. Double negatives, while ungainly, can sometimes be effective. The mathematical rule that two negatives make a possitive do not apply to langiage.

D.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 10:28 AM

...or even langUage


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 10:51 AM

The rare use of 'access' to mean 'a moment of' (for example, "swept up in an access of generosity" is perfectly correct, and honorable the more for its rarity.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 11:04 AM

Another definition of "access" is that in The Random House Dictionary of the English Language:

an attack or onset, as of disease

I remember the account of some ancient philosopher (please don't ask me his name), of whom it was said, "In an access of anger, he struck and killed his wife."

I meant "access", and frankly, never thought of it as an unusual usage.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 11:25 AM

I asked my dog about that, Peter. He says you're wrong. ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,dianavan
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 06:46 PM

1. Write about what you know

2. Make it short, sweet and to the point

3. Remember your audience


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 07:02 PM

Kat,

Writing is personal. The only absolute is communication.   You can have bad grammar, run-on sentences and all kinds of faux-pas but if you read what passes for journalism today, you find that the techniques and rules are somewhat irrelevant.

As a writer, I wouldn't try to write like anyone else. I wouldn't even bother to read about the lives of great writers because they are in and out of vogue like pop songs.

As a writer, you look for the nugget that you want to express and pare it down until you get there.

I guess if you want to get a job with a particular mag or paper, you gotta' know something about their writing style. But there is a danger here. It could emerge phony by conformity.

As an editor, you have to see what works for the medium.

If you read something, and it's communicating, it jumps out at you from the paper.

If you are an editor, you will look for what will sell your mag or paper.

Editing is re-writing without re-writing the intention or the style of the writer.

Analogy, directing or producing a musical artist.

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 07:34 PM

Pter:

Under what?

Underwear!


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 08:05 PM

Frank, I greatly appreciate your comments; I agree and have used such thinking in most of the writing I've done over the past thirty years, including for various newspapers and for my recent book. I've also edited for a couple of other writers, recently.

I know what you mean about handling artists. I was chief cook and bottle washer for my brother for over twenty years, promoting him and his classical compositions on a next to nothing budget. Heck I even sang and turned pages at a couple of concerts AND hand-dubbed a ton of cassettes. Lotsa fun for a bit.

The senior editor at the freelance job place to which I applied asked the thread title question of me and I was just interested in what Mudcatters had to say. (I thought it would be a fun thread and it has been!:-)I've already sent in my answer (posted previously) and my editing test, so am just waiting to hear back from them, now.

Now, I am really under the gun as I signed up for a booth at the Wyoming Book Festival coming up on the 15th. Having to get handouts ready, a new website up and running, and books ordered! It's exciting, but a little nervewracking.

Thanks, again,

kat


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 09:26 PM

of course prepositions take objects. Haven't you heard of the object of a preposition? And certainly in Latin they do too. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 09:40 PM

From this site on grammar, for example:

" THE OBJECT OF THE PREPOSITION

Prepositions are small words that create a relationship between other words in a sentence by linking phrases to the rest of the sentence.

The nouns that follow them are objects of the preposition.

[In the following examples, the object of the preposition is bold and the preposition is underlined.]

From the beginning of the storm, Dorothy was sure she would make it home.
BEGINNING is the object of the preposition FROM and STORM is the object of the preposition OF.

For many in the class, math proved to be the most challenging subject.
You can find the object of the preposition by asking the question WHAT? about the preposition. e.g. For what? MANY. In what? CLASS.

Until sunrise, the SWAT team will hide in the marsh.
The preposition UNTIL serves to connect its object (SUNRISE) with the main clause. The preposition IN connects its object MARSH to the verb, making the whole phrase part of the complete predicate.

The fuzzy, red cat on the fence wanders among the houses.
FENCE acts as the object of the preposition ON. The whole phrase acts as part of the complete subject. HOUSES is the object of the preposition AMONG. The whole phrase acts as part of the complete predicate.

When a pronoun acts as an object of the preposition, it must take the objective case.

[In the following examples, the object of the preposition is bold and the preposition is underlined.]

Bill was more than a little irritated when the water balloon fell on him.
HIM acts as the object of the preposition ON. It is incorrect to write fell on HE.

Theo gave a dollar to Stephen and me to go to the store.
Both STEPHEN and ME act as the object of the preposition TO. It would be incorrect to write TO STEPHEN AND I.

It seems like a waste of time for you and me to drive to Portland for the game.
Both YOU and ME act as the object of the preposition FOR."


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Donuel
Date: 27 Aug 07 - 09:45 PM

Kat you are amazing. So what happened with your brother's classical compositions?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 12:10 AM

Either that or I get bored easily, Donuel!**bg** Thanks.

He's still at it, writing an opera of the Southwest right now; ancient beings, metaphysics, etc. We have three fully-orchestrated piano concertos, three fully-orchestrated symphonies, piano suites, solo pieces, and several songs. ALL tonal, yet modern. We have a live performance of his tone poem, Ode to the Rockies, which was recorded on analogue was back when in the 80's and which I did have some CDs of; just haven't kept them up as I quit doing his stuff to work on my own. We also had a tape, made live, of an all-Hudson concert (that's him) at the Music Mansion in Providence, RI which we used to sell on tape and transferred to CD, but I'd have to scare one of them up, too, if anyone was interested. He played all of the piano pieces for that and had a professional opera singer do some stuff from his second symphony. I turned pages, wrote the copy, designed the programs, bought the clothes, etc., etc. and my husband borrowed a tv camera from the station he worked at to record it, so we have video, too. Some time I hope to get it transferred and up on youtube. There's a lot more I could say because I truly do love his music, but I cannot work with him, at least not much. He's a typical genius artist...brilliant and difficult.:-) Thanks for asking...I haven't done that in a long time and it does make me sad sometimes to know what is sitting in our closet.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 09:52 AM

Little Hawk asked for examples of writing for usual clients versus writing for the Chinese clients. My husband is going to supply them soon.

Here are some things I've noticed, but they have to do with format, not with composition.

1. I refuse to read to big blocks in italics. It's just too hard.

2. I refuse to read stuff typed in a dialect. It wastes my time.

3. I refuse to read a block of print that takes up more than one-third of the my screen. It's too verbose.

4. As is well known already, block capitals are hard to read.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 10:35 AM

Leeneia, your items 1 and 4, relating to italics and all caps, it seems to me, are essentially the same. This is not a criticism, but my observation.

In each case, the physical representation of the letters and words forces an extra visual/mental conversion, so to speak, to what might be called standard expectation. A minimal step, to be sure, but a step. I find the conversion from italics to standard writing less of a problem than the conversion from all caps to standard. The use of italics for a word here or there, or for a book title, say, or a short quotation, is soon over and forgotten, but with larger blocks of italics or caps it becomes fatiguing.

Your item 2, dialect, probably comes to much the same thing. Of course "typed in dialect" might mean different things. If it refers to an attempt to phonetically indicate a dialectal pronunciation scheme (which I'm guessing is what you mean), it certainly can become obtrusive. Much like the use of italics and caps, a dialectal word here or there for "seasoning", so to speak, is absorbed without particular difficulty, but if there's an overload of phonetic representation it quickly becomes oppressive because of the constant semiconscious conversions that are forced.

Your number 3, large blocks of text, long paragraphs, may be related to the above. With long paragraphs a portion of one's attention has to be applied constantly, just keeping track of where one is in that big slug of stuff. Of course the rule is that a paragraph should represent one basic thought, but what constitutes a thought is a matter of judgment. An excessively long paragraph usually suggests to me that the writer hasn't really worked out what the real thought(s) is/are.

So all of your four points are related to some degree.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 11:00 AM

Interesting. My sister who is partially blind has said all caps are easier for her to read.

Also, I can think of many instances, here on the Mudcat, where I have learned a lot of delightful stuff through reading dialect. It may take a bit more time, but as a writer, especially, I appreciate expanding my knowledge that way.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 11:04 AM

"I refuse to read stuff typed in a dialect. It wastes my time." - leenia

Fine. That's your subjective viewpoint, leenia, and that's okay. The thing that strikes me about it, though, is this:

Anything is a "waste of time" to the person who thinks it's a waste of time, but may not be to another person. For instance, I find watching (or playing) football to be a complete waste of MY time. Many other people love to watch or play football. I find party politics to be a waste of time. Many people take party politics very seriously. I find writing or reading stuff in dialect to be endlessly amusing and entertaining, because dialects and accents intrigue me. You find it a waste of time to read something written in dialect. I have memorized the names and the technical info about every danged battleship and heavy cruiser in the World War II Japanese Navy, because I find that fascinating for some reason. Most people couldn't name even one of them, and wouldn't care a hoot if they could... ;-)

So it goes. ;-) It's all quite arbitrary. Anything can be utterly fascinating to one person and completely pointless to another.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 04:18 PM

"I have memorized the names and the technical info about every danged battleship and heavy cruiser in the World War II Japanese Navy,..."

            And the Japanese Battle ships with 18 inch guns were?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 05:00 PM

That would be the Yamato and the Musashi. They mounted the largest guns ever put on battleships, and were the largest 2 battleships ever built. The Yamato is very famous, but the Musashi less so, perhaps because Musashi was the 2nd one built, and the first of the two to be sunk. Musashi deserves more fame, I think, because she absorbed the most incredible number of bomb and torpedo hits before finally going down in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. No battleship ever put up a more dogged fight against air attack than Musashi did.

Yamato, however, met the more dramatic fate of being destroyed almost alone (aside from a few small escorts), being overwhelmed by several hundred USA carrier planes in 1945, late in the war...and going down on what was clearly a suicide mission. She sailed for Okinawa with only enough fuel to reach the target....an enormous American invasion fleet...and die there fighting against impossible odds.

That's drama! Yamato's last mission was nothing less than a seaborne kamkikaze attack against utterly hopeless odds, a deliberate sacrifice for honor's sake alone...a Wagnerian charge into the abyss.

As such, the Yamato has been very well remembered, specially in Japan. The ship has virtually become a religious icon there. There are scale more models available of it than of any other ship in history (with the German Bismark probably coming in second to that). A very good movie was made in Japan about Yamato a couple of years ago. I recommend it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 05:46 PM

So sorry, DaveO. "Access" to mean "onset" or any other noun is usage I had never encountered. But there it is, writ large in my own dictionary. Oh dear.

And apologies too to mg and LH. Here I have some slight defence in that the authority on which I have hitherto depended, (A Manual of English Grammar by Theophilus D Hall MA, London 1905, LOL) has a different take on prepositions from that quoted by Amos.

Thus: "A Preposition is a word which (should be "that" in my view) shows the relation of one Noun to another. [Examples given.] All prepositions appear to have been originally Adverbs. Prepositions are usually put before Nouns and Pronouns which they connect with some preceding Noun, Adjective or Verb. [Examples.] When a Preposition connects Noun with Noun, the relation is between one object and another; when it connects a Noun with an Adjective, the relation is between the Quality expressed by the Adjective and the Noun; when it connects a Noun with a Verb, the relation is between an action and its effect." Etc, etc.

I retained Theophilus's use of caps because a significant part of my defence is that neither occurances of "object" takes initial cap - ie they are used as general, not grammatical terms. I must now consult other authorities on English English grammar in case this is one of those points of departure between English English and American English. But that's just out of curiosity: I don't regard one as more valid than the other.

Anyway, apologies again - I bow to George's dog.

Re Kat's point about the readability of block caps, my brother is registered blind (but has some sight) and prefers caps for anything up to a few words. But for text of sentence length or longer he favours upper and lower. (In all cases he uses powerful enhancement aids.) Research in the UK over a long period has shown that most people much prefer u/l for block text - it seems we tend to recognise words more by their overall shapes than by reading each character. Word shapes are obviously much better differentiated in lower case than in caps. (Use a rule or something to obscure the top half or the bottom half of a line of text and the impact on readability is likely to be greater if the text is all caps.)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 06:38 PM

Handsomely said, my friend. ;-) My dog will now deign to allow you to approach, offer him a treat, and pat the royal head....while he decides whether to rank you among "favored guests" or just "someone else to bark at".

Interesting point about recognizing the shapes of words, and why that is so much easier with lower case! I'd never thought of that, but it is the key to why it's a lot harder to read stuff that is all caps...it doesn't have peaks and valleys to give it a recognizable overall shape.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,CLETUS HARDDINGER
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 07:23 PM

Well Miz Kat, I reckon yall gotcherself jes bout all tha gud advice thair iz but eevin wif my fine forth grayd edgeekashun I cant figger out most uv whut wuz sed. But iffen you got it rite about ritin then thatz all rite. Tha reel thing iz jes soze yall can tell sumbuddy whutcha meen. Sum folks never seem ta git the hang uv it. Liken that Shambles guy that Spaw uzed ta pick on. Now me, I jes cud never figger out whut it wuz he wuz agoin on bout whitch I thot wuz cawse he wuz a furriner and all but Catspaw sez he wuz reely jes a dumbfuck. Sorry fer the bad word but thetz whut Catspaw sez.

Yer Buddee

CLETUS HARDDINGER


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 Aug 07 - 11:20 PM

Cletusdarlin'!! How in the aitch are yew!!?? Haven't seen yew in forever, man. 'Course, I cain't say I've missed cleaning up the litterbox, but I could almost say so...it's so danged good to seeya! But, I gotta ask...what's with the hard dinger? I nevah heerd o'one o'them before...iz the clapper in yer bell too hard, or wot? luvyabucketsmskat


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:26 AM

Cletus, I know you think you are the world's leading stupe...but you're not.   Shane is. Trust me. He makes your life look almost sentient.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: CapriUni
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 01:12 AM

Show, don't tell.

Remember that the rules of grammer are there for a reason.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 08:28 AM

Read Raymond Carver.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:25 PM

Spaw, I mean Cletus, you are delightful.

Yes, it's true that my refusal to read much in italics, caps, or dialect is a personal thing. I freely admit it. I'm sure, however, that many people feel the same way. I bring it up so that the person who has something really important to say will get it across to the maximum number of readers.
===
Somewhere I learned that good readers use the empty space around letters as much as they use the letters themselves. That is one reason why novelty fonts are not popular - the negative space is the wrong shape. Once I had to deal with a document where the lines of print were much too close together, so that the spaces between lines was almost gone. It was miserable.

When I read that, I knew why I have never been able to deal with block chords in music. When the notes are stacked atop one another, the empty space around the notehead is gone, and I rely on that empty space. I just pencil in what the chord is and go one my merry way.

(Still working on the Chinese client matter.)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 12:55 PM

Aye, leenia, Ah ken whit ye're on aboot....but whit d' ye find sae distairbin' aboot text whit is rendered in quasi-dialect fae the amusement of muckle a guid soul? ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 01:25 PM

And whit d' ye call yon "delightful" ramblings of Cletus...if not "dialect"???? If ye're willin' tae read Cletus wi-oot objection then ye shuid be willin' tae read Scots dialect wi-oot objection too!

Ah detect a wee bit of prejudice in yer double standard!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,dianavan
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 01:31 PM

leenia -

Not everyone speaks or writes in standard English. In fact, most of us don't. Unfamiliar dialects may be difficult to understand, at first, but it was a real breakthrough when I read Zora Neale Hurston who wrote in an African American dialect. After reading her, I went on to read other African American authors and enjoyed the colour and the texture of the language.

If you can't write the way the characters actually speak, it sounds false and isn't it the objective of a good writer to speak the truth? Besides that, the page is an empty canvas and if you write in a language that is not your own, the words become white on white. Standard English can be quite boring and contrived.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:13 PM

Hey folks, leeneia said it's a personal thing, not something she is trying to shove down anyone's throat.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,CLETUS HARDDINGER
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:15 PM

Miztur Little Hawk........Ime feelin purtee bad cuz I cant figger out nairy a word thet ya rit up thair. Catspaw sez its okay cuz yer a broke dick mahmuhluka or sumpin. I dunno whut he ment by thet but I am rite sorry bout yer dick but iffen ya got it inna cast yer probly poplar with the wimminfolk.

Hope it still works fer ya after it heelz up.

CLETUS HARDDINGER


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:15 PM

Ah'm jest tryin' tae have a wee bit of fun here. Dinna take it awe sae seriously! ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:23 PM

Ach, lad, ya sound like a bagpipe bein' played through a tin dustbin.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 02:29 PM

Aye! That Ah do. Sae bonny a style o' speech, dinna ya think? Whit a wonderful worrrld we wuid have if awe the people used Scots dialect!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 04:10 PM

I have heard the Scots is not a dialect but its own standalone whatever..related to Freesian..they say the Scots and Freesian people can understand each other. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 04:43 PM

Kat, it seems you have the answer to the question already.

It's a fun thread, though.

Writing is such a personal matter that like taste is music as it evokes passionate debate. Some are grammarians, and some just free-flow. Some can combine the two.

I like writing that evokes personal feelings. I like writing that paints pictures and moves with action. I like writing that gives an insight into the writer. I like words to do what they need to do, be written bold, italic, block, dialect or dirty as long as they convey emotion, elicit empathy and excitement.

If a writer does a run-on sentence or a paragraph and a half to suggest a single idea, it better be a good one otherwise my patience runs out. If I find something like this, I generally rewrite it for myself in my head.

Maybe the answer is that there are no absolutes in good writing. "Good" is too general a term. I want to rephrase the question. What are elements of interesting and arresting writing? What makes a reader eager to turn the page or to read on?

Frank


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 04:46 PM

In any case, I think it is clear from these examples that phony dialects are NOT one of the absolutes (or even one of the ingredients) of good writing.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 04:58 PM

Which is nae tae say that they canna be of some use frae time tae time...


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Peace
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 05:00 PM

I think it was Lewis Carroll who said, "Start at the beginning. When you get to the end, stop!"


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Bert
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 06:49 PM

I would say that there is only one absolute and that is "Communication".


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 Aug 07 - 07:44 PM

Eh? Wot's that yew sed, Bert?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 07:42 AM

"That would be the Yamato and the Musashi. They mounted the largest guns ever put on battleships, and were the largest 2 battleships ever built."

          LH - I had trouble finding this again. But as I understand it, the size of the projectiles these ships fired, combined with the ballistics and the way air works on an object traveling through the atmosphere, these ships were able to shell American battle ships from a distance so great that the Americans couldn't reach them to fire back.
               Is that correct?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Peace
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 11:21 AM

Both ships:

Bore 18.1 inches
Weight 162.4 tons
Length OA 831.9 inches
Weight Projectile 3219 lbs.
Muzzle Velocity 2559 ft/s
Max. Elevation +45/-5 degrees
Max. Range 45,960 yards
Rate of Fire 2/min


Found that on the www.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 12:53 PM

This doesn't have anything to do with the thread, so I won't waste anymore of anybody's time, but that's a little over 26 miles, about the length of a marathon.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 01:31 PM

Theoretically, perhaps, Rinslinger...

However, I doubt that it would have turned out that way in practice, because the USA's newer battleships had considerably more advanced rangefinding systems than the Japanese did. Their rangefinders were harmonized with very advanced surface radar equipment for increased accuracy. The Japanese had much more primitive radar...I think it was only useful for spotting aircraft...and they had to rely on optical rangefinders that were not as good as the American ones when fighting gunnery duels.

I think the American ships would have had a distinct advantage at longer ranges. Firing at the most extreme ranges usually yields few, if any hits. At shorter range things would have been more equalized.

Anyway, it's sort of a moot point because by 1944 the Americans had established what amounted to almost total air supremacy at sea, and it was their many hundreds of carrier aircraft which presented the most deadly threat to Japanese surface vessels. The Japanese Navy really had no chance at all in the one-sided battles of 1944 and 1945, despite the advanced design features of some of their fine warships...and the unquestionable courage of their personnel.

Yamato and Musashi were deliberately built to be larger than any conceivable American battleship...by the simply expedient of giving them a beam broader than can pass through the Panama Canal! All American capital ships had to be narrow enough in the beam to get through there, for obvious reasons, and that limited their size to below a certain tonnage. The Yamato and Musashi were considerably wider built ships of a heavier tonnage. This made them quite a bit harder to sink, and it allowed the mounting of heavier guns and more armor. They were also surprisingly maneuverable, due to a very good hull design. They were really the final statement in battleships...all they lacked was the very sophisticated radar and rangefinding equipment of their American counterparts.

Oh, and the Japanese ships also lacked as effective an anti-aircraft system with which to protect themselves. American anti-aircraft guns were way ahead of any other nation's at the time...proving devastatingly effective against Japanese aircraft.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 30 Aug 07 - 04:57 PM

That's all very interesting, thanks.

             I guess once the battle ship became obsolete, nobody had any reason to revive them.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:10 AM

What follows is an e-mail my husband sent from work with examples of engineering writing for usual clients and his Chinese clients. Little Hawk asked to see some. I should mention that the subject of the reports is the pollution of groundwater by previous owners of the land under investigation. When chemicals flow in groundwater, they follow a shape called "a plume."
==========
I have tried to put together a few examples of the use of concrete terms that we would typically try to use with our Asian clients, versus more abstract expressions we casually fall into in everyday life.

It involves more than just simplifying the way one tries to say
something (which I try to do with most clients anyway). Ever since you raised the concept that Asians are more likely to achieve a clearer understanding of an idea if it stated in concrete terms, I have tried to listen to the way they speak, and have found that to a large extent, the concept holds. In performing this exercise, I tried to get the second version to sound the way I hear them (which is also the way I now try to talk). The terms that can be considered more abstract are underlined.


The migration rate of the leading edge of the groundwater contamination plume is approximately 25 feet per year. Vs.: The leading edge of the groundwater contamination plume moves approximately 25 feet per year.



The distribution of the contaminants in the subsurface is indicative of the origin of the pollution. Vs.: The shape of the plume tells us where its source was.



The state environmental regulatory personnel have a preference for
personal interaction as opposed to corresponding by letter. Vs.: The
state environmental regulatory personnel like face-to face meetings
rather than letters.



And, most importantly:

The charges on our invoice are reflective of the actual level of effort expended. Vs.: The invoice shows how many hours we worked on the project.


Although their english is a lot better than my Mandarin chinese, they
still have a monumental struggle with understanding and being understood in this country, in ways that I am now convinced go far beyond limitations in vocabulary. I don't know if these examples are
sufficiently clear demonstrations of the concept, as I just dashed them off on the spur of the moment, so some of the examples may not be as abstract as we sometimes get.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:20 AM

Aha! In other words, when talking to the Chinese, discard the psuedo-impressive business style techno-babble that is so popular these days and just talk in straightforward, easy to understand English!

Wow. I think we really need the Chinese to teach us something here. ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Bert
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:24 AM

Forget about these Battleships, and let's "all go dahn to th' Battle Cruiser!!!"


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:29 AM

If you want Japanese battle cruisers, that would be the Kongo class.

Hiei, Kirishima, Kongo, and Haruna. Eight 14-in guns in twin turrets on each of them, and a 30 knot speed. Pretty useful ships they were, and they saw a lot of action. All were sunk by war's end except for Haruna, which was sitting in harbor more or less a wreck from cumulative air raid damage.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Bert
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:32 AM

LH, yer gonna 'ave ta lern Cockney one ov these bluddy days me ol' china.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:33 AM

Oh, I'd love to, Bert.


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Subject: RE: BS:
From: Riginslinger
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 07:19 AM

"What are the absolutes of good writing?"

             Maybe that's the key to good writing, lear Cockney.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 10:09 AM

I agree with you about discarding "pseudo-impressive business style techno-babble", Little Hawk. However, that is easier said than done.

For various reasone (which ought to be looked into), many people find that words don't flow naturally once they start writing for an audience. This could be something akin to stage fright in a musician.

For another thing, it doesn't do to write in a clear, practical manner if your boss mistakenly believes that this proves you are a rube.

By the way, I got the idea about using concrete language for the Chinese clients after I read a long detective story by a Japanese author. I closed the book and realized that there had been only one abstract concept in the entire novel - one paragraph on loneliness. And loneliness isn't that abstract, as concepts go.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 12:40 PM

You're quite right, leenia. I guess the important thing is always to remember who one is writing for, and shape one's approach accordingly. There's hopefully a happy medium one can strike between grossly pretentious techno-babble and talking like a rube... ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 02:30 PM

Besides, if you talk like a rube you could be mistaken for the president.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 04:09 PM

But it would get you a lot of votes.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 06:43 PM

That's true!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,AR
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 07:35 PM

The 'absolute(s)' of good Writing: Use a good pen


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 07:49 PM

"It's all in the wrist."


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,AR
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 07:55 PM

No, it's in the tool.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 11:10 PM

It's in how you wield the tool. The tool is nothing without he who wields it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Jeri
Date: 31 Aug 07 - 11:28 PM

It's indicative of the mood of Mudcat these days that a significant number of people seem to be focusing on the naked and uninteresting skeleton - grammar and spelling. Pedanticism is the refuge of those lacking in creativity or passion. It's not a bad thing to care about the mechanics, but if you think it's what makes good writing, you're missing the point.

Communication's important, but it's not what makes good writing. Well, it does in technical writing. I understand maybe that appeals to some, but I still sort of like creativity.

It's been said that the internet is a 'posters' medium'. People write because it floats their boat to see their little words go sail around the world. They don't have to care whether anyone wants to read what they write and they likely don't read what anyone else writes. If they communicate, fine, but that's not necessarily their primary goal, which is shouting "I AM" to an uncaring and bored-out-of-their-shorts 'audience'. Hell, we have people at Mudcat who continuously write inane and should-be-embarrassing one liners, say the same thing over and over, write an enormous quantity of blather or diatribe, often completely ignoring the subject to go have a wee wank at our expense. They read posts looking for anything to disagree with and they correct grammar and spelling because they lack the ability, initiative or simple the courtesy required to do anything else

Good writing is NOT primarily for the enjoyment of the writer. Good writing feels like the writer is completely engaged in telling you about something that excites them, because they want you to understand too. Good writing does not scream "LOOK AT ME" - it whispers secrets, it shows you dappled sunlight and dancing shadow, it makes you understand pain and celebrate redemption. Good writing sounds like, "Hey, here's something to enjoy... just for you."


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 01:09 AM

Very good points, Jeri.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 08:56 AM

Jeri - Who would you hold up as an example of a good writer?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Jeri
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 02:02 PM

Few people are consistently good writers, Riginslinger. Many, many people are capable of good writing.

This Blake Madison post is my favorite bit of writing here, although most of the Blake Madison posts have been remarkable. There have been other pieces of writing, both inspired and inspiring, done by various people. There have been pieces about war and loss, about love and hope, about other people and other times. They didn't share the same author, but what they had in common is that for a while, telling the story was the most important thing. It was more important than self consciousness and fear of ridicule, more important than anything anyone else had to say, more important than projecting an image of themselves.

I read mostly works of fiction. My sole criteria for whether I think a book is good or not is whether I enjoy it without noticing the 'bones'. There are many things that contribute to my enjoyment, but I couldn't begin to analyze all of them. Sometimes, the writing gets my imagination going, and sometimes it rises above that and just sings. When I read for other reasons, my definition of good writing changes. Of course Stringsinger said it here, more concisely than I would.

I score tests for a day job - most of the time, English essays. Every once in a while, a kid will write something that makes my eyes leak simply because the writing is excruciatingly beautiful, and so unexpected on a school test. Sometimes, those kids can write as well or better than current published authors. Of course, they only have to last for a few pages.

I think my point (you HAD one, Jeri?) is that authors' names are irrelevant. Lots of people can shine.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 02:33 PM

You're quite right in what you say about good writing, Jeri, and yes, the Black Madison posts are wonderfully done.

However, I think that a great deal of the overtly pedantic posts are done entirely tongue in cheek, don't you? It's just some joshing around between friends. I doubt that any of us would seriously assert that it is perfect grammar and perfect spelling which make for good writing.

I would also say that there are times when one wishes to write seriously and really communicate something significant with others...and there are other times when one wishes simply to amuse oneself, pass the time, and engage in other completely unimportant and non-weighty activities of that sort...activities which have no lasting merit in the world of fine art.

I do not intend to kneel before some digital God of "good writing" and tearfully apologize for having sometimes done the latter, and I don't see why anyone else here ought to either. As you say, many of us are capable of good writing. That does not mean we are under some stern obligation to do absolutely nothing BUT good writing in our time spent in these sacred halls, I hope.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 02:51 PM

Communication's important, but it's not what makes good writing.

Ya know Jeri, you have a hell of a roundhouse. My first instinct was to blather in protest when I read this. After all, the only measure of writing's success, I would have said, is what, how much and how well it communicates; communication is the whole burrito.

But I think you mean something else, far more subtle -- that if writing is well-crafterd, but does not come from the authentic own depths of the writer hisself, the writing can miss even if it seems polished as communication.

This is a very interesting point, assuming I have gathered it in right.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 03:03 PM

Jeri, I submit to you that if writing is not authentic, but specious and insincere, this does not qualify as communication. To me, communication is when something is clearly written, evokes an emotion of empathy or understanding on a deeper level than some tripe written for effect.

Creativity in writing is a form of communication.

There's always this caveat. Some writing communicates to some people and not to others.

There are authors who I have been told write well but they do nothing for me personally.
Since they have been touted as good writers, I am expected to go along with the program.
I don't see this as valid or necessary.

The writer that communicates to me personally in a way that evokes thought, feelings, empathy, paints pictures that I can see, opens my mind to new ideas or conveys something human and personal is my idea of a good writer.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 03:06 PM

People's writing can shine when they are truly inspired,   when they really mean it from the depths of their being (as Amos just said). That happens, but it doesn't happen too often. For most of us, it happens quite rarely.

I read mostly works of non-fiction, primarily spiritual philosophy of one kind or another. In other words, I am drawn more to reading about ideas, than reading about personalities, life stories, and specific events. I want to understand my position in life itself, my spiritual nature and purpose, that sort of thing. Still, I have read some fine fiction now and then.

I think the book that hit me most powerfully in the last 10 years was Mark Twain's "Joan of Arc". Why? Well, that would be a long story. The idea of the sacred female, the heroine, seems to be at the centre of my being. It is for me the strongest of all archetypes. For me, the Christ figure ends up being a female. Don't ask me why, because I don't know. It's a mystery.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Big Mick
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 03:25 PM

So many things go into the mix that I think, on a personal level, it simply comes down to what grabs me and holds me. Due to the fact that Union Organizers spend weeks on end alone, and in places far from their homes, I tend to read a great deal. Sometimes it is for pure entertainment, sometimes it is inspirational, sometimes it is information oriented so that I may come to know my adversaries, and most of the time it is research oriented so that I may sing my songs from a position of understanding what the conditions were that spawned them. I consider myself strong in the empathy suit, so that if I can find a really well written treatise on a person, act, event, conditions, around which songs were built, then I can sink into that song and relate it to the audience that I am singing it to.

Which brings me to a point about good writing. I am unschooled, and unsophisticated, when it comes to understanding what constitutes good writing. I have never studied the elements of it, and when I write something, such as some of my Vietnam posts, or posts for the kids in Why We Sing, it is usually from the heart. But when I am reading, it is easy for me to discern good writing, as it relates to me. If it turns into "white noise" and I realize that I have read several pages, or para's, and I don't know what they said, then I am reading from an author that just fails to hold my interest. If I am reading something, I am interested in what it says. But if the author lacks the ability to phrase, and as Frank says, fails to paint pictures that I can see, that content is going to go by the wayside for me.

Mick


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 04:39 PM

That's exactly it, Mick. I cannot often name the exact element of what may be wrong or write right in a sentence without looking it up, but I know when it is either. I had excellent teachers in that they also focussed on creativity from first-grade SRA writing program and on. Some were sticklers on grammar, etc., but they all encouraged creativity. Lots of times people who've read something of mine are surprised when I tell them I didn't graduate from high school, but have a GED. I believe my jr. and sr. high education was better then, than college is today and I am grateful to all of my teachers and my parents for being so encouraging.

The other question the chief editor asked of me was "What authors/works are examples of great writing?" Here is what I answered, though there are many more I could have named and, I agree, they do not all need to be known except for the purposes of the specific job test I was taking. I've seen equal or better writing than all of the following, right here on Mudcat. I also learned about a few of these from other MUdcatters:

Rudolfo Anaya – Bless Me, Ultima; Alburquerque: A Novel; Bendiceme Ultima

Tony Hillerman – any title

Marion Zimmer Bradley – any title

Judith Thurman – Secrets of the Flesh: The Life of Collette

Peter Tremayne – any of the Sister Fidelma series

Lindsey Davis – any of the Falco series

Morgan Llywelyn - 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion

Anything by M. R. James and other "classics," i.e. Kipling, Scott, etc.

Nevil Shute – Round the Bend

James Herroit - any


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 05:15 PM

True what Jeri said about good writing..but the position in question is an editing position..probably not a proofreading/copyreading one, but one that selects or improves on good writing..but an editing position nevertheless...mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 05:20 PM

I have not read most of those on your list, Kat.

If I were asked to name some really fine writers I've read, then I'd pick...

Mark Twain
H.G. Wells
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
H. Ryder Haggard
Rudyard Kipling
C.S. Forester
Sri Aurobindo

I don't tend to read modern novels much, so I'm sure I've missed out on a lot of great contemporary writers.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 05:22 PM

Good writers here.scratch that..people I enjoy reading..well, I would say Big Mick, John in Kansas (I can't remember his style one way or another, but he seems knowledgeable as though he writes engineering books for a hobby), Sir John of Hull, Alice, Marion, CapriUni, oh that is enough for now. mg


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 05:37 PM

And there you have it, boys and girls: The bare bones absolutes of good writing. Study the foregoing and I am confident that you too, will be a Good Writer whom can write well, er, as good or even gooder then me!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 06:37 PM

LOL, Slag! Ya done well...er..weller...or, I mean ya did good!

LH, I think you would really like Anaya's writings. They are really quite beautiful. Also I think you'd really enjoy reading about this fellow's exploits AND, this gal from seventh century Ireland, not only a religieuse, but also a dalaigh, an advocate of the ancient law courts. Really interesting and engaging.

Oh, and I agree with your list, too.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Cruz
Date: 01 Sep 07 - 11:52 PM

I always say there are no absolutes in the Universe. However, there is now one absolute I have learned by reading this thread, when I did not nodd off to sleep, and following my many years of searching for the Holy Grail of Science:

Absolutely never-ever-no-how-for-sure-fire-and-for-certain ever come to a place like the BS section of any such forum as Mudcat, especially so, to inquire about the absolutes of good writin'
























Er, I do have 1 question: when DO you use a : instead of a ; and should I use the numerical 1 instead of 'one' in my scientific abstracts, and etymologically when should I ........................


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 12:05 AM

I had a long entry, but I clicked on an entry in the middle of it, and lost everything. Lesson learned.
    "Few people are consistently good writers, Riginslinger. Many, many people are capable of good writing."

                     
          "I read mostly works of fiction."


             I disagree. I think there are people who are consistently good writers.

             The only writer I've tried to read on katlaughing's list is Tony Hillerman, and I didn't find it very compelling. On Little Hawks list I agree with Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and C.S. Forester. I suspect there's an element of gender bias in this.

             I can read anything by Robert B. Parker and be thoroughly entertained. I don't know why. I've tried to immitate him, on occasian, with limited success.

             Anyone who reads Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea," and can say that's not great writing is brain dead.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 12:53 AM

Frank:

I feel the same way about Steinbeck's stuff.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Bert
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 02:32 AM

Jeri says,

"Communication's important, but it's not what makes good writing. Well, it does in technical writing. I understand maybe that appeals to some, but I still sort of like creativity."

I dunno Jeri, if you are not communicating, then nobody is going to continue reading. It doesn't matter how creative and original your thoughts are; if you don't communicate them, then your readership has fallen asleep after the second paragraph.

And Little Hawk, Did you ever read Sir Nigel, or The White Company? Such a dreary load of CRAP and Sir Arthur thought they were his best works. His Sherlock Holmes books were good though.

Some authors seem to have one masterpiece in their life which stands out amongst a lot of mediochre work.

For instance, did Tom Sharpe write anything better than "Wilt"
or did Brian Callison write anything better than "Trapp's War"

Although they both wrote other books that were OK. did they contain "the absolutes of good writing".


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Jeri
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 09:49 AM

Stringsinger, "Creativity in writing is a form of communication."yes I agree. I think I was interpreting 'communication' to be more surface-level and obvious. Amos, sometimes I just talk out of my ass, but I think what I meant was what I said in a vague sort of way.

On communication being not the most important thing: sometimes creative writing asks questions and makes you think, sometimes it leaves things unsaid so you can fill in the blanks. Get a group of people to agree on what certain lines by ee cummings or Bob Dylan mean, and you'll understand what I mean. If you want to call the empty space that calls you fill it up with your imagination 'communication', I can understand. Questions are communication of a sort and I don't want to quibble, just explain why I said what I said.

There's also the unimportant communication that involves a writer wanting to tell me something and being completely competent, but I don't want to read it. From the reader's point of view, it may be good writing, but it doesn't matter. From a writer or an editor's point of view, is it good writing if most people don't want to read it? The writer's communicating his little butt off, but that doesn't matter. There is something needed beyond communication.

Riginslinger, I was trying to avoid listing favorite authors/good writers because the thread's about what makes good writing. Most writers are consistently competent, thanks to their proofreaders. 'Good' is a step above 'competent' and I'm pretty sure we can find passages in every author's work that we find lacking. I think we've had author fan lists before. (I don't know the thread titles off the top of my head though.) The question isn't 'who', it's 'why'? What is it about the author's writing that makes it good?

I think when we get rid of all the opinions about good writing we don't agree with, we may be left with this: good writing is that which readers want to read. Then again, someone will feel that some other aspect is more important, so Cruz probably has it write: there are no absolutes in the Universe. (Almost always never.)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 10:33 AM

GUEST,Cruz, asked in part:

Er, I do have 1 question: when DO you use a : instead of a ; and. . .

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether a poster is serious in asking a question or if it's a tongue-in-cheek rhetorical joke, but I'm going to assume it's a real question. I'll try to give some guidance, on that basis.

A colon expresses a sense of expectancy. It's an introduction of an expansion or explanation of the first part of the sentence. I was going to say that it's the equivalent of "as follows" or "that is to say" or something like that, but often the colon actually follows that kind of phrase. It says to the reader: "Here comes an explanation or expansion."

The semicolon has two uses: As the period's cousin, and as the comma's big brother.

As the period's cousin, it is used to put what might have been two full grammatical sentences together as one, when the thoughts of those two units have a particular relationship that's better understood together. Unfortunately, you often see people try to do this with a comma, which in my high school and university English classes was a no-no; it would earn you an automatic F, regardless of other merits of the paper.

As the comma's big brother, the semicolon is used to separate a series when one or more of the parts of the series already calls for a comma or commas, which would make the whole thing an incomprehensible mess if you then tried to separate the series with commas in addition.

Oh, and there's another, not-so-common, use of the semicolon, which you will see in legal writing quite commonly, but not generally in general writing. In legal (and maybe other complex) writing there may be a series of thoughts which would justify paragraphs in themselves, and which should be separately considered. The writer will present the thoughts as a series of paragraphs on the page, but ending each with a semicolon rather than a period before the change of line and the indentation of the next paragraph.

Now, I just hope that the question was asked seriously. Otherwise, I've just unnecessarily bored you to tears.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 10:45 AM

Jeri said, in passing:

There's also the unimportant communication that involves a writer wanting to tell me something and being completely competent, but I don't want to read it. From the reader's point of view, it may be good writing, but it doesn't matter. From a writer or an editor's point of view, is it good writing if most people don't want to read it? The writer's communicating his little butt off, but that doesn't matter. There is something needed beyond communication.

Seems to me that communication is not a one-way street. If the writer gives you a long paragraph (or even a whole article) of inconsequentials, and loses you as a result, there is no communication. In that case the writer put a lot of stuff down, but he's not "communicating his little butt off", to use your enchanting phrase. As a parallel, take a schoolteacher who knows his subject, organizes it well, but fails to motivate the class to pay attention: No learning is going to occur.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 11:50 AM

"Most writers are consistently competent, thanks to their proofreaders. 'Good' is a step above 'competent' and I'm pretty sure we can find passages in every author's work that we find lacking..."   
    "The question isn't 'who', it's 'why'? What is it about the author's writing that makes it good?"

                Jeri - Yes, that's a good point. In today's market place well placed writers are often revised extensively by editors and proofreaders. In a sense it kind of becomes a writer's conspiracy. I suspect this is especially the case in nonfiction. I was watching Glenn Beck on television--in a weaker moment, and somebody was ragging on him because he "didn't even write his own book."
                His response? "Nobody writes their own books anymore."

                In the case of both Ernest Hemingway and Robert B. Parker, they both insist they never revise. I find this incredibly hard to believe, but it keeps them from falling into the catagory of a writing factory with a big name for promotional purposes.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 12:29 PM

"Aww, gee whillikers, shucks!" said he, lowering his eyes, blushing, and scrubbing the dirt with his toe.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 01:16 PM

Bert, I have not read Conan Doyle's "Sir Nigel" or "The White Company". I have read the Sherlock Holmes stories and "The Lost World", and I thought they were marvelously well written tales. "The Lost World", in particular....it's a simply wonderful flight of imagination. It's a shame they have never managed to make an even half-decent movie based on it, but that's Hollywood for you.

For one thing, they insist in implausibly putting some good looking women (at least one, anyway) in the expedition party (for the usual reasons) which inevitably screws up the story utterly....the chances of a woman going along on such an expedition at that time in history would have been virtually nil.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 01:37 PM

"The semicolon has two uses: As the period's cousin, and as the comma's big brother."

I think that the "semicolon" is invariably "half-assed".

I'll take two complete statements. I assume if one follows another, they are related contextually.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 03:36 PM

Frank, the use of the semicolon is never (as far as I can see) required for joining two clauses. It's a matter of the writer's style.

Now, suppose I left out the parenthetical and said, "The use of the semicolon is never required for joining two clauses. It's a matter of the writer's style." Okay, you'd buy that, and it's perfectly grammatical.

But suppose I as the writer feel that those two clauses really amount to one grand thought, more closely related than merely two different statements of principle. I might want to indicate that closeness by using the semicolon. If I were speaking that larger thought, my speech cadence would indicate that closeness, and I'd want the written form to show that.

I know you don't like it, but it's not wrong either way.

In a way, I see the semicolon in that sentence as the equivalent of inserting ", but instead", joining the two parts of the combined thought.

The only sin would be to do a comma run-on to accomplish the same end.

I assume you are not criticizing the use of semicolon(s) for a complex series. If you are, then we've got a serious disagreement.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 08:05 PM

A person can be a good writer and be worth reading without being a great writer. Tony Hillerman, for example. I have been out west quite a bit, gone hiking and so forth, not just driven through. Sometimes I can read a passage by Tony Hillerman which evokes the desert so vividly that I can almost smell the hot, rock-scented air.

However, his women characters seem made of cardboard - mere stick figures put in there to advance the plot.

One day I was reading a novel where a man with a name like McManany might have been the villain. Then a man named Taggert might be the villain. I knew that Taggert was the villain, because no Hillerman villain would have a soft name with a lot of M's and N's in it. At that point I quit reading Hillerman.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Sep 07 - 10:52 PM

Well, I do have to admit I was a bit disappointed in Hillerman's last novel, but he is in his 80's and in not the best of health, so I give him a little leeway. I love his main characters, Joe Leaphorn and Jm Chee. I identify so strongly with a lot of the spiritualism he writes about and love the country most of his novels take place in. His works have always engaged me and I found several of the women characters to be much more than "cardboard." I think of his novels as fast, good reads and I greatly respect him as a person esp. considering the honour the Dinee/Navajo Nation have bestowed on him.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 08:55 AM

I suspect it's Hillerman's spiritualism that makes it not work for me.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 09:09 AM

I never cared too much for Hillerman. His characters always seemed not to be real, but rather, his version of what I felt he thought someone wanted to read about. Like fantasy.

I just finished the best book I've read in YEARS -- The Highest Tide -- the first novel by Jim Lynch. It brought home yet again how important an interesting pov (in this case, a young boy) is to good writing.

I think that's one of the strong suits to Dean Koontz -- an unabashed fantasy writer. In fact, in that sort of way, Koontz is like the anti-Hillerman. Koontz is writing fantasy, but with strikingly real people, while Hillerman is proposing real life drama with stick figures.

Koontz points of view are endlessly fascinating and quite often REALLY funny.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Folk Form # 1
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 09:54 AM

Koontz is very a good writer, but his characters are all the same: A traditional family who, through a comittment to the protestant work ethic, have moved into the middle class. Something evil comes along and threatens to take away what they have got. He is a bit like Ayn Rand, although a lot more talented.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 10:11 AM

Oh, there's no doubt about the similarity throughout his writing. He even repeats motifs -- Elvis, dogs, elevated menial/manual labor.

One thing he does often that I enjoy is making a strong female protagonist that saves herself rather than being rescued by some male hero. I guess I kinda like that because I was raised by a woman who was never "rescued" by a man.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 10:49 AM

Hmmm...never have liked Koonzt.

As for Hillerman, it's not his spirituality, but that of the Navajo and, sometimes, Hopi Nations. Also, far from being fantasy, his portrayal of reservation life and people is spot on. But, different strokes for diff. folks, eh?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 12:42 PM

"But, different strokes for diff. folks, eh?"

As a guy who make a living in the arts, I thank God every day that that's true!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 01:25 PM

Some people are instinctively drawn to spiritual themes, and I think that would include me and Kat. Other people are instinctively put off by them.

This says nothing about the quality of the writing, but rather says something about the background, tastes, and interests of the reader.

I hardly read anything that doesn't have a spiritual theme anymore.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 01:54 PM

"This says nothing about the quality of the writing, but rather says something about the background, tastes, and interests of the reader."


                Your certainly right about that, but I can't even get interested in something with a spiritual theme. I stay away from science fiction and fantasy as well.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 02:03 PM

Well, it's hard to be interested in something one simply can't relate to. That's why I don't read novels about rich people's love affairs in Hollywood or whatever...but they seem to be very popular. ;-) On the other hand, I love spirituality, some (though not most) science fiction, and some (though not most) fantasy. I also like history.

What do you most like to read about, Rinslinger?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 10:20 PM

Right now I'm reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I'm also reading some material about the life of Big Bill Haywood, a book entitled "Big Bill Haywood & The Radical Union Movement," by a professor named Joseph R. Conlin, and some other stuff.

          I think Haywood was right in recognizing that in order for labor to be effective, they had to be organized world wide. He had trouble gaining an audience when he lived, I just think he might have lived a hundred years before his time.

          I will buy anything Robert B. Parker publishes, and read it within a few days time. It's a compulsion I can't explain. He is suppose to be the heir apparent to Raymond Chandler, but I find him to be much more compelling than Chandler.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 10:28 PM

Ah. Well, that all sounds pretty good to me.

Raymond Chandler was amazing. I read all his books a few years ago, one right after the other. Went on a big Chandler spree for awhile.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 03 Sep 07 - 11:39 PM

Hmm..I'll have to watch for some of Parker's books. I like what I read HERE.

If you like Chandler, you probably would like two Mudcat story threads: The first of the True Detective story threads and, The Return of Blake Madison.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 12:10 AM

kat - I'll have to try the Mudcat story threads. How were they composed?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 12:16 AM

You may read all about them in This Thread, Frank. We haven't really kept at them the way we used to. They usually just started with someone's bright idea for a plot, so posted and those of us who wanted to added our own characters, etc. There is an index of them on that thread, a ways down, one of my postings. Ah, Here it is.

Have fun!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 07:45 AM

Thanks, but just for the record, my names not Frank. I have a tendancy to be frank sometimes, but...


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:28 AM

Oops, sorry about that! Thanks.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 06:38 PM

Chiming in very late, John McPhee is the writer whose skill I most admire.   

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:14 PM

This is a little off topic, but the person on Mudcat whose writing skill I think surpasses all others among us is Lonesome E.J. The man is positively superb at writing. 100% professional quality.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:41 PM

Me, too, LH, along with PeterT.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 04 Sep 07 - 09:56 PM

Oh, yeah. I forgot. Yes, Peter T. is also just about untouchable in that regard. I haven't read as much of his material.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 03:30 AM

Thanks for the compliment, Little Hawk. I love Jen's stuff, and your stuff, and Amos and Kat's, but as an example of good writing, I would point to a piece of Peter T's work that was pure in concept and execution. It came at the end of the first Blake Madison story. I had brought it to a slam-bang detective end. Then I had added a post-script that I thought was one of the better tear-jerker endings I've tried. Then Peter weighed in with this ....


And then it was late.
"Is it too late for us, Baby?" I asked, pouring her another drink.
"I'll tell you what, Blake. Nice name, Blake, by the way. Reminds me of the poet."
"Madison remind you of anyone?"
"President, right?"
"Right, Baby."
"Well, if he doesn't appear on any small or medium sized money, I don't know anything about him."
"What happened to you, Baby? You're a smart girl, beautiful, but you sure are connected to a lot of dismal men."
"I tell you what, Blake. Parting gift. It's like this. When I was a little girl, you know, back in wherever it was, my father and my mother used to fight all the time, like hell, all the time, you know."
"Yeah, I know."
"Well, when you're a kid you think, well, you think it's your fault, or you should be able to do something about it." She looked at me, with those violet eyes. "You think you should be able to do something about it." She was starting to cry.
"So, Baby, so what did you do?"
"So, what I did was -- sorry. So when he hit me I used to let him do it. It was like I was some kind of absorbent cotton. You know, the hunks of fluffy stuff you make sheep out of in Sunday school. Like I could absorb all his hate just by standing there, just letting him take it out on me. I used to let him do it. Bang, bang, he'd hit me, and I'd suck it in. I thought I could make it all right. I'd take the hate, and they would love each other, and me, and we would all love each other. You know, magic, kid's stuff. Poof, the world is beautiful." She held her drink in her hand, feeling the roundness of the glass.
"Remember, Blake, how you asked me once, a long time ago, about suffering --"
"Yeah, sure, Baby, a lifetime ago."
"Well that's what I was there for. To make it all go away. That was my role, my magic. So when I grew up, I just carried on, you know."
If there was music playing somewhere, it wasn't nice music.
"The thing is, Blake, there's a lot of hate in the world, a lot of good things that people are just trying to fuck up. It's like love -- you start something, it goes along for awhile, and then, who knows --"
"Entropy?"
"Huh?"
I looked at her. "Everything unravels unless you work at it, and even then ---"
She smiled ruefully. "Well, you've been there, Blake, I can tell."
It was even later than I thought. She reached over for her purse. She was getting ready to go.
"So when I went on the street -- yeah, I went on the street -- that was what I tried to think. Here I am, the Sunday school sheep, dabbing up all the mudpuddles, all the fuckedup sadness of all these fuckedup men. Stupid, really. I was the fuckedup one."
She struggled to open her purse to check to see if she had enough money to get wherever it was she was going. I waved some of her own money, the stuff she had given me earlier; but she shook her head.
I took another sip of my Scotch, trying to think of how to keep her from going. All I could think of was: "As Holden Caulfield used to say, you could scrape forever and you could still never get rid of all the FUCK YOUs written on all the walls of the world."
She nodded, got up from her barstool and turned to me. "Anyway, Blake, that was a long way round to a kind of goodbye. You're sweet, and we've had a lot of laughs, but I am all absorbed up. I can't take your pain, and I can't mend your threads. No fluff left, I'm afraid."
I gave her a look that I hoped said how much I understood. She was alright, was Baby Gentry. Perhaps in another time, and another place, it would have worked out. Perhaps not. She reached over and kissed me, once, on the mouth.
"Sorry", she said, "I taste like the salt on a margarita, without the margarita."
I said I didn't mind. She walked a little unsteadily to the door. I saw her silhouetted briefly in the dire purple glow from the flashing sign across the street. For a moment, it was as if she had become a neon angel at the gates of some kind of Paradise Betrayed.
And then she was gone forever.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 09:41 AM

Goddam, that's fine.

I wish Peter were around more.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 02:28 PM

Man, what a killer ending. It gives me chills when I read it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 02:55 PM

OK. Here's the deal on colons or semi-colons. A colon is used for "eyes wide open" as in :) or :0 or even :Q. < (that's a period, not a dot). And, of course a semi-colon is not to be taken seriously ;). It's so simple...

Actually the colon says "Note what follows" and the semi-colon says "Such as...".

Its interesting to me to observe who has posted to this thread and how often. Good writers all, I'd say.

Question: If a comma links a related series of words or short phrases, isn't it redundant to put a comma before the "and" in the penultimate item? For example, "-----, -----, -----, and -----." I believe the correct punctuation should be "-----, -----, ----- and -----." Any thoughts on that one?

Also (I should note in passing) LH seems to like to get the last word in. There's nothing wrong with that but don't get too comfortable LH. I gotta feeling that when ALL is said and done, it will be Chongo writing your obit!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 04:00 PM

Yeah, you're probably right about that, Slag. The character always outlives the author in the end.

But here's a tip. There's one way to unencumber yourself of one of those endless, useless arguments that people get in on political threads and other such contentious threads. You simply let the other guy have the last word...and you never respond to it. ;-)

Eventually he forgets all about it and goes off to fight with somebody else instead of you. It saves much pointless aggravation for the one who is wise enough not to insist on having the last word.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:13 PM

Well, I made it to the final cut for the editing job. I just sent in my final editing test. The Sr. Ed. said to think of it as a "tie breaker" so wish me luck?! He also paid me some pretty high compliments, including that my previous two editing tests were "spot on!"


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:20 PM

Well done, Kat.

Slag, the use of series commas traditionally has always included the use of one before the "and", if there are commas to be used at all. Your rebuttal to this guideline is logical because of the meaning of the word and, but as a guide to the reading eye, the comma is useful.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:24 PM

That, is, so, true. Where, would, we, be, without, commas?

Well done, Kat.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 05:33 PM

Slag asked:

Question: If a comma links a related series of words or short phrases, isn't it redundant to put a comma before the "and" in the penultimate item? For example, "-----, -----, -----, and -----." I believe the correct punctuation should be "-----, -----, ----- and -----." Any thoughts on that one?

Slag, style manuals vary (and argue vehemently) on this. I was taught in grade school, as I suppose you were, to omit that comma, but I have been converted to think that it's better to put the comma before the "and" except in certain special cases.

Let's put a series sentence down both ways, and see if there is or at least could be a difference in meaning:

"The parking lot contained about a hundred VW beetles, painted differently: red, mustard green, blue, and yellow."
    or
"The parking lot contained about a hundred VW beetles, painted differently: red, mustard green, blue and yellow."

Now, can you tell me about that second example? Were the VWs all single colors, or was one or more of them painted two-tone? If the practice is to place a comma before "and" in a series, the absence of the comma is significant, and there's at least one two-tone VW there. If the practice is always to leave out the last comma, there's no way to tell the function of the word "and".

One might go further with the VW paint scheme list:
"The parking lot contained about a hundred VW beetles, painted differently: shocking pink, stripes and polka dots, red, Kelly green, black, mustard green, waving American flags, and blue and yellow."
In such a listing, the presence or absence of the comma is even more clearly significant.

Additionally, I've read somewhere in a book on the English language and its development (but don't ask me where, because I've forgotten) that the "and" is not historically a substitute for a comma, as I think is implied in your question.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 07:26 PM

As very germane to this thread and a gift to those who read it, the following post (in another thread) by Katlaughing:

""Why does anybody tell a story?" Ms. L'Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.

"It does indeed have something to do with faith," she said, "faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically."


What a beautiful and elegant way to put it. And, by what an incredible storyteller. Sorry to hear of her passing. Thanks for this thread."



The quote is from the late Madeleine l'Engle.

It struck me in some deep place.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 08:19 PM

Yes Kat! Congratulations do seem in order, thus far at any rate, and may it be so to your desired end.

Good point Dave. When the relation of the words in the list is not clear (in your example monotone vs two-tone) the comma and the conjunction delineate the nature of the relationship. But, such is not always the case! And where there is much diversity as in your further example, the use of the semi-colon does the job much better than the comma (in my humble opinion).

A living language is always in a state of flux and grammar and usage are bound to shift. The spoken word is much more dynamic than the written word which is invariably slower to change but change it does.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 08:53 PM

Slag said:

A living language is always in a state of flux and grammar and usage are bound to shift. The spoken word is much more dynamic than the written word which is invariably slower to change but change it does.

Hear, hear!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 09:32 PM

I'm not at all surprised you have wowed them, Kat. Will continue to send good thoughts and energy your way.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Sep 07 - 11:52 PM

Thank you, all, very much! I hope I hear from them very soon. I will be sure to let you know, either way.

As to commas, here's what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say, in one Q&A section:

Please see CMOS 6.18: "The comma, aside from its technical uses in mathematical, bibliographical, and other contexts, indicates the smallest break in sentence structure. It denotes a slight pause. Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading the end in view."


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Riginslinger
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 11:05 PM

It seems to me that commas are hugely overused. They slow down the reader, and many times don't add to clarity or meaning.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:23 AM

Only, I think, when the writer, in an attempt to qualify his statements becomes, overtly, hesitant in his prose, not to mention unclear in his object do commas become, unfortunately, an epidement, or obstacle, to good writing. I much prefer parentheses (at least, when used appropriately).


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:37 AM

Or ellipses ala BillD...you know (I just love using them, don't you?) they pause, refresh...give one a moment (if not more) to really take in the essence of what is being said (provided the writer is clear and succinct or just trailing off)...ah, the ellipses...I could write a poem to them (but then I'd have to find my rhyming dictionary!)


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,Minerva
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 09:28 AM

"Brevity" is not an absolute of good writing. We had this mis-guided concept pounded into our heads in school, along with other screwy ideas like, "never plagiarize".

Dickens was never brief. Neither were Victor Hugo, Lev Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, or Paul the Apostle. These are only a few examples of folks who wrote some of the most beautiful descriptions, and developed some of the most fascinating characters in literature, in particular, by not being brief.

It's my opinion that brevity became a fad in the middle of the last century, by establishment types who were over-impressed with Hemingway and others, some of whom were actually pretty good at descriptions despite the fact that they were brief. Magazine editors have taken over the gospel of brief, and it's obvious that their approach has generally hackneyed and clichee'd the english language into sappy pulp. Hemingway once said Beryl Markham "... could write rings around us all..." Yet she was not brief. (He was right.)

It's not as though all modern stuff is brief - you can use the typical Seteven King novel as a doorstop.

It is my opinion that for most kinds of writing, it is the ability to let the reader feel what the character is feeling, or understand what the character is understanding (or think they understand the situation better than the character!) that is an absolute of good writing.

If it's brief, that's fine. Well-done Haiku can give a glimpse of this sometimes. But writing doesn't have to be brief to accomplish it. Who has ever looked at the sky the same way again after lying on the field of Borodino with Prince Bolkonski? Or heard a lion roar, and not felt the sweat on the steel rod in your hand, after hunkering in the grass with Lakweit?

Screw brief.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 09:51 AM

Well, said, Minerva. It's about time someone challenged the common assumption that brevity in writing is best, and I think you are quite correct about how the fad for brevity got started in the mid-twentieth century. It has produced some good writing...and some really dreadful stuff too.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 10:50 AM

Well, I would qualify it -- make any exposition as brief as possible, but no briefer. I think elegance is a better word. It applies to the way you choose words in structuring sentences so that you don't need to say the same thing in twenty words IF it can be said as well or better in ten.

Brevity that detracts from communication is a sheer waste of brevity.
But that is not what is meant when writing advisors urge brevity. They are battling excess, the kind of long-windedness that comes from a paucity of good thinking.

"Screw brevity." is a wonderful, ironic, and elegant sentence. Brava.

A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 11:38 AM

They are battling excess, the kind of long-windedness that comes from a paucity of good thinking.

Exactly.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:11 PM

Brevity is best. Period.

From Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge
"The thunder of bowls echoed from the backyard; swingels hung behind the blower of the chimney; and ex-poachers and ex-gamekeepers, whom squires had persecuted without a cause, sat elbowing each other- men who in past times had met in fights under the moon, till lapses of sentences on the one part, and loss of favor and expulsion from service on the other, brought them here together to a common level, where they sat calmly discussing old times."

Hardy improved
"This was a place where old poachers and old gamekeepers could meet in peace and talk about the old times."

Do you see how much clearer and more concise my re-phrasing is? I have no doubt I could render the entire 330 page novel down to 42 pages, and possibly 35 if I got rid of all of the adjectives. I am also quite sure that, using my method, one could read Moby Dick on a flight from Chicago to Omaha and still have time to peruse the in-flight magazine. One could read the entire Old Testament while waiting to get his teeth cleaned. The House of the Seven Gables could be finished on two or three commutes to one's workplace by simply reading at the stoplights.

Those who argue against brevity unconsciously argue for the end of reading and the novel in our culture. This is a fast-moving world, and the only effective way to allow literature to compete with film, music etc is to make it more conveniently consummable. The Hardy quote lies steaming on the table before one's eyes like a huge plate of mutton and potatoes, and today's reader would frankly rather have a taco.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:13 PM

They may also be battling bloviation: pretentious use of overly flowery language designed to impress the reader with the utter brilliance of the author. Elegance is a wonderful thing, assuredly. Opulence and bloviation, on the other hand, can go way too far...

It's fun to make fun of it now and then by doing it deliberately and ostentatiously, though. ;-) Just talk as if you have a potatoe lodged in one cheek, are speaking through a wod of cotton wool, and holding your tea cup with one pinkie sticking delicately out to the side, whilst gazing superciliously down your elevated Roman nose at the pathetic examples of humanity for whom you have deigned to drop a few petals of your divine wisdom. And pity them.

Ah! The ennui of it all! Pearls before swine, really.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:28 PM

Mind your step, there, good Hack. Arrogance preceedeth a great fall.

The relish of personal superiority has no there there.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:28 PM

There is a certain type of brevity prevalent in this culture that is not admirable in the least, because it is just aggressive primitivism admiring itself in the mirror. It's like a teenage kid who walks up to a magnificent Renaissance fresco, looks at it uncomprehendingly, and scrawls "Fuck You!" on it with a magic marker. He then goes off feeling quite proud of himself for having confronted the elegant past with his fresh and modern outlook. He knows he is superior to anything that happened more than five minutes ago. He takes no prisoners. Mercy is a concept that has never even occurred to him.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 12:51 PM

"Brevity is best. Period.

From Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge
"The thunder of bowls echoed from the backyard; swingels hung behind the blower of the chimney; and ex-poachers and ex-gamekeepers, whom squires had persecuted without a cause, sat elbowing each other- men who in past times had met in fights under the moon, till lapses of sentences on the one part, and loss of favor and expulsion from service on the other, brought them here together to a common level, where they sat calmly discussing old times."

Hardy improved
"This was a place where old poachers and old gamekeepers could meet in peace and talk about the old times."

Do you see how much clearer and more concise my re-phrasing is? I have no doubt I could render the entire 330 page novel down to 42 pages, and possibly 35 if I got rid of all of the adjectives. I am also quite sure that, using my method, one could read Moby Dick on a flight from Chicago to Omaha and still have time to peruse the in-flight magazine. One could read the entire Old Testament while waiting to get his teeth cleaned. The House of the Seven Gables could be finished on two or three commutes to one's workplace by simply reading at the stoplights.

Those who argue against brevity unconsciously argue for the end of reading and the novel in our culture. This is a fast-moving world, and the only effective way to allow literature to compete with film, music etc is to make it more conveniently consummable. The Hardy quote lies steaming on the table before one's eyes like a huge plate of mutton and potatoes, and today's reader would frankly rather have a taco. "


And the pinnacle of fine art was the Rococo.

Craftsman? damn hacks.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 01:05 PM

John

I don't get your point, but I like the brevity with which you got to it.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 02:00 PM

LonesomeEJ opined:

I have no doubt I could render the entire 330 page novel down to 42 pages, and possibly 35 if I got rid of all of the adjectives. I am also quite sure that, using my method, * * * The House of the Seven Gables could be finished on two or three commutes to one's workplace by simply reading at the stoplights.

Those who argue against brevity unconsciously argue for the end of reading and the novel in our culture.


LEJ, whoever argues for the kind of brevity you're talking about argues immediately that the end of the reading of the novel is already ended (or at least ending) in our culture.

Who would WANT to read The Mayor of Casterbridge in 42 pages? Only devotees of Classics Comics! Who would WANT to "read The House of Seven Gables on a flight from Chicago to Omaha, with time to peruse the in-flight magazine"? Only fans of Cliff's Notes as a high art form. Only those who don't really enjoy reading.

This is a fast-moving world, and the only effective way to allow literature to compete with film, music etc is to make it more conveniently consummable [sic].

To apply "brevity", your whole post comes down to: "To make literature compete with other media, abolish literature."

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 02:05 PM

And I goofed. I see that I wrote: that the end of the reading of the novel is already ended.

The end is ended? Oh-oh! I could have been briefer by making that last word "here".

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 03:11 PM

It's true, back then people had more time to read mostly because it, along with music, etc. was the only entertainment there was, at least for the middle and upper classes.

It's also true folks today find it difficult to find time for reading BUT there are still best sellers' list and still authors who become fabulously wealthy writing book after book which sell well. So...somebody is still reading!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:20 PM

Oh, I'm reading alright. By the time I read the Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Time, the Rocky Mountain News, Mudcat, etc, I barely have time to get through Dickens, Balzac, and Thomas Freakin Hardy! And as for Classics Illustrated, it beat the hell out of Cliff's Notes from a visual standpoint, when it came to completing a book report on Frankenstein that was due the next morning.

And don't even mention Shakespeare. The guy could never just say "the horse farted." It would be something like "oh steed that does't sometime give forth with noble neigh, why now from they nether quarters must thou bray?" I mean, that stuff was fine for Henry VIII. In fact, whatever time Henry spent trying to figure out what the hell Shakespeare was getting at, was time spent not executing his wives or spreading the pox among his serving wenches.

Now Eric Seagal, there was an author. What was Love Story, 94 pages? And if Eric could get falling in love, getting married, the girl dying, and the guy coming to a greater realization in 94 pages, why the heck Tolstoy couldn't cram Napoleon's invasion of Russia into 140 or so is inconceivable to me.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:27 PM

Thy tongue, that maketh thee a wag,
Now seemeth through thy upper cheeks to brag.
At least we hope 'tis so, who love thee ever;
For if 'tis not, why then the cheeks are nether.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 07 - 04:33 PM

Exactly


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Slag
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 05:14 AM

Brevity is what the editor and the publisher want. When you are being paid by the word the incentive is to linger over the description, background, history, relations, etc. It can be a real tug-of-war. The reader is left to decide who won the argument. What? Did you never read J.R.R. Tolkein's Bored, er, Lord of the Rings trilogy??


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 08:56 AM

Slag asked:

Did you never read J.R.R. Tolkein's Bored, er, Lord of the Rings trilogy??

Yes, six times so far!

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 01:49 PM

I read them over and over again, Slag. I think they are absolutely wonderful. Mind you, I was in my 20s and 30s when I was reading them, and I had more patience and more joy in savoring the details then, I think, than I would now....plus, everything seemed fresher and more unexpected then than it does now.

I don't know if I would enjoy them so much at present as I did then.

The thing is, when you really love something or someone you want the author to go into more detail about it or them. It's like when you're looking at a face you love....is one second's glance enough? After all, you've seen the whole face in one second, haven't you? Well, no, one second's glance is not nearly as good as five minutes of rapturous obervation...and five minutes is not as good as ten.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: John Hardly
Date: 11 Sep 07 - 01:59 PM

I read an interesting book once -- "Addicted to Mediocrity". One of the author's themes (and he used cinema to illustrate it) was that it is a modern sensibility to measure art by "realism" or "functionalism". When, in fact, it is up to the artist to create the reality within the work, and up to us, as viewers, readers, listeners to be the judge of the successful manufacture of that world.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: GUEST,kat out of town
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 06:43 PM

Heya! I got the editing job!! I'll tell ya more when I get home. Thanks for all of your good wishes!!!

luvyakat


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 08:18 PM

Very good!


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Nickhere
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 08:33 PM

Good grammar is important. I have often seen a brochure, catalogue or other material being very well presented but totally ruined at the last minute by bad punctuation, spelling mistakes and so on. Most of the world might not notice, but to the few who do, the offending errors stick out like ' a vast bowl of pus' to quote Monty Python. Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots and leaves" is an excellent book for dealing with punctuation, though at time it plods on rather ponderously. But it's not just a matter of 'being correct and propah' because, as Lynne's book prefectly illustrates, a cavalier attitude to syntax, grammar etc., can result in radically different meanings. Consider -

"They could have not wasted all the money" V. "They couldn't have wasted all the money"

See any difference? (I hope so)

But apart from that, if you are talking about creative writing, many other factors come into play. I feel creative writing should a) say something new, or in a new way b) enagage your attention   c) have beautifully crafted prose - economy of word, fluidity of line

Obvious examples include Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" and "Cuomo vs. O'Connor" by Ellen McCormack (for how to present an argument systematically and devastatingly), Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (for how to develop an imaginary world in such consistent detail that it stops all disbelief), "The Machine Gunners" by Robert Westall (for accurately portraying an adolescent's experience of wartime UK, and on being an adolescent dealing with monolithic parents, school bullies and a grown-up world and politics).

I have just finished reading "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. I literally could not put it down. The prose is sublime. The insights astonishing. I have read it while queuing at the bank, while my customers weren't looking, at the breakfast table, on the public transport till my eyes hurt.


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 14 Sep 07 - 09:55 PM

Your compliment to the artistry of Lord of the Rings is spot on.

What is "The Life of Pi" about?


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Amos
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 12:01 AM

Bravo, Kat!!! Congratulations.


A


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Janie
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 12:45 AM

Great news, kat!

I loved "Life of Pi" too. My son and I listened to it on a long road trip a couple of years ago. (That is not to say it is a children's book.) It is one of the few audio books that we have listened to over and over again, or will even listen to a random selection on a short trip or for half and hour in the evening when we get home late from something like soccer practice. I pick up some previously missed nuance almost everytime I listen.

LH, A young teen's family from Indian decides to emmigrate to Canada. The ship goes down. The boy ends up adrift in a lifeboat. It is a brilliantly imaginative novel that explores spiritual and psychological survival and resiliency. At least that is my description. I will be interested to see how Nick describes it. From what I know of you from the 'Cat, I think you would find it a very satisfying read.

Janie


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Subject: RE: BS: What are the absolutes of good writing?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 15 Sep 07 - 01:21 PM

Thanks. I'll look around for it.


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