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Friday, February 8, 2013

The tricks to not writing badly | John E. McIntyre, baltimoresun.com

Newspaper editor McIntyre reviews a new book in this article: How to Not Write Bad by Ben Yagoda.

McIntyre writes:
Fortunately, Ben Yagoda understands that the trick of achieving what he calls "good-enough writing" is to avoid the errors that make you look like an unskilled writer. ... [H]e identifies a clutch of about fifty problems areas, plentifully illustrated by selections from students' prose. Train yourself to avoid those hazards, he argues, and you will produce respectable prose and be able to move on to more sophisticated effects.
Yagoda's book covers the basics, McIntyre writes. They include: 
  • punctuation
  • the words misused and the words confused
  • common problems in grammar
  • split-infinitive and split-verb superstitions
  • overdoing the Latinate vocabulary
  • cliches, euphemisms, and buzzwords.
McIntyre continues, summarizing more of Yagoda's advice:
Once you have paid attention to the words, he says, you can concentrate on building effective sentences, and from there proceed to construct effective paragraphs. His advice is straightforward, plain-spoken, lucid, and sound ....
And he quotes Yagoda:

Relatively short sentences should be the default ... but too many of them in a row produces a staccato ersatz-Hemingway sound. ... A series of long sentences is even worse. ... It's like walking in the jungle and finding that all of a sudden the vegetation has gotten impassably thick.
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McIntyre's articles is featured today, Feb. 8, in my daily only paper,
Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs, available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

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