Writing tips from the master, Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Bloomberg’s reporters are not allowed to start a sentence with a “but”.

“Clauses that start with although, but, despite or however often confuse more than clarify, because the words connect dissimilar ideas in a single sentence,” writes Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief  Matthew Winkler in his style book, The Bloomberg Way.

Instead, his solution is to break up the sentences into shorter ones, reports Business Insider.

But, according to Steven Pinker…

But there’s nothing wrong in beginning a sentence with a “but”. So says Steven Pinker, the eminent psychologist and one of the foremost writers on language. [Read more...]

OB markers and sacred cows in the Straits Times

The phrase “OB marker” cannot be found in the Oxford Online Dictionary. Nor can it be found in OxfordDictionaries.com, which updates much faster and just added new words such amazeballs and douchebaggery to its list.

Wikipedia says:

An OB marker, short for ‘out of bounds marker’ is a term used in Singapore to denote what topics are permissible for public discussion. The full form of the word is rarely used.

The term is adopted from golf, where an out of bounds marker denotes the area beyond which playing is not allowed… The term “OB markers” was first used in 1991 by the then-Minister for Information and the Arts George Yeo to describe the boundaries of acceptable political discourse.

[Read more...]

Douchebaggery! Amazeballs! Oxford Dictionaries’ latest words

Doncha go cray over this listicle of new words added to OxfordDictionaries.com. It’s trying to be uber cool, updating every month. Plugged into pop culture, seriously hyperconnected, this lexical hip cat has been soaking up new words faster than a former boozer who just fell off the wagon can order refills.


[Read more...]

Nature’s chief masterpiece

Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well.

The quote used to appear in a Time magazine ad long ago. Hardly anyone remembers the author, John Sheffield, the Duke of Buckingham (1648-1721), for his poetry, but maybe that is why I love the quote all the more. I am no word maven but am seduced by words. [Read more...]

The seven ages of language

Stephen King

Stephen King

Don’t make any conscious effort to improve your vocabulary, says Stephen King in his book, Stephen King: On Writing. Your vocabulary will grow as you read, he adds. And then he says:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because maybe you’re a little ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed. Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you’ll never use “emolument” when you mean “tip”…

Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colourful. If you hesitate and cogitate, you will come up with another word – of course you will, there’s always another word – but it probably won’t be as good as your first one, or as close to what you really mean.

Write simply, let the words flow, don’t be stiff and laboured. That’s what King is saying. And he is right. You don’t want to pause and look up a word or read a sentence twice to get its meaning. [Read more...]