In this installment, Lincoln turns the occasion on its head and brings his message to the awaited crescendo. Continue reading “Great Writing: Lincoln at Gettysburg Pt. 3”
This is the second installment of a brief commentary on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Continue reading “Great Writing: Lincoln at Gettysburg Pt. 2”
This is a follow-on post to “Apostrophe Abuse.”
English treats its and it’s differently than other words. For the word “it” and only the word “it,” ignore the rule about an apostrophe meaning possession. Its (without the apostrophe) indicates possession.
I am currently reading Team of Rivals, a book about President Lincoln’s leadership style. Reading about Lincoln’s wizardry of storytelling and control of the English language, I decided to begin my Great Writing series with Lincoln’s most famous words. While he delivered them as a speech, he went through several written drafts in the days leading up to his visit to the battlefield at Gettysburg.
We have all seen signs or menus with misplaced apostrophes. This is such a widespread problem that there are galleries of pictures of nothing but erroneous apostrophes. This picture was taken at a daycare facility, but the four (4!!!!) incorrect apostrophes (and the missing G from the word “gates” and the missing “and” between “parents” and “guardians”) leave me wondering whether this is the right place for children even though I know nothing else about the daycare. That is precisely the point—apostrophe abuse distracts readers and leaves the impression that the writer is clueless.
Continue reading “Apostrophe Abuse”
Clarity is the cornerstone of good writing, but clarity does not happen by accident. It requires a great deal of work. Continue reading “Think Before You Write”
Writing is, above all else, about communicating ideas.
If the author confuses readers with unclear writing, then a communication breakdown occurs. This leads to three possibilities. One, the reader may reread the confusing text to better understand it. Even if this is successful, the reader is frustrated at being required to retrace his steps. Two, the reader may keep reading without trying to understand the confusing text. Since most writing builds upon what was written earlier in the work, this has an effect much like a train car derailing. Once one train car flies off the rails, each subsequent train car also flies off the rails. The following is not what we want our readers to think after reading a paragraph or essay: “That was a train wreck. I have no idea what the writer was trying to say.” Three, the reader may give up and stop reading altogether. If that occurs, then communication becomes impossible. Continue reading “Clarity is Key”