Posts

Showing posts from 2016

"Because they say so" and famous misattributed quotes.

Image
One of the most annoying and lazy habits of some writers is to refer to the nebulous entity, “they”.
“They say travel broadens the mind, ...”[1]
"Don't listen to what they say ..." Nice sentiments, but who are 'they'?

“They” are not a trusted source or reliable reference for any fact or assertion. Using “they” to reaffirm an opinion not only insults your readers by expecting them to just consume whatever you write (because you are such an authority), it is also puts on show your inability or unwillingness to actually research something properly.

Okay, while it may be safely assumed that more than half your readers will just take your word for it, there is also a percentage who will ask, “says who?”. Thereafter, none of your writing carries any weight at all.

Simply substituting ‘scientists’ or ‘critics’ doesn’t work either unless you can point to exactly who these learned individuals are. If quoting ‘studies’, then what studies performed by whom and when.

Many of …

It sounded right! Homonym horrors

Image
I confess this is not the most original of posts, but the topic is one that continues to interest writers who want to improve their craft and avoid embarrassing mistakes - just like me.

We should all be familiar with the most cringeworthy like: they’re and there; to, too and two and then and than. Autocorrect features in word processing programs are no help either and often serve to make matters worse.

But these easily made errors are still common, yet less obvious, and we continue to see them in uncorrected work on blogs or even on work submitted to editors. Are you guilty?

Pore or Pour
When one studies a document or map, one pores over it.

Be absorbed in reading or studying (something) [Oxford]

One Fell Swoop
Not a ‘foul swoop’, as is the most common misuse.

As in with one swoop of a weapon like an axe or sword.

Faint-hearted
To be timid or lacking courage.

Not ‘feint-hearted’, as one editor was quick to remind me.

Sailing unchartered waters


Er, no. Stuff that is not on a map (or ch…

Writers, isn’t it about time we kicked the bucket list?

Image
Sometimes a cliche is thrashed to such a point it transcends even the definition of cliche. The term ‘Bucket List’ is one such overused phrase, beaten to a literary pulp.

Now that this term approaches its tenth birthday, I’m wondering whether those who use it with such gusto even recall its genesis? Clearly the creative geniuses who conceived the Malaysia Airlines promotion in 2014 had lost track of the meaning behind it.

“To enter, customers will need to tell Malaysia Airlines which destinations are on their must-see bucket list after booking their flight” the competition tag-line read. Of course, with two massive tragedies to deal with, references to buckets was less than ideal. Fortunately there were a couple of million astute readers ready to remind them of the folly of their words.

As a refresher to those who may have been living in a cave this last decade, the term ‘Bucket List’ refers to a wishlist of things to do or see before one ‘kicks the bucket’ ie dies.

While it may have…