#WordUse Series:
Compound Interest

You may have noticed in some of my previous entries I have used the noun best sellers (“my mother’s collection of best sellers from the ’40s and ’50s”). Not bestsellers. Nor best-sellers. Best seller, a noun, is an open compound, friends, and frankly I’m tired of seeing it misused. Misspelled, actually. (Best-selling, on the other hand, an adjective, correctly uses the hyphen.)

There are three types of compounds: open (high school, vice president), closed (toothache, redhead), and hyphenated (mass-produced, computer-literate). As language lives and grows, compounds that were once open (say, dish cloth), through increased usage became joined (dish-cloth) and then, eventually, closed (check your dictionary!). You can see this process in action with the compound phrase Web site; although still designated open in the dictionary, the AP Style Guide (used primarily by newspapers and some magazines) recently announced a move to … website. And so it goes; I suspect dictionaries may not be far behind.

When to do what can be tricky; I’m often surprised when I check something I thought I knew. So when writing or self-editing, you should simply question every compound. The Chicago Manual of Style tells us that “the most common spelling questions for writers and editors concern compound terms” and “the first place to look for answers is the dictionary.” (There’s a concept!) Chicago goes on to cite many definitions and rules, ending with a fabulous list that should answer any compound word question not specifically addressed in your dictionary. (I call it fabulous because I am, honestly, a Chicago geek; these particular pages in my CMS are stained and wrinkled, such is my devotion.)

If you don’t know about the CMS, now’s the time: the sixteenth edition just shipped last month. The ultimate reference book for book publishers, it’s been produced since 1903, and is updated on average every six years (I just did the math). You can subscribe to it online if you’re so inclined. And by the way, if you’ve never checked “Chicago Style Q&A”—in which someone at the University of Chicago Press undertakes to answer questions of style and usage from users who can’t seem to find what they’re looking for in the book (it’s over 900 pages, after all)—you simply must stop by the Web site sometime. Questions are answered with a sly wit; it’s often quite hilarious.

Tweet: There are all sorts of compound words: Open, closed, hyphenated!
Tweet: When writing or self-editing, you should question every compound.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

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Short Saturday: The Politics of Language

I use my Merriam-Webster online dictionary every day, and sometimes I find interesting articles or interesting people wiriting them. In this case, both.

In an article called “An Oxford-Educated Southerner in Berlin,” I was delighted to read about a journalist who has lived lots of places,

Johnson City, Tennessee
Little Rock, Arkansas
Omaha, Nebraska
Marietta, Georgia
New Orleans, Louisiana
Hamburg, Germany
Oxford, England
Brooklyn, New York
Berlin, Germany
(and now London, England)

speaks lots of languages,

fluent:
German
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Danish

conversant:
Russian
Arabic
Italian

and still sounds like the sort of person who doesn’t think he’s too cool for school (or me, with my one language), you know? I love this:

I use y’all freely, and will duel (pistols, dawn) anyone who tells me not to. My accent gets a little southern lilt when I go back to Georgia, where my father’s family all still live.

Those of you who know me well, though, will understand why this delights me so:

Being a rootless cosmopolitan has its upsides (never boring) and its downsides (the mind-numbing stress of moving itself). But I never quite imagined that a major downside would be the inability to speak without self-consciousness. In a given day, I speak baby-talk Danish and English with my 14-month-old, grown-up Danish and English with my wife, English with my 12-year-old, and both German and careful Euro-English with assorted foreigners at work. My old normal English—very fast, slangy, moderately profane, slightly mumbled General American, lightly influenced by decades in the South—is limited to my few intimates in Berlin.

Read the article, check out Greene’s word-nerdy blog, and have a great weekend, y’all. :)

Tweet: A multilingual journalist finds he’s self-conscious of his speech.
Tweet: Born in Tennessee, educated in England, speaks Danish. What?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Words & Language | Tagged as: , ,

#WordUse Series:
The Language Metamorphosis

We’ve talked a lot here about how the language we use—the words, the grammar—is a constantly evolving, living, almost breathing thing. (And still, still we want to stop that process! Human nature, I guess.) I’ve written about it in various ways, from evolving spelling and compounds to singular they and even usage problems. We’ve talked about word useliterary devices, and slang too.

And—as with the word meme—I’m always a little fascinated when I see this metamorphosis happening right in front of my eyes. Such is the case with the word hack. It’s gathering a new meaning to itself.*

Not that it’s losing any of the old ones. But I was just looking at this article, “How to Hack the Habit of Creativity,” and realized we—users of the language—are developing a new meaning of the verb to hack.

There are already a zillion official meanings. (Zillion, of course, is a technical term. And by official I simply mean in the dictionary I use most, which is Merriam-Webster, both the Collegiate and the Unabridged. The following list came from M-W’s online version, to which I subscribe.)

• to cut with repeated irregular or unskillful blows
• to mangle or mutilate with or as if with cutting blows
• to trim or shape by or as if by crude or ruthless strokes
• to clear (a path or area) by cutting away vegetation
• to break up the soil and sow (seed) at the same operation — used with in <hack in wheat>
• to roughen or dress (stone or concrete) with a hack hammer (and a couple other things having to do with making walls that I don’t even understand)
• to kick the shins of (an opposing player) in rugby
• to achieve or manage <I can’t quite hack it>
• to put up with, tolerate
• to call out or give directions to (a bird dog)
• to enter (a gamecock) in a single match
• to disconcert and embarrass especially by teasing
• to cough in a short dry manner : cause short dry coughing
• to strike or hold the arm of a basketball opponent with the hand
• loaf, idle, knock — used with around <hacking around at the corner store>
• to make trite and commonplace by frequent and indiscriminate use <the word “remarkable” has been so hacked — J. H. Newman> first known use 1857
• archaic : to employ as a hack writer
• to use as a hack : let out (as a horse) for hire
• to ride or drive at an ordinary pace or over the roads as distinguished from racing or riding across country
• to become exposed or offered to common use for hire <was then hacked in the park for a year before going to stud — Dennis Craig>
• to live the life of a literary drudge or hack : do hack writing
• to ride in a hackney coach or in a taxicab
• to operate a taxicab
• to write computer programs for enjoyment and/or to gain access illegally to a computer or the data stored on it

It’s quite a list, isn’t it! But I don’t see hack as in “How to Hack the Habit of Creativity” anywhere on it.

Even so, you’ve seen this usage, I’m sure. You’ve also seen the phrase life hacks, which are how-to-do articles, usually with a creative way of doing something or fixing a problem. Look, there are websites, for heaven’s sake:

• Lifehack
• Lifehacker
• 1000lifehacks
• Best Life Hacks

(I guess we all need a hobby.**)

In the article that caught my eye, hack is more about mastering something, but this meaning is still definitely related to life hacks. And nowhere in the list of Merriam-Webster definitions above is this sense of how to do, fix, remedy, or master some thing or some issue in a creative way.

Yet there it is. Fascinating.

The closest we come is the last sense: “to write computer programs for enjoyment and/or to gain access illegally to a computer or the data stored on it.” And sure enough, when I googled life hack, I discovered this new, un-dictionaried (I made that up) phrase has its origins in 1980s hacker culture, according to Wikipedia.

The term became popularized in the blogosphere and is primarily used by computer experts who suffer from information overload or those with a playful curiosity in the ways they can accelerate their workflow in ways other than programming.

“Life” refers to an individual’s productivity, personal organization, work processes, or any area the hacker ethic can be applied to solve a problem. The terms hackhacking, and hacker have a long history of ambiguity in the computing and geek communities, particularly within the free and open source software crowds.

So there it is, scouts: the lexicological equivalent of the elusive headwaters of the Mississippi. It’s possible Merriam-Webster considers this usage to be slang, which could account for its absence. But I’d be willing to bet we’ll see it in the dictionary soon.

Once again, you are watching language change right in front of your eyes. And I totally dig it. :)

* I know because I checked. Remember, that’s what editors do: we check.

** And who could resist this?

Tweet: Hack this! Language metamorphosis in action.
Tweet: We—users of the language—are developing a new meaning of the verb to hack.
Tweet: This new, un-dictionaried (I made that up) phrase has its origins in 1980s hacker culture.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Short Saturday: The Fiction Author’s Dilemma

I’ve been following Catherine Ryan Howard’s blog for some years. It’s almost been like watching her “grow up” right in front of me—from a sweet, sassy, opinionated self-taught self-publisher to a woman who’s gone back to college and finally attained her dream of being traditionally published.

The blog—indeed, the whole website—has changed (not in a bad way!) to reflect this growth. And I’ve really enjoyed reading about her experiences as the book has been released.

This week she’s discussed that age-old problem: how do you tell someone who thinks he or she knows better that you really just made it all up? Or maybe not. I loved this bit:

Not all of it is fiction. Some of it is thinly disguised fact. Because while I don’t abide by the advice that you should write what you know, I wholeheartedly believe that you should, as much as possible, use what you know. In Distress Signals, Adam is a struggling writer surrounded by people who think he should get a proper job. (Ahem.) This was easier for me than, say, making him a biochemist …

Writers, you’ll enjoy this. Have a great weekend!

Tweet: How do you tell a reader that you really just made it all up?
Tweet: The fiction author’s dilemma: friends see themselves in the book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Authors & Other Writers | Tagged as: , , ,

#WordUse Series:
Amazing, My Dear Watson

The word amazing is still way, way overused these days. She’s an amazing mother. That movie was amazing. It’s amazing that you can get up and do that every day. That clothing store is amazing. (A clothing store? Really? These are examples ripped from your editor’s own life and I assure you a clothing store is not amazing. Okay, maybe if it’s on the Champs-Élysées.)

I see it in fiction, I see it in nonfiction; written by inexperienced authors and by those who should know better. I see it so often there are times I think: If I read the word amazing one more time, I’m going to break something.

Please help me keep my household goods intact, kids.

It’s fine with me if I see the word in fictional dialogue, because that’s how folks talk. (Clichés are okay in fictional conversation for this same reason.) Dialogue should reflect how real people sound.

Nonetheless, I’ll be paying close attention to how many times you use it. Because as your editor my personal feeling is the use of amazing should be reserved for descriptions of circus stunts. Just sayin’.

Perhaps, instead of amazing, you meant that two hundred-year-old pipe organ in the big Episcopal church downtown is, oh … magnificent. Perhaps it’s impressive. Other possibilities: grand, splendid, majestic, superb, glorious … Maybe you mean it is both grand and historically important.

You see, we have no shortage of suitable substitutes.

I just want to encourage you to make vocabulary work for you, rather than falling back on a word that loses its effectiveness with each passing day. Amazing tells me nothing, since it’s been used to describe everything.

Tweet: Amazing tells me nothing, since it’s been used to describe everything.
Tweet: Amazing, My Dear Watson! Stop using this word, please.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Words & Language | Tagged as: , , , ,

Short Saturday: Write What You Know, Again

I wrote a version of my WWYK article a year ago, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, and I let it sit for months until I could find the time to think about it and tweak it until I was satisfied. And now that I’ve finally published it, there is a best-selling book out that seems to stand WWYK on its head. Or does it?

Rich and Pretty is about women’s friendships, it’s getting raves from women reviewers, and … it was written by a man (Rumaan Alam). For example, an interview with the author on the Millions says,

Early readers of Rich and Pretty have remarked how well you, a MAN (gasp!), capture these two female characters and their long-term friendship. I concur; the accuracy here is one of the novel’s great pleasures.

I read about it first in Time, which also noted this paradox. But the author has a ready answer, which, as you’ll see, is an excellent illustration of WWYK.

Rumaan Alam has one of the summer’s biggest literary sensations with Rich and Pretty—a first novel that, like many of its kind, draws upon the author’s own experience. “I think it’s a not uncommon experience for gay boys, young men, and even older men to spend a lot of time in the company of women,” Alam says. “When I was a little boy, all of my pals are girls, and when I went to college the same held true, and then when I left college and went into the work force, I worked at fashion magazines, and it’s a place where women really run the show.” (Emphasis mine.)

In an interview at NPR, the author goes on to note that his experience as a man of Indian descent just wasn’t what he wanted to write about.

WERTHEIMER: There’s an old notion that writers should write about what they know. And I’m wondering what you think about that. Is it useful when you’re trying to see yourself in your characters? Or did you do that?

ALAM: Certainly, many writers have been able to wring beautiful work out of the stuff of their own lives. And I just did not feel that that was something that interested me. Being a writer of Indian descent in particular, I felt a desire to avoid the pressure to deliver something that adhered to some larger critical notion of what it is that writers of Indian descent ought to write about in this country.

That said, there is a lot of my experience in this book. I’m somebody who—you know, I’m gay. I was a gay, I was gay as a young man. And so my friends tended to be girls on the playground. I went to a liberal arts college where most of my classmates and, indeed, many of my professors were women. I worked in fashion magazines where my bosses and my colleagues were women. I worked in the advertising business. And most of my clients and most of my colleagues were also women. So in some ways, this is writing what I know. It’s just that I’m so not present in the finished work.

Rumaan Alam makes a very good case for writing what you know. These are all interesting articles, and they’ve made me want to read the book. How about you?

Tweet: In which we revisit the Principal of Write What You Know.
Tweet: A man, writing in a woman’s POV, is getting rave reviews. WWYK?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Posted in The Writing Craft | Tagged as: , , , , ,

#WordUse Series:
Is That a Smirk on Your Face, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Here’s a word that gets misused a lot, at least in the manuscripts I’ve seen in recent years. (And not just misused—overused.)

Smirk.

It can be a noun or a verb. But no matter how it gets used, I think some writers are missing the fine nuances in smirk, the subtleties that distinguish it from, say, smile. Or grin. (Or even grin wickedly, although I like a wicked grin myself.)

Smirk has a slightly negative connotation in my mind. It’s a smart-aleck smile. Even a smarmy smile. It’s not a genuine smile. Not really a happy smile. Not particularly friendly. It’s smug, condescending; it’s closer to a sneer than a smile, to my way of thinking, a way of mocking the situation or the person at whom it’s directed.

My favorite dictionary defines the verb form thus: “to smile in an affected or conceited manner: smile with affected complaisance; to simper.” The noun is described as “an affected smile: simper (the solemnity of the ceremony was broken by smirks, whispered jokes, and repressed titters …).” Yeah, that’s it exactly! (And simper, if you’re interested, is to smile in an affected, coy, or silly manner.)

But what I’m seeing too much of is smirk used as a substitute for smile—and that doesn’t work for me.

(We all expand our vocabularies by reading words in context, especially once we’ve quit bringing home those mimeographed lists of twenty words we have to know by Friday. So every time smirk is misused in a novel, someone, somewhere, attaches the wrong definition to it in his brain’s vocab list. Yes, I’m talking about the dumbing down of society here, dagnabbit, and I’m making my little stand against it.)

I’m the sort of editor (and writer) who generally likes simplicity in the descriptive narrative. Just call a smile a smile. (Writer-speaker Guy Kawasaki is another a big fan of smiling, and spends a lot of time explaining the difference between a genuine smile—a Duchenne smile—and what he calls a “Pan Am smile.” There’s a discussion of both here.)

There are nuances, of course: one can grin (showing the teeth in a broad smile, particularly to show amusement or laughter) or leer or even beam (with pride, say). I used grin wickedly above, but excessive use of adverbs is frowned upon these days, so you’d want to watch phrases like smiled happily, not least because it’s redundant.

But just because you see smirk in your thesaurus in the entry for smile, it’s still a very specific action; a smirk is not a direct substitute for a smile, my friends. Any parent of a teenager could tell you that. :)

Tweet: Is that a smirk on your face or are you just happy to see me?
Tweet: A smirk is not a direct substitute for a smile—any parent of a teenager knows that.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Words & Language | Tagged as: , , ,

Communication Is the Thing

Back in the early ’90s, I learned a new way of communicating.

Communicate: to make known; to inform; to convey knowledge or information; to impart or transmit; to send information or messages sometimes back and forth; speak, gesticulate, or write to another to convey information; interchange thoughts; to be connected.

I’ve been writing as a way to connect to other people—and myself—for as long as I can remember. I still have the first book I wrote. The cover is pale blue construction paper, which holds the hand-lettered pages together with brass fasteners. It’s fiction*—about two otters who live in Grand Rapids.** I was in first grade when I wrote it. Later there was the fan fiction based on the Beatles. And the innumerable letters I wrote to neighborhood friends left behind (my father was in the air force), kids who wrote back because they were wordy, communicative kids like me. I had many pen pals, as we called them back in the day. I journaled (“Dear Diary …”), and in high school my written smart-mouth antics, on occasion, got me into trouble.

I had then and have now a not-insignificant vocabulary, I don’t mind saying, acquired from the books and magazines I read, as well as from my wordy parents. I liked using it too. It’s a delight to have the right word for the right situation. Even if it’s slang. I’m a lifelong reader, a lifelong learner, and a lifelong communicator.

It’s also a delight to learn new ways to communicate. Like emoticons. You may think they’re old-fashioned now, but at the time—read it sideways, we were told—being able to write a smile into a sentence was revolutionary. :) Or communicate surprise :o or a raspberry :p or … here’s a list. It was brilliant. The smile emoticon filled my email correspondence (and still does).

I also learned Internet slang about this time—LOL, for example, and brb, which was handy for online chat (and later, phone texts). As usage of emoticons and Internet abbreviations increasingly crept into email correspondence, so did the gnashing of teeth of certain commentators over the demise of, you know, The English Language.***

But I see it as another interesting way to communicate. A new, different language, and just as valid. (Although let’s not call it a new language. It’s more like getting an additional kit filled with new, exciting, extra words that you’ll use alongside your standard vocabulary set.)

When I started blogging I learned about tagging and hashtagging. You’ve seen them, I know: #foodporn or #blacklivesmatter or #firstworldproblem. Wikipedia says a hashtag is “a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content.” (Or, as they say, trending topics.) In other words, they make learning and communication easier. Although the concept was in place earlier, Twitter users really put hashtagging on the communication map, and between that and other social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, the practice is ubiquitous.

And, in fact, there’s another way hashtags are used, aside from trending topics and news about events (#WorldCup2014) or tragedies (#JeSuisCharlie). Now #hashtagging has developed into yet another way to communicate that allows us to express written irony or sarcasm (or even just humor) and be reasonably sure we won’t be misunderstood. Hashtags have become punchlines.

When author Matt Haig tweets, “Tomorrow I am going to Barcelona for two days to promote the Spanish and Catalan editions of [my new book]. #notaholiday #honest #tapas,” those hashtags aren’t trending topics, they’re humor. When a friend of mine who enjoys gardening posts a photo of, well, dirt on Facebook captioned, “Half a tonne of compost and manure has just landed on my drive. #‎gardeningheaven #‎sciatichell,” I chuckle. A friend of mine with a large (male) English sheepdog cracks me up every day with her posts about the dog (#peeonallthethings). When another friend has a little Facebook conversation (complete with sarcasm and ironic humor) almost entirely in #hashtag, I’m amused (though not clever enough to respond in kind):

She: I don’t care if it is getting Oscar buzz, I’m not going to watch another stupid movie about stupid boxing. #creed #Ihateboxing #didimentionthatihateboxing #alsowrestling #stopitAcademy

He: That’s understandable. #Boxingisformen #StayawayfromBoxing #Ihatecookingshows #alsodecorating

I enjoy interpreting hashtag in its written form, and it can be hilarious in verbal form, like this skit with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. I could go on and on. My younger friends are definitely far more fluent and clever in hashtag than I am, but I’m working at it.

The written word can be cold. There’s no tone of voice, no facial expression, no twinkle in the eye, no hand placed on an arm to accompany the message—and sometimes there are misunderstandings. Misreadings. Miscommunication, in other words. Emoticons and texting abbreviations and hashtags—these new subsets of our written language—are possibilities to create communicative nuance in ways we never had before. Communication is the thing.

Epilogue

(No, I haven’t forgotten emoji. I’ve wanted to write about emoji, but to be frank I don’t even understand them. It’s a language I haven’t been able to generate any desire to learn. I embraced emoticons—and though the words are similar (emoticon, emoji) they are unrelated—but emoji leave me cold. Wikipedia describes emoji as ideograms or pictographs. Meanwhile, I see a string of little icons and they mean nothing to me. Too much left open to interpretationhere’s a good example using just the smile emoji—which is the opposite of what communication means to me. Is it a new language? The New York Times says so, but why would I waste my precious life sorting though thousands of tiny, tiny drawings trying to piece together a bit of unclear communication I could type easily and with utter clarity in a tenth of the time? Nah.)

* Title: Tales of Tails and Tail-Less. Clever, I know. :)
** I made up the location name based on what I knew about otters at the time; it was much later when I learned about the real Grand Rapids.
*** And putting a smile into a business email was unprofessional. Whatever. I’ll do business my way, you can do it your way. So far, my way is working OK.

 

Tweet: I’ve been writing as a way to connect to other people for as long as I can remember.
Tweet: The written word can be cold. There’s no tone of voice, no facial expression.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Posted in Words & Language | Tagged as: , , , ,

Plagiarizing, A Quick Aside

Dear Author:

If your sentence has the exact same structure as that sentence in WaPo, but you just change a word or two … it’s still pretty much plagiarizing. Just sayin’. No, really.

Kindly,

Your Editor

No, really, y’all. This stuff is important. I know you’ve got a lot going on and I know your deadline is looming, but I want you to know two things:

1 Your publisher is paying you for your writing and your ideas.

2 Editors can tell (or suspect) when you’ve helped yourself to someone else’s.

Even if you’ve credited your source—for our example, let’s say the New York Times—for a quote, if you’re going to keep talking about the subject and take another line or two out of quotes, you need to be careful to restate the idea, not just change a word or three. Here’s the sentence in the Times:

Moving is stressful at any age, but for those who have lived in one place for many years, getting rid of things that have accumulated over decades is a large barrier to overcome.

This is the sort of adjustment I’ve seen reused:

Moving is emotional at any age, but for those who have lived at one address for many years, getting rid of items that have accumulated over decades is extremely stressful.

Sure, it’s changed. But I recognize it right away. The sentence structure hasn’t changed. This isn’t rewriting, isn’t putting anything into your own words. It’s just careless—or lazy.

Don’t be that writer.

Here are related articles:

The Book, er, Blog Thief
Be Careful What You Copy and Paste
Legal Issues

Tweet: Plagiarism—don’t be that writer.
Tweet: If you just change a word or two … you’re probably still plagiarizing.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Posted in Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , ,

Short Saturday: Someone to Tell Your Stories To …

I’ve recently finished a wonderful memoir by geobiologist Hope Jahren called Lab Girl. The book is many things—“a treatise on plant life,” the jacket blurb tells us—but it’s also about scientists, the world of science, and about being a woman in a field dominated by men.

Perhaps as a side note, it is marvelously written, and where a person who has accomplished so much in a career found time to polish her writing chops is beyond my ability to fathom. Read it. Hope Jahren has some wonderful stories to tell to you.

At the end of a long silence Bill [my lab partner] surprised me by saying with quiet seriousness, “Put it in a book. Do me that favor someday.”

Bill knows about my writing. He knows about the pages of poetry stuffed into my car’s glove box; he knows about the many nextstory.doc files on my hard drive; he knows how I like to sift through the thesaurus for hours; he knows that nothing feels better to me than finding exactly the right word that stabs cleanly at the heart of what you are trying to say. He knows that I read most books twice or more and write long letters to their authors, and that sometimes I even get an answer. He knows how much I need to write. But he had never given me permission to write about [our work] until that day. I nodded and inwardly vowed to do my best. …

I have accepted that I don’t know all the things that I ought to know, but I do know the things that I need to know. … Like anyone else who harbors precious secrets wrought from years of searching, I have longed for someone to tell.

Hope Jahren

Transcribed by me from pages 276–278 of my hardcover copy of Lab Girl, © 2016, Alfred A. Knopf.

Tweet: Longing for someone to tell your stories to? Write a memoir.
Tweet: “He knows how much I need to write.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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