Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Do You End a Sentence With?

You can find a hundred opinions on the Internet (and in books and magazine articles) about ending a sentence with a preposition. In the case of casual writing, no one cares if you end your sentence with “with” or “for”. For more formal circumstances, however, doing so should be avoided whenever possible.

Note that ending a sentence with a preposition doesn’t necessarily make you wrong. People simply perceive doing so as being grammatical error. Leaving a sentence with such an ending disrupts the flow of your writing to someone who has been taught that you should never do so. Even though your piece will be correct, your reader will think otherwise. My grammar checker marked the title of this post for ending with a preposition, in fact.

Should you find yourself with a preposition at the end of your sentence, try re-writing it. Move the preposition so a spot before its object first and re-read the sentence aloud. If it sounds stilted or snooty to you, try writing the sentence in a way that doesn’t require a preposition at all.

You can often reword questions to eliminate the preposition problem. When you ask where something is at, you can simply drop the “at”. “Where” asks for a location and the “at” becomes redundant in this circumstance. Instead of asking “what for” you simply ask “why”. Thus, instead of asking, “What do you need to go to the store for?” you can ask, “Why do you need to go to the store?” Then again, you could simply ask, “What do you need at the store?”

I’ll pick this topic up tomorrow with more examples, including verbs that include prepositions. That will by my first post for NaBloPoMo, and if I can swing it, I’ll be posting every day for November. That’s assuming that my ISP can keep their servers up for the whole month. Check back often!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Passive Voice Re-Write

Karon Thackston has an “expert” article called, “Stop the Slaughter of Innocent Copy” at The article itself offers good advice and an entertaining read.

One section, however, caught my eye as a perfect example of how to employ the passive voice to miss the goal of writing tight, focused copy. It reads as follows:

“One primary goal is to write copy so that the keyphrases are virtually
undetectable when read by someone with no knowledge of SEO. One vital step in
making this happen is to carefully research and select your keyphrases.”
The phrases “[o]ne primary goal is” and “[o]ne vital step … is” grabbed my attention. I immediately reconstructed the paragraph in my head to read:

“Write copy so that a reader with no SEO knowledge glides right over the
keyphrases without noticing them. To make this happen, carefully research and
select your keyphrases.”
As re-written, I’ve eliminated 10 words (and could cut more but may not keep the original flavor of the paragraph) and increased the reading ease from 45 to 50. The tone also matches the article better, addressing the reader directly rather than talking about SEO abstractly.

These sentences may not have caught my eye had they not been placed next to the key points box for the article, the first of which read:

“One common mistake many site owners and newbie copywriters make is to replace
every single instance of a generic key term with one of their chosen
You can re-write that sentence five different ways to get rid of the passive voice. Leave me one in the comments. I’ll post one of my own in a few days.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pet Peeve of the Day: Companies That Can't Spell

If I had to name the one thing that makes me crazy on a daily basis, I’d choose dealing with a company that can’t spell its own name. I have to pay Xcel Energy for gas every month but at least I dumped phone service from Qwest. Everywhere I look, I find companies that have misspelled words in an attempt to be cute or creative.

Why would I buy decking material from a company that can’t spell “deck” correctly? Why couldn’t Flickr include that “e” and where did Digg get that extra “g”? Demonstrating your inability to spell a word correctly (or refusal to do so) does not inspire confidence in your competence to deliver a service.

Unfortunately, you can trace a long tradition of “kreativ” spelling to pre-web days. Sensis brags that they’ve been around for over a century. I still wouldn’t trust them to provide accurate information, since they can’t even spell census.

I hereby offer my advice to people searching for a company name: spell it right or make up a word entirely. If you’d rather have something that no one can spell correctly, use your name. Don’t irritate potential customers by purposely misspelling a word that they could otherwise use to find you. You’ll lose customers to companies who trust their spell check more than their trend-o-meter.

Apparently, belonging to the NaBloPoMo group of Cranky Bloggers has rubbed off on me. I don’t count things like NaBloPoMo as misspellings as they are somewhere between abbreviations and acronyms. I will research whether a word for such constructions exists and let you know. I’ve not heard of one but there probably is a proper term.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quickie Post: Grammar and News

More grammar from others, today, as I find myself out of time for posting. Read all about it!

The SE Missourian published this piece about text speak in formal school papers. I have concerns about this topic myself, as my children approach the age where they will learn grammar in school. I would hate to be one of those proverbial shoemakers whose children have none.

I was prepared to continue in this vein when I ran across Grammar Moses and decided that his advice and acerbic wit would hold your attention (as it did mine) longer than a series of isolated articles. He focuses on writing news but his advice applies to many fields, including writing for the Internet. I will delve into this site further and post anything particularly interesting that I come across. In the meantime, explore for yourself!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Versus Me; Us Versus We

People often confuse personal pronoun forms when writing sentences more complicated than, “I see you.” Without knowing what function they perform, you can’t know which case fits. See this table of cases for a list of which pronouns act as subjects and which are objects.

Now that you have that firmly in mind (or have a pretty good idea without looking), let’s take on some sentences with more complicated subjects and objects. Remembering that “me” and “us” are used as objects, you could write the following.

Julie and I are meeting the others at the mall.
Will you pick up Shelly and me by four o’clock?

We bloggers create demand for each other.
Traffic comes to us bloggers from other blogs.

To remember which pronoun fits your sentence, write it without the extraneous explanation. Would you write, “Pick up I”? Certainly, you would not, because you only use “I” and “we” as subjects. “I” am not the object of someone else’s action!

When using “we” and “us” with a noun—usually a group or category of people although this can get more complex when adjectives and other modifiers are thrown into the mix—decide which case fits by narrowing the sentence down to the subject and the verb. If your pronoun is neither of these then use “us”.

I see writers (and hear speakers) that use “I” as an object when they are trying to sound formal. While “me” does sound more informal and often takes the place of “I” in casual conversation (whether it raises my eyebrows or not), “I” is not simply a fancy version of “me”. Thus substituting the subjective case for the objective in sentences like, “Reports made to the Board of Directors and I…” gives the impression that you don’t know what the heck you’re talking about. That’s rather the opposite of your intention, isn’t it?

It behooves you to get your pronouns right, whether you are addressing a shareholders’ meeting or blogging about your newest affiliate program. If you want people to take you seriously, you have to take language seriously.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Langauge Log at UPenn

For those Dave Barry fans among us, check out the Language Log archive of Mr. Language Person columns. While you’re there, dig around. You’ll find fun and fascinating posts, whether you agree with the conclusions or not (plus a series critiquing Dan Brown's writing in exact and hysterical ways).

I mention the fact that you may disagree with some of the posts because I found this one on “The Coming Death of Whom”. I disagree that whom lies on its deathbed because people use it when they want to sound extra-smart. Of course, using it incorrectly makes you sound like a twit, which explains my recent post on the matter.

Since I spent most of my blogging time digging through the archives, I’ll share just one more post, this one a counterpoint to my earlier posts on brevity. Those of you with delicate sensibilities be warned—it starts with an expletive. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the post enough to forgive the nasty word.

Blogging in brief seems pretty easy to me, but many bloggers take on wide topics in a single post and thus find themselves with a couple thousand words on their hands. I prefer bite-sized posts spread across several days, to keep me and my erstwhile readers from getting bored as much as to keep them (and me) coming back.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Quickie Post: Word Toy to Fight World Hunger

I learned another new word today, one that may be destined to become a favorite: pluvial. It means rainy or related to rain. It reminds me of “sploosh”, which isn’t a word but is a good bit of onomatopoeia, and thus perfectly fits its meaning.

Where did I find this word? At Free Rice, where they donate “ten grains of rice” for every word you get right. That makes this not only a great way to build your vocabulary but a fun and easy way to donate to a worthy cause.

While 10 grains of rice amounts to very little by itself, thousands of people donating a few hundred grains a week makes a big difference. Visit their FAQs page for an explanation of where the rice comes from and who distributes it. The site states that it is a sister site of

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Did I Lay That on the Couch?

If there exists one set of words that forces me to stop and think when writing (and again when editing), it's lay and lie. I avoid them with put, place, set, leave, lounge, drape, or any other word I can find. I decided today that I will no longer choose the chicken's way but that I will learn the difference for once and all.

The problem comes not from the difference between the words themselves. “Lay” means to put something somewhere while “lie” means to recline or “lie down”. You can also lie to someone, but that layer of confusion we don't need so I'll leave it out.

It turns out that you can tell the difference between the words by considering whether the verb needs an object. If you use the word “lay” you have to include what is being laid in order to complete the sentence. Laying requires the subject to act on something while lying reflects that the subject acts, if only by changing position. Normally this requires a prepositional phrase to indicate the location but the subject that lays on something acts on himself or herself.

Why do the two words get confused? The past tens of lie is lay. Unless you write in the present tense, telling your readers that your protagonist was lying on a couch or bed means writing that they lay there. “Bob lay on the couch listlessly.” This sounds much like “Bob lay his jacket on the couch listlessly.” Note, however, that the second sentences shows Bob acting on an object, his jacket, rather than himself.

You must know the difference so that you can keep your tense consistent when writing. If you use one version of lay then the other version will not be identical. Thus, “Bob lay on the couch and laid his mail aside.”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Don't Neglect Commas in Lists

I goty into another lovely set of langauge and writing discussions in the Writers' Workshop at Helium today. The topic that got me going was comma use in lists.

While I added my two cents to the thread, I don't like to expound at great length during a discussion. I hate to come off sounding like a know-it-all both because it opens me up to nit-pickery and because really hammering a topic from a soapbox tends to shut off further conversation.

All of which means that I am going to give my opinion on the subject now.

Traditionally, commas are used to separate items in a list and a conjunction is used before the last to indicate that it is, well, the last. Thus, I write, “Shelly put containers of orange, apple, and cranberry juice in her cart.”

Contrast that with, “Shelly put containers of orange, apple and cranberry juice in her cart.” Does this mean that she put more than one container of the same juice blend in her cart, two different kinds (orange and cranberry-apple), or that she chose three kinds of juice? That little comma makes a difference.

People commonly ignore the last comma in a list on the grounds that they don't need it unless the items in the list are complex. I disagree on two grounds. First, why have a rule that only applies sometimes. Either the rule holds true or it doesn't. Second, why waste time determining how complex your list has to be before it requires a comma? Simply use one every time and you will have a comma when you need one.

I admit to being a traditionalist on matters of grammar, but in this case the traditional method makes more sense. Comma overuse has created an atmosphere where writers abolish them at every opportunity. I agree with the impulse but, in this case, I think the poor little comma should be allowed to remain.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fun Search Terms for This Blog

I reviewed my recent statistics this morning and discovered that this blog gets Google juice on some good topics. My posts on –tion words are my biggest draw, as people search every day, in a dozen different ways, for more information on them.

The terms on the list that I best liked seeing were “be sarcastic when defining sarcasm” and “how to make a sentence sarcastic”, plus three other mentions of sarcasm. I’m so proud. [sniff] Actually, I rank high for sarcasm because of my recent post on punctuation intended to indicate sarcasm and intentional ambiguity. Then again, I’m a bit of a…sarcastic individual.

I felt the need to run “example sentence using the word feckless” for myself. I came up second in the search results for this one, from actually using the word in my most-visited post on -tion words. Apparently feckless doesn’t get much use these days.

Folks have also found me through my posts on FANBOYS. I must admit to a certain amusement when using that term. It works beautifully as a memnotic device for remembering the basic conjunctions but also makes it sound like I’m writing about boy bands when I use it in headlines.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quickie Post: Prefixes and Suffixes

Today I want to share some resources for vocabulary building. As I recently mentioned, knowing what the parts of a word mean (the root as well as the prefix and suffix) helps you build or understand more words. To that end, please look through this list and learn something new today.

Clear English from Paul and Bernice Noll offers a great list of suffixes.

Then there’s and their extensive list of Greek and Latin word parts.

Try Learn4Good’s list of suffix definitions separated by part of speech or’s list divided by type.

A good vocabulary contributes to good writing. While the Thesaurus helps you find the right word, knowing how to modify those words means that you can find a root and build just the word you want for any sentence.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Quickie Post: Good Grammar Advice

I feel so bad about posting that horrible writing advice the other day that I am posting a few resources for good grammar advice in an attempt to relieve my conscience. Please explore and enjoy.

Tina Blue has been posting grammar articles for years.

Get It Write Online has also been giving good grammar advice over the long haul.

Judy Vorfeld likewise has an extensive archive of grammar tips and advice.

Monday, October 15, 2007

For Whom the Sentence Works

For those of us who profess grammar stickler-ness, the word whom makes our ears perk up like shaking a box of dog treats near a Chihuahua. Either the speaker or writer uses the word correctly or we are prepared to take offense at their refusal to get it right.

I know someone who prides himself on his grammar and vocabulary (no, not me, thank you very much). We collaborate on projects a few times each year and, outside of the occasional typographical error, I have never had to correct his writing. Yesterday, I did.

As you may have guess from the first paragraph, he had a “whom” problem. The source of his confusion was the phrase “of whom” that, on the surface, is perfectly correct. After all, whom is made to be the object and doubly that of a preposition.

Unfortunately, my esteemed colleague forgot to consider the context of his sentence. What he meant was, “of those people who we are to serve.” He left out “those people” as assumable, but then was left with “of whom we are to serve” which he compounded by changing it to “of whom”.

Were I forced to write this sentence, I would write, “of those we are to serve”. If a gun were held to my head so that I would retain the “who/whom” portion, I would stick with “who”. While the word follows a preposition, it is not the object of that preposition. It is a pronoun referring to “those people,” who have been chucked unceremoniously from the sentence.

I fear that I’ve muddied the swamp more than settled the waters, but perhaps this specific example will remind to look at more than just the adjacent words in your sentences when proofreading for grammar. And remember those words that you allow your reader to assume. They play a role in your sentence structure, whether they are written or not.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bad Writing Advice with a Silver Lining

In my search for clarity and conciseness (concision?) in my writing, I fight with my deep-seated urge to build bloated sentences for the sheer joy of their complexity. Imagine my horror at finding a web site that urges people who write for academia to be as complex as possible and tells them how. There are exercises on taking relatively active, if obscure, sentences and making them passive! [shudder]

If you can look past all of that truly bad advice for writers, you will find a useful list of prefixes and suffixes 'way down the page. These are useful for building words that describe exactly what you want. If you find a great root word in the Thesaurus and want to use it properly, it helps to know what these “add-ons” mean.

Stop when you get to the section on nominalization, however. Here they proceed to advise using -tion words instead of the verbs with which you started. Unless you intend to write something in which nothing happens, use verbs instead. Here's some better writing advice.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Use, Don't Abuse, Capital Letters

I've been having fun today writing blog reviews at In looking through blog listings, I find a number of things I would not have run across in my obsession with grammar and writing.

One of those things drives me 'round the bend, however. People abuse capital letters or neglect them entirely, not just on the few blogs I've looked at there but across the Internet and out into “real” life. Let us review a few basics for using capital letters.

  • Use capital letters at the beginning of a sentence and for proper names like Bob or Omaha, Nebraska in a sentence. Capitalize the letter “I” when you are writing about yourself.
  • Capitalize each words in your headlines and titles, except for prepositions and articles. “Terror on the High Seas” is correct while “Fear Strikes The hearts Of Sailors” is not. Always capitalize the first and last words of your title, however, like “Out of Danger Now?”
  • Use bold and italic fonts for emphasis, rather than ALL CAPS. Your writing will look more polished and less hysterical, unless you highlight every other word. If you do, capitalization may not be your biggest writing problem. (Note: Avoid using underlined word for emphasis on-line as it usually indicates a hyperlink and folks will expect to be able to click on underlined words.)
These three tips should get you on the right track to using capital letter with grace and style. Now get out there and write.

Friday, October 12, 2007

About the Ellipsis ...

I thought I’d write about a simple topic today: the ellipsis. What could be easier than explaining that you use three periods to indicate that you’ve left something out of a citation or that a sentence otherwise has not been completed?

To my chagrin, I discovered that things are not as simple as they seem. I have been laboring under the delusion that you do not need spaces on either side of an ellipsis, but some style manuals insist that I am mistaken. I thought that it was incorrect to add a period to an ellipsis at the end of a sentence, apparently yet another mistake unless the sentence trails off without an end.

You can understand this better with an example or two. Should you feel it necessary, for instance, to quote the preceding paragraph, you may wish to exclude the more excusatory phrases. Thus, you could write “… things are not as simple as they seem.” You’d be correct, too. Then again, I would have written it that way, too, but for the space after it.

You can also write that “… things are not as simple as they seem. … some style manuals insist that I am mistaken.” That’s a pretty silly thing to quote, but stylistically you would be correct.

You could quote me as writing that “I thought that it was incorrect to add a period to an ellipsis at the end of a sentence … .” Here we arrive at my point of confusion. My word processor tells me that I have constructed that punctuation incorrectly. My eye tells me that same. Unfortunately, every reference I could find on-line tells me that this structure is correct. I know, you are as shocked as I, but the truth must be told.

I draw the line, however, at believing that an ellipsis should have spaces between the dots. If your style manual shows ellipses constructed that way, draw a line through those instructions and write, “Nuh uh!” above them. If your editor or teacher questions you, tell them that I told you to and that should be sufficient. Now go leave things out, would you?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quickie Post: On-Line Writing Jobs

You can find a million jobs on-line, through various listings and through your own research. For instance, 5 minutes on Google netted me the following possibilities:

- Demand Studios owns a bunch of on-line companies and want writers for them.
- The AARP Magazine is open to submissions and pays $1 a word or 25% of the fee if they decide not to publish your story.
- Mothering Magazine accepts articles on a decent range of topics and poetry, as well.
- ProBlogger, of course, has a lovely list of blogging jobs available.
- b5media is looking for bloggers, too.

Take a few minutes and do your own digging. You never know what's out there if you don't look.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Make Friends with Commas

One of you lovely readers petitioned for more information on comma use and I happily am complying with that request today. This much-abused piece of punctuation (overworked by me as much as many) can use all of the help it can get.

At I found a straightforward page of comma and semicolon rules. Writers know most of these rules already, like using a comma to set off a clause with one of the FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). The rules that govern how you separate phrases give people the most trouble.

If you find yourself liberally sprinkling commas over every sentence, try a trick that has helped me rein in my excesses: write without any commas. Once you’ve got a paragraph written, go back and insert only those commas that your sentence structures require.

Many writers insert commas where they pause in their thoughts when composing sentences. Break that habit and you will find that you use far fewer commas, and that you can see how to use them correctly. Remove the comma clutter from your writing and review the rules on the link above. The humble comma can be your friend instead of a foe.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Adverbs and Adjectives: Use Them Surely

As you may have noticed, my Internet access has been spotty lately. I hate to mention it every time I cannot post, but I want to apologize for the erratic schedule here, especially in light of my promise to post more on adverbs and adjectives yesterday. I hope that today’s post on that subject will make up for it, a bit.

As I mentioned in my post on the use of good versus well, adverbs are words that modify or describe verbs. In many cases, you can make an adverb by adding an “-ly” to the end of an adjective. Thus you can write:

I was tense. (Tense describes you and shows itself as an adjective.)
I paced tensely. (Tensely describes your pacing rather than you, although the fact that you are pacing in such a manner implies that you are, in fact, tense.)
There are a few rules that will help you decide whether an adjective or an adverb fits a particular sentence.

If you are using a form of “to be” then the predicate (the part after the verb) describes the subject rather than the “being”. Then again, the war on the passive voice should eliminate the “being” in favor of acting.

If your verb involves one of the senses (seeing, smelling, touching) then the rest of the sentence either describes the subject with an adjective or explains how the subject used that sense with an adverb.
The pie smelled delicious. (It was a delicious-smelling pie, rather than one that smelled other things in a delicious manner, whatever that may be.)
He sniffed the pie delicately. (He gave the pie a delicate sniff, as opposed to the
pie being delicate.)
The knives looked sharp.
She eyed the knives warily.
Using adverbs to describe the action in your sentences can help to set a scene without resorting to telling your readers what happens or how a character is feeling. Be wary, however, of adding too many. They can make your sentence awkward and wordy instead of adding clarity. Writing, “She walked forcefully across the room,” doesn’t make quite the impression that “She strode across the room.” If you need to modify your verb with an adverb, check to see if there a better verb would do the work for itself. The advice holds true for using adjectives as well. Remember your friend, the thesaurus!

For an excellent review and great examples of adverbs that do not use the “-ly” addition, visit the Internet Grammar of English pages.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Classic Battle of Good Versus Well

Here, again, you find a pet peeve that has plagued grammar geeks for decades. If you ask someone, “How are you?” the grammatical response remains, “I am well.” If you don't know why, read on dear reader.

“Good” is an adjective. The word describes something else. “Well” is an adverb, describing or clarifying a verb rather than an object.

That can be difficult to determine. If you are “good at” doing something then you do it “well”. The words are so close in meaning (in this context) that sentence structure rules your word choice.

And why, you ask, does that matter? Well bless your heart and thanks for asking. It matters because knowing the difference will allow you to write clearly. If you mean that someone is a good person you can say, “Beth is good.” If you want to say that she is feeling good you can say, “Beth is well.”

In the first instance, you are describing Beth. It's what kind of Beth she is. The second sentence describes Beth's state of being. She is, and that “is” is just fine, thank you. You can move on to more descriptive sentences like, “Beth is a good dancer,” and, “Beth dances well.”

Tomorrow I'll write about what this all means in a broader sense. Knowing when to use an adjective rather than an adverb helps you to write well. A good reader can spot a mistake a mile away.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Some General Writing Advice

Mr. Griffen over at the Barley Hut offers excellent writing advice. The last three on the list separates it from the million others out there. Don’t miss the comments, either. There’s lots of meat in there as well.

On the other end of the stick, you have freelance writer John Scalzi and his writing advice. Much of it flies in the face of the feel-good creative writing advice to which you are accustomed. That’s because he’s writing about composing requested pieces for money. Sometimes, writing is about paying the gas company rather than following your muse.

These two offer a good balance between writing for passion and writing for profit. When you have a chance to write whatever you want, grab it and write yourself to pieces. But don’t bemoan an opportunity to write what someone else wants if they pay you to do it. Have a voice and a style, but don’t make that more important than writing to an audience and providing what your client wants.

If you can’t get enough writing advice (or are looking for just one more thing to read before you start writing) try, where Durant Imboden has an article—or two—for every occasion. Then close your browser and write, dangit!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Little More on Sentence Diagrams

I looked at some stats for this site this morning and found a referral from a directory site named to my recent post about sentence diagramming. I don’t know how my post showed up there as I've never heard of it before. The site is very difficult to navigate and has no search feature so I couldn’t find any of my other posts there. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t listed, just that I can’t get to them.

In looking through their listings, I found Patrick Kurp’s Anecdotal Evidence and his post about sentence diagrams. After this almost lyrical paean to the joys of turning your sentence to abstract art, I put Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog on my wish list. What can I say? I’m a grammar geek.

While I was thinking about diagramming sentences, I did more digging and found’s defense of forcing children to diagram and a tutorial. I don’t know where the quotes originated but I agree with the points made in all of them, a rare occurrence on the Internet! There are also some excellent links and book recommendations at the end of the piece.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Quickie Post: Freelance Writing Fora

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of talking about writing. If you aren’t like me, you still may have some questions about being a freelance writer and don’t know where to find answers or people with the same experiences. You may be researching a new client or job listing and wonder if anyone else has experience with them.

Freelance writing bulletin boards are a fantastic resource for information and commiseration. You will find someone who has been in your situation and can advise you what approach will work or at least which one did not work for them. Most such fora also have job listings, so you can kill two birds with one click. Take a peek and see if you find a community where you can join in and learn.’s fora
All Freelance Writing’s fora’s fora
Writers Beware, which provides a terrific resource for publishers, agents and services that have behaved badly.
Accentuate Writers(a part of Accentuate Services)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Orwellian Criticism: Clean up Your Writing!

In my search for grammar tools, I came across the Plain Language site that, in turn, led me to this lovely George Orwell essay from 1946 about the decline of language. I've seen pieces of it around the Internet but have never read the full text. It outlines problems to which writers of many stripes fall prey and serves as a useful reminder to writers of what to avoid.

When you write something to be read, that is when you compose something for publication rather than for the sheer enjoyment of playing with words, Orwell’s objections form an excellent guide to what not to do. Consider this quote:

“…modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake
of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It
consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in
order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.”
Does that sound like anything you’ve read recently? Does it remind you, perhaps, of a badly written SEO article? I find some consolation in the fact that people have written such garbage for decades, if not longer. I am amused picturing Orwell reviewing the contents of some of the worse blogs and less-choose article directories, as well.

Mostly, however, I find a new determination to write better. While I have fun constructing flowery phrases and complicated sentences, my intended audience may not enjoy reading them. Writers in general, and I in particular, need to keep that in mind.