Dreamy Writing

My former colleague Randall Roberts posted a gorgeous telling of a Saturday night–Sunday morning event at Hollywood Forever cemetery here in Los Angeles this weekend. Like every blog post, it could be polished here and there with a copyedit, but no matter: Randy paints a shimmering* image of a remarkable seven hours. This is a … Continue reading

Big Trouble with a Little Word

Using as in a causal sense—similarly to because, since, and for—is more often than not a misuse, a misguided attempt to elevate tone to a faux-academic level, and a good way to confuse the reader. As has so many other, more common uses (“It’s hot as hell outside today!”), and causal words like because are … Continue reading

I Don’t Get Women

There is a hitch in the language that everyone seems to get (or simply accept) but me. Maybe someone can help me on this. If I were to refer to a group of painters who were men, I would call them male painters. If they were women, I’d call them female painters. No problem there. … Continue reading

Any Old World

Writers lacking confidence in their mastery of a subject too often use any as a hedge. They throw in the word to needlessly broaden nouns, as if to say, “If the word I’m using isn’t exactly correct, I am protecting myself by inserting any.” I would argue that this use of any doesn’t protect an … Continue reading

My Worst Mistake

As I collect writing examples for future posts and compose a response to a couple great recent comments from readers, I’ll share the story of the worst mistake I’ve ever made. This was a few years into my career, when I was associate editor at a business magazine in the Midwest. I had been on … Continue reading

The False Range

There is an illogical, clichéd device that has invaded the language with the zeal and destructiveness of a zebra mussel attack. Writers of every age, experience level, and field use it. It’s a convenient trick when the goal is to illustrate the breadth of something in just a few words. Its usage is so overwhelmingly … Continue reading