The Befuddling Case of the Frat Guy’s T-shirt

I was at the gym a while back when I spotted a guy wearing a fraternity T-shirt commemorating a nonprofit event his house had sponsored. It was a fundraiser for a battered-women’s shelter, and the tagline read Joining the fight against domestic abuse. I immediately thought the pairing of fight and domestic abuse was silly … Continue reading

2010 Bullets

On a rainy day fit for hibernation, The Writing Guide decides to wake up, stand unsteadily on its back legs, and forage once again for elements of bad writing. And if you think comparing a writing blog to a just-awoken grizzly bear constitutes bad writing, feel free to stick that in the comments section. Until … Continue reading

Curiouser and Curiouser

My vigilant girlfriend forwarded me Dan Neil’s take on the National Geographic Channel’s new ad campaign, which centers on the grammar-unfriendly tag Live Curious. I’ll let Mr. Neil explain why that’s wrong and how it doesn’t work. And I’ll congratulate him for taking NGC to task for creating a marketing campaign that hangs on confounding … Continue reading

Prescriptivism vs. Descriptivism

Up in Yakima, Washington, my good friend The Indoorsman is shedding the bonds of prescriptivism for the bold rush of descriptivism. I’d explain the difference, but I’ll let him do that. (But here’s one way to think about it: do words have inherent usage rules, or do users get to form rules as we evolve?) … Continue reading

Transportive Writing

The latest installment of Good Writing is a lesson in using active voice and parallel construction to paint vivid imagery. The scene it describes—of central Baghdad after two suicide bombings killed more than 150 people—is horrific. The L.A. Times’s account from Monday contains more than just a death toll, rundown of the infrastructure damage, and … Continue reading

Waddya Think?

I’m not aware of a rule about this, but doesn’t the phrase around the world make more sense than across the world? Seeing as the world is a sphere (and don’t let the Flat Earth Society tell you any different!) around seems more accurate than across, right? Or am I plunging too deep into the … Continue reading

Exclude the Includer

I’ll continue my series on small and often unnecessary words with a look at all. Writers will insert this word to signal to readers that every item listed is inclusive, but this is unnecessary when the context of the sentence makes the inclusiveness apparent. In the following sentences, we can delete all and still easily … Continue reading

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