Monday, September 14, 2015

Go Read This Stuff - 9/14/15

In lieu of a depressing/inspiring quotation about the writing life, I offer you three recent posts from other language bloggers that I certainly found interesting, and I hope you do, too. (Headings are links.)

In Search of Needless Words by Ben Yagoda

Sept. 8, 2015
At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ben Yagoda talks about the sometimes controversial, sometimes inflammatory Rule Seventeen from The Elements of Style: Omit needless words. As Ben notes,
Strunk and White have been (mis)interpreted as mandating terseness. That is partly their own fault. They could have been a good deal more forthcoming in describing what it means for a word to be “needless” and what it means for one to “tell.”
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Photo credit: Wikipedia
 The difficulty people often have with the "omit needless words" is how they personally define needless. Those who rail against Strunk and White usually define a needless word as any word that isn't necessary to convey a piece of data.

But there's so much more than data to good writing. There's voice, style, emphasis, mood, the need for detail, and on and on.

Yagoda also ends this particular post, through an excerpt from John McPhee, with a nice exercise in editing.

You Could Have Looked It Up by John E. McIntyre

Sept. 10, 2015
Over a the Baltimore Sun, John McIntyre expresses his exasperation with people who waste his time asking simple editorial questions that the asker could have easily and quickly looked up in a dictionary or house style guide. Though the questions frustrate him, he understands why some people turn to people rather than books and websites to answer their questions.

As John says, "It eases the isolation, and consensus generates comfort."

It's a Libfix-ganza! by Stan Carey

August 3, 2015
Stan Carey, in the MacMillan Dictionary Blog, explores and explains what linguist Arnold Zwicky calls libfixes, or liberated parts of words that act like affixes. Affixes are those word parts that are added to root words to alter their meanings or parts of speech — like anti-, pre-, -ible, and -ation.

There are a lot of them going around, and as they gain popularity, they also accumulate eyerolls. (Maybe that's just me.) Popular libfixes include -mageddon, -pocalypse, -gate, and -preneur.

I've personally rolled my eyes at snowmageddon, solopreneur, and deflategate. But as Stan points out there are a whole bloody lot of libfixes out there. Eventually, I will have to learn to accept them or risk pulling one of the rectus muscles in my eyes.