Before and After: The Gettysburg Address

For this blog post, I thought it would be fun to take a famous speech and work backward, adding unnecessary words and phrases, making it so verbose as to be hard to recognize. I think my effort succeeds in showing how simplifications and reductions of the kind that a good copyeditor routinely makes can help a meandering piece of writing cut to the heart of the writer’s sentiment in a way that is truly memorable. Read the rest of this entry »

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Leaving the Body

This has nothing to do with astral projection or any other form of out-of-body experience…but, inspired by a recent article in Discover magazine, here are five ways for writers to “leave the body.”

  1. Kick with your feet.
  2. Listen with your ears.
  3. Look with your eyes.
  4. Smell with your nose.
  5. Think with your mind.

All five of these verbs describe actions performed with, or processes involving, a certain part (or parts) of the body. The crossed-out part goes without saying. So don’t say it! This is what I mean by leaving the body: if the body part that’s doing the action is self-evident or can be guessed at with a bit of common sense, leave it out of your writing. Read the rest of this entry »


Copy Righting

I understand that folks who work in advertising and marketing sometimes really want to drive home a point. As a hammer is to a carpenter, so repetition is to a copywriter. It’s a recognized tool of the trade and often the one that works best. Repetition is totally valid as a writing strategy. Even poets use it.

I have no beef with the following fake ad, for example:

When you come down to Hamm’s Burger this Memorial Day weekend, buy any two burgers and get a third one free! That’s right, you can get three burgers for the price of only two! A trio of burgers at two-thirds the normal price. That third burger is yours 100 percent free. It costs you nothing! A 90 percent lean all-beef patty is yours 100 percent free! Just throw it away if you want to! It’s gratis! We’re giving away burgers to folks who buy two! But you have to get here before we close! Otherwise we won’t be open! So get on over to Hamm’s Burger and choose from any of our twelve mouthwatering, delicious, savory signature burgers! Right next door to Frank’s Hot Dogs! Hamm’s Burger, Hamm’s Burger, Hamm’s Burger!

This is an example of saying the same thing in different ways and using simple repetition. However, copywriters often commit two terrible offenses: Read the rest of this entry »


“Co-” Incidents

This week’s entry concerns the use of the prefix “co-.”

Because I’m separated from my son’s mother, I am a co-parent. I co-parent my son. However, his mother is not my co-parenting partner, and I don’t co-parent my son with her. She is my parenting partner, and together we parent our son. That’s because “partner,” “with her,” and “together” already speak to the cooperative nature of our parenting, making “co-” redundant.

In other words, neither Rodgers nor Hammerstein had a co-writing partner. I wouldn’t even say that Lewis and Clark co-explored the Louisiana Purchase, any more than I’d assert that Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong co-landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Read the rest of this entry »


Gems Are Made by Cutting

This week’s is a quick but timely entry (I also plan to add to an earlier post, “Adieu to ‘you’ but more of ‘your'”).

The other day, I heard a radio spot for a well-known local diamond retailer (okay, why not? The Shane Company) talking about how—if I recall correctly—similar diamonds can receive different grades “depending on where the occlusions are located inside the diamond.”

Two problems with this. Read the rest of this entry »