December 7, 2011 · 11:55 am
I’m working at an essay on an early Greyhound about to depart Washington for New York City. All of a sudden, the driver stands up. “Close those hatches, folks. That stuff is going to jump out on you,” he says.
Despite the groggy hour, passengers pop up to stuff in their duffel bags and coats and close the gap-toothed smile of the overhead compartments. Soon, we’re packed in and speeding toward the land of fast walkers and clipped talkers.
Later, I started wondering—did the passengers do that because the driver made such a convincing argument? Or would a simple “Close the hatches, please” have sufficed? Continue reading →
November 26, 2011 · 10:42 pm
E.B. White first encountered The Elements of Style at Cornell in 1919, when it was self-published by the precise and aging hand of his English professor, William Strunk Jr. White revised the book in 1959, and commenced to counsel and derange generations of writers.
When I assigned the fourth edition of the slim silver volume to my class, I had to look closer. And I was surprised. Instead of acting as an extension of Professor Strunk’s knobby finger, explaining with cold clarity at which point to use “who” and when “whom,” many of the book’s supposed rules are merely suggestions. Perhaps even more delightful, the book rarely takes itself seriously.
So why do so many writers?
To straighten the record and lighten your mood, I give you:
Three myths about Strunk and White
Myth #1: It’s stuffy and outdated.
Au contraire. Some of the examples make me LOL, while others border on X-rated. Turn to the section “Misused Words and Expressions.” Look up nauseous vs. nauseating. The book counsels readers not to say you feel nauseous “unless you are sure you have that effect on others.” Continue reading →
September 2, 2011 · 12:04 am
WASHINGTON, SEPT. 2—Eleven TV camera operators, two dozen photographers, and 53 journalists have been admitted to emergency rooms in the Washington Metropolitan Area in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, complaining of exhaustion after more than 96 hours of non-stop anecdote generation.
“I had just spoken to an Outer Banks mother who evacuated with five kids, and was dialing the director of an assisted living facility in New Hampshire when all of a sudden my knees crumpled,” said David Barnes, a reporter for the Associated Press, from a bed at the Washington Hospital Center. “It was going to be a great bookended piece, covering the human struggle from south to north,” Barnes added. “Now with these damn IVs I can barely transcribe my notes or drink a G and T.” Continue reading →