Rambling On About Writing, Editing And Blogging

English: Stephen King's House in Bangor, Maine

Stephen King’s House in Bangor, Maine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nearly all bloggers are interested in improving their writing. You can find an interesting post about criticism and editing — and how bloggers respond to same — by Michelle at “The Green Study.”

English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...

Hands collaborating in writing or editing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which calls to mind a Baltimore Sun blog, “You Don’t Say,” by John McIntyre, a curmudgeon and drudge, as well as a longtime Sun copy desk chief.  If you’re interested in language and editing, you could do worse than to follow his blog. It’s always informative and sometimes amusing.

I once worked for the man (longest six   years of my life). He’s the most demanding editor I encountered in many years of reporting, writing, and (mostly) editing. He’s a master editor — not a writer’s editor, but an editor’s editor. If he has one fault, it is an overly sensitive nose for what he calls the “stinking cliché.”

He probably would not tolerate the headline I wrote for this post.

(I wouldn’t call my working years a “career,” exactly. Or if it was a career, it was a mismanaged and jerky career. Talk about your long and winding roads. By the way, I agree with all editors that clichés are to be avoided. Nonetheless, clichés have their place in the language. Some clichés communicate a specific meaning that is not well-served by substitution, and a few clichés communicate truth that defies faithful translation. Like it or not.)

Long as we’re on the subject, you could also do worse thanOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,”  by . . . drumroll please . . . Stephen King. 

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Mr. King’s advice is to avoid adverbs. I believe Mr. McIntyre and Michelle would concur.

In conclusion: Eschew obfuscation. Avoid “never” and “always.” And remember, never use the word “very;” always strike it.

And that’s all I have to say about writing and editing.

— John Hayden

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8 thoughts on “Rambling On About Writing, Editing And Blogging

  1. King’s book is a favorite of mine. I pick a bone with him, however, about the judiciously used adverb. A favorite sentence of mine, from Burt Cole’s “The Funco File,” a classic of gonzo science fiction, mentions “an actual bird’s nest sailing statelily by.” I would not have had Mr. Cole deprive the world of this deliciousness by trimming adverbs.


    • Bravo, Ms. Sled. You had me stumped. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen “statelily” in a sentence before. I suspect the word is not in most dictionaries; took me a couple of minutes to figure it out. “Stately” is an adjective, “statelily” is the adverb.

      As for “actual,” it’s an adjective; “actually” is the adverb. However, in this case, “actual” becomes an adverb because “bird’s” is an adjective modifying “nest” ???

      I had never noticed that “bird’s nest” is unique among all the other combinations using the word “bird.” Birdbath, birdbrain, birdcage, birdhouse, birdman, birdseed. And/or bird call, bird dog, bird shot. Whew. Wonder why we don’t say “bird’s cage?”


  2. Hi Johnnie, after reading this I ordered “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” for Steve as a Christmas present. He’s a Stephen King fan and has always been interested in writing. I also liked your conclusion. Very funny!


  3. Pingback: Lawyer Fiction: John Grisham and Michael Connelly, Part 2 | WORK IN PROGRESS

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