Writing links: How to Write Good; Grammar “Rules” It’s Okay to Break

Here are a couple of entertaining and educational articles about the art and craft of writing. Enjoy.

First, from the late Michael O’Donohue, writer for Saturday Night Live and editor at the National Lampoon:

How to Write Good

Lesson 4: Exposition

Perhaps the most difficult technique for the fledgling writer to master is proper treatment of exposition. Yet watch the sly, subtle way I “set the scene” of my smash play, The Last to Know, with a minimum of words and effort.

(The curtain opens on a tastefully appointed dining room, the table ringed by men in tuxedos and women in costly gowns. There is a knock at the door.)

LORD OVERBROOKE: Oh, come in, Lydia. Allow me to introduce my dinner guests to you. This is Cheryl Heatherton, the madcap soybean heiress whose zany antics actually mask a heart broken by her inability to meaningfully communicate with her father, E. J. Heatherton, seated to her left, who is too caught up in the heady world of high finance to sit down and have a quiet chat with his own daughter, unwanted to begin with, disposing of his paternal obligations by giving her everything, everything but love, that is.

Next to them sits Geoffrey Drake, a seemingly successful merchant banker trapped in an unfortunate marriage with a woman half his age, who wistfully looks back upon his days as the raffish Group Captain of an R.A.F. bomber squadron that flew eighty-one missions over Berlin, his tortured psyche refusing to admit, despite frequent nightmares in which, dripping with sweat, he wakes screaming, “Pull it up! Pull it up, I say! I can’t hold her any longer! We’re losing altitude! We’re going down! Jerry at three o’clock Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggh!”, that his cowardice and his cowardice alone was responsible for the loss of his crew and “Digger,” the little Manchester terrier who was their mascot.

Second, for all members of the Grammar Geeks Unit, here’s one of the best essays on writing with good grammar — instead of cramped pedantic adherence to wrongheaded grammar dogma — that I’ve read. It’s by Steven Pinker. Here he is on the “rule” about never ending a sentence with a preposition:

The prohibition against clause-final prepositions is considered a superstition even by the language mavens, and it persists only among know-it-alls who have never opened a dictionary or style manual to check. There is nothing, repeat nothing, wrong with “Who are you looking at?” or “The better to see you with” or “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” or “It’s you she’s thinking of”. The pseudo-rule was invented by John Dryden based on a silly analogy with Latin (where the equivalent to a preposition is attached to the noun and cannot be separated from it) in an effort to show that Ben Jonson was an inferior poet. As the linguist Mark Liberman remarked, “It’s a shame that Jonson had been dead for 35 years at the time, since he would otherwise have challenged Dryden to a duel, and saved subsequent generations a lot of grief.”

Steven Pinker: 10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s OK to break (sometimes)

2 responses to “Writing links: How to Write Good; Grammar “Rules” It’s Okay to Break

  1. oh nooo…. Not Digger the mascot too…. :^((

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s