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Aside

Don’t believe everything you read on Grammarly. I recently came across their advice on commas after introductory words. Granted, it’s not a pressing world problem, and I’m no grammar Nazi, but in this case, they were alleging something is wrong that isn’t, and that gets me all het up. Their example of incorrect usage—“Meanwhile the cat stretched luxuriously in the sunshine—is in fact perfectly fine; you don’t need a comma after “Meanwhile.” A comma after an introductory word or short phrase is optional.

Overall the post is a great example of how googling a grammar question can get you a bad answer, and usually one that will lecture you on independent clauses and blah-blah-blah when really the only point of punctuation is to serve clarity and consistency, and you don’t need to memorize arcane terms for various word groups to know how to punctuate them correctly. Grammar Underground has a much better take here. Even further down the Google rankings, the Editor’s Blog put it best: “Transition words such as therefore and indeed are often followed by commas, but they don’t have to be. The trend is toward a more light-handed use of commas. If meaning is clear and readers couldn’t possibly misread, consider dropping commas from single-word transitions (and even a few multiword transitions).” See? Much easier. Enjoy!

Wherewithal Writing Prompts

nairobistaircase

Recently a client had a Trello board full of topics he wanted to cover on his blog, and a hard time getting to the actual writing. Also, where to start? Late at night, kids to bed, sitting down to type, glowing screen—what was it he wanted to say about birthday cake* again? It’s one thing…

Text: Resilient, Cheap, Flexible, Discreet

janeaustenletters

Over at Kottke.org, Tim Carmody dissects why everyone who says video will overtake all media platforms are wrong: Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a…

Editing Principle 40: Write Like a Hack (Sometimes)

dargeresque

Lately I’ve worked with a couple of clients struggling through revisions on early drafts. Neither of them had trouble with the topic; they knew their stuff. Both had published books before. Both had a lot riding on the current project. One needed tenure. The other wanted to capture his conflicted feelings about humanitarian aid work after thirty-plus years…

Aside

Because Facebook and other social media sites stopped acknowledging the existence of photos smaller than 300×300 pixels. Oh the things we could say about that but won’t (right now). I hope you enjoy the larger pics!

Editing Principle 39: On Ghostwriting, Part I

webuyegate copy

The aspect of Wherewithal’s work that generates the most interest in personal conversation, by far, is ghostwriting. People always have questions. Really? Who for? In some cases they’re hoping I’ll say “Jay-Z” and are mildly disappointed when I give them a name they’ve never heard of or, more often, say I cannot say because of…

Writing Simple & Direct

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I first came across the historian Jacques Barzun (1907 – 2012) because he wrote an introduction to a collection of essays by John Jay Chapman. (I can no longer remember what New York Public Library rabbit hole I fell down to find Chapman, but I used a passage of his for an epigraph in More Than…

Editing Principle 38: Bullets Be Damned

bulletin board

Edward Tufte recently tweeted a snippet of the physicist Richard Feynman grumbling about bullet lists. From the sound of it, Feynman encountered bullets for the first time during his work investigating the Challenger shuttle explosion in 1986, and was not impressed: “Then we learned about ‘bullets’–little black circles in front of phrases that were supposed…