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Writing: Help for bad bloggers

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I am experiencing the bad writing blues. They appear when I read too many poorly written pieces in a short period of time. Within the last 48 hours I’ve read several sad excuses for blog entries and tortured myself with the worst written of the magazines for Macintosh users, MacHome. Though, as some of you know, I have written for Mac periodicals and sites in the past, I try to avoid MacHome, because, despite changes in ownership and staff, it is consistently inferior in regard to both writing and content. Still, I pick up an issue from time to time lest I let something slip by me on the Mac beat. Pick it up only to throw it across the room in frustration numerous times while trying to read it.

But, the bad blogger problem comes first. Let’s examine an example of poor blog writing and consider what can be done to improve it.

Degrees of Separatism (Dammit I’m Hungry)

My company has relocated to a new, more modern and highly secure building. Every morning I run, literally, down to the cafeteria for breakfast. We have been warned: not to eat at our desk, not to have drinks at our desk, any food must be consumed in the cafeteria. We are urged to sit in the front of the cafe, not to fraternize (read: bother) anyone from other departments and any food left from the meal must be disposed of before returning to the floor. Anyone caught with food at their desk will be reprimanded. For food?

The building we just left, I agree was nasty, but they had been in that building upwards of 8 years of course it was going to be nasty, especially when you only have 1 person cleaning in behind 500.

I understand their train of thought: Keep this new building new. But is treating adults like children really going to accomplish this?

You can see people at their desk choking on crumbs when management walks by. Nabs are hidden in the far crevices of desk drawers. Should people really fear losing their job if they spill water? (And yes it really is that serious)

The saddest part is the walk to the cafeteria. You have to take the elevator down to the Plaza and then walk through the hub, 1/4 mile, to get to the cafe. The hub is basically the stock hall. Everything that doesn’t work or has no more use is stored there(Cletus are you trying to tell me something?). The hub is straight out of a major motion thriller. It leaks. Its dark. You can hear unidentified movements lurking behind unaccessible doors. Did I mention my department is the only section that has to use the hub? To take the conspiracy theory even further, our access to floors and doors that would be quicker en route to the cafe are off limits.

The major issue is that, none of the other departments are under such stringent guidelines. And it is causing quite the issue in the office. We feel like we are the step children of the company. Whenever we attempt to address our discourse it is simply implied “Be glad you have a job!” Is that truly the right response? What about work morale? They are doing nothing to improve it but they continue to expect outstanding results.

It’s like High School all over again. Managers patrol the floor looking for any sign of edible contraband. That lets me know that my job has to be expendible if this is all you have to do all day!

Whats even worse than us being the children under the stairs is the cleaning people in the building are treated even worse. They sit on the far side of the cafeteria in nothing less then a corner, where they are instructed to sit. They sit by themselves, too themselves. If we make eye contact (as is the Southern way) they speak then proceed on their way with heads down. Why aren’t we able to mingle amongst one another? What separates management from us and us from them besides title and responsibility? And the most important question: would I have noticed had I not been in the same position as them?

Likely, the first problem you’ve noticed is a tendency toward run-on sentences. The best way to remedy the habit is to remember that a sentence can be defined as a complete thought. If you are communicating more than one complete thought, you probably need more than one sentence. Caveat: Good writers can use long sentences effectively. But someone writing at a level this low should not try to.

We have been warned: not to eat at our desk, not to have drinks at our desk, any food must be consumed in the cafeteria. We are urged to sit in the front of the cafe, not to fraternize (read: bother) anyone from other departments and any food left from the meal must be disposed of before returning to the floor. Anyone caught with food at their desk will be reprimanded. For food?

The passage above is easily rewritten to fix the problem:

We have been warned not to eat at our desk and not to have drinks at our desk. Any food must be consumed in the cafeteria. We are urged to sit in the front of the cafe and not to fraternize (read: bother) anyone from other departments. Any food left from the meal must be disposed of before returning to the floor. Anyone caught with food at their desk will be reprimanded. For food?

Better, you say. But, there’s still a problem with subject-verb disagreement. Let’s repair it, too.

We have been warned not to eat at our desks and not to have drinks at our desks. Any food must be consumed in the cafeteria. We are urged to sit in the front of the cafe and not to fraternize (read: bother) anyone from other departments. Any food left from the meal must be disposed of before returning to the floor. Anyone caught with food at his desk will be reprimanded. For food?

I also think the parentheses interrupt the flow of the middle sentence. Away they go:

We are urged to sit in the front of the cafe and not to fraternize with, i.e., bother, anyone from other departments.

You will notice I corrected the use of fraternize by adding the preposition ‘with.’ A verb, ‘having,’ should also be added to the last sentence for clarity. There are other grammar and usage problems throughout the entry. Here are some rules to follow to prevent them:

  • Numbers under 10 should be spelled out.
  • Only proper nouns should be capitalized.
  • Contractions require commas.
  • Make sure a word is a word before you use it.
  • And let’s not forget the important matter of spelling. If you are not naturally a good speller, it is a good idea to keep a pocket dictionary next to your computer. You can check the correctness of a word in a snap. Just as easy is using an online spellchecker, particularly if you have a broadband connection. There is one built into Jaguar’s version of Sherlock on the Mac. Just type in the word and, voila!, its spelling, meaning and synonyms will appear. Alternatively, you can add Dictionary.com or a similar site to your bookmarks.

    Some readers will ask: But does it matter? Yes, it does. The way information is presented can influence how people interpret the issues it addresses. In the entry above, the topic, which it is not presented as clearly as it should be, seeks the reader’s sympathy. It is the creation of a demoralizing work environment that also mirrors class, and, possibly, race divisions. A reader not particularly sympathetic to the writer’s perspective would probably use the entry as evidence against better treatment of the workers, viewing the many mistakes as proof of the incompetence of one of them. Obviously, that is not the writer’s goal.

    Here are some more suggestions for poor writers:

  • Your problem started when you were in elementary school. You may need to revisit that level of writing. Many semiliterate adults improve their skills by reading books written for children. They learn what they missed the second time around. This can be done cheaply. Check out books, starting out at the third or fourth grade level, from the public library.
  • Once you have progressed to at least a high school reading level, study texts designed to teach people to write effectively. An old favorite of mine is The Holt Handbook. Do not skip doing the exercises. They are an important part of the process. Back in the days when I did adjunct teaching of writing and journalism, I also found an earlier version of Writing and Thinking: A Handbook of Composition and Revision useful when working with college students in Philadelphia. (Many of them came from the city’s horrid public schools and could barely read and write on the 9th grade level.) For reasons not clear to me, people who are poor readers and writers also often have abysmal skills when it comes to analytical thinking. So, the latter book serves two purposes. Other excellent resources are The Gregg Reference Manual and the tried and true Bible of writing, The Elements of Style.

  • There is also software available that can help you with your writing. Be sure to start off with the easiest level and move up gradually.
  • Read. Read. Read. Good writers are usually people who read quality material on a daily basis. They pick up writing skills by a sort of osmosis. That material can be anything from newspapers, to novels to well-written web entries, but you must read.
  • Note: This entry has gotten pretty long, so I will save what I have to say about MacHome for a later one. The magazine, which I will hold to a higher standard than I do bloggers, will not get off lightly.

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    About The Diva

    • You wrote: “Contractions require commas.”

      I believe you meant to write that they require apostrophes. No?

    • Eric Olsen

      The thing about Buddy is when he is on, his playing just stings like no one else.

    • I’m jealous, Mark. The closest I’ve ever been able to get to him was maybe 15 feet away, despite having a press pass. I’ve leaned on local blues dudes, such as Curtis Salgado and Steve Miller, to let me tag along when Buddy’s in the area, but so far, no luck.

    • i got to go to the Buddy Guy record release party for “Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues”…it was in a basement function room of a church in the middle of a peabody, ma. suburban neighborhood.

      it was just so weird to park in the back of this church, to then enter a huge room full of cigarette smokin’, on-the-way-to-being-drunk blues fans.

      and buddy rocked. oh ya.

    • Gotcha, Mars. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Eric, the Buddy Man is just IT! And, when he performs with Johny Lang it is as close as one gets to nirvana in this life.

    • Natalie, I completely deny having abused anyone anywhere on this thread. Telling the truth about someone’s ability level is not abusing her. Nor is telling the truth about why some white people ‘adopt’ blacks of low ability as sort of house pets abusive in any way.

      I will grant that I could IGNORE more of the stupid things people say and I may adopt that policy. I know at least one other bright Blogcritic has decided to limit his responses because one spends a lot of time talking to people who will never, ever, grasp what one is saying. I don’t know why I haven’t adopted that policy more often online. When I go to the beauty salon or the grocery store, I talk to the hairdresser or the clerk about the weather or a tabloid’s cover, not Critical Legal Studies or communications theory. But, for some reason I tend to treat people online as if they are more capable of intelligent discussion than most of them are. Perhaps it is time to stop doing that.

    • MD, the phrase is “couldn’t care less”.

      /pet peeve

    • Dew

      The only level of ‘relationship’ that should exist is an intimacy level. To feel that an ‘equal’ level of association is deserved denotes a mindframe of inferiority. To be equal should be expected and silently understood.

      just a random thought

    • Eric Olsen

      The poll can only take ten options so we just took the top ten from the Rolling Stone list. But that’s why we also wrote a post about it so people could complain about the options and put in their own. Buddy rules.

    • MD, with all due respect, just because someone calls you out for the abusive comments you have been throwing around does not mean they do not view you as equal to anyone else. Also, just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they have necessarily been brainwashed by anyone. One more thing: All the oppression in the world does not justify abusing other people. Golden rule and all.

    • Eric Olsen

      Fair enough

    • BTW, I am boycotting the guitarist poll because Buddy Guy is not on the list, Eric. How can there be a poll for the ten best guitarists that omits him?

    • That would be funny, Eric. But there are a few black people so brainwashed they would make the same blunders Phillip has.

      Note that I am not calling him names or abusing him as he has me. May he live well and prosper . . . and leave me alone.

    • Eric Olsen

      Okay, I made that up

    • Eric Olsen

      At this point I only think it fair to reveal that Phillip is black.

    • Correction, No. 18.

      I hope this IS the last I hear from Phillip Winn. When white people can’t tolerate equal relationships with people of color I think it is best they leave those of us not willing to accept unequal relationships with them alone. As Bell’s Rules 4 and 5 point out, there are always people of color willing to play the inferior role white people like that are comfortable with. That is the kind of person Phillip should be seeking out.

    • Are you utterly delusional, Phillip? Referring to me as ‘poison’ and now a troll leaves no doubt as to your intentions toward me. Nor did I not realize it was me you intended to insult in No. 19. I just chose to turn the insult on its head. That comment is one of the most inane remarks I’ve encountered on the Web, denoting a person who has neither a sense of race interactions or of group psychology. Furthermore, your ridiculous rationalization (if multiple people participate in an abusive act, the abuse is deserved) justifies ALL racism and most abuses of other sorts — something a smart person would have realized when he wrote it.

      Frankly I could care less about not getting further comments from you. You are obviously so threatened by someone like me you can barely breathe and type at the same time. Stick with ‘great’ bloggers of color who can’t write a readable sentence. They will never threaten your sense of white privilege as I do.

    • Just thought to mention this as a possible helper for writers:

      There are at least two grammar software programs out there that while not being perfect teachers by any stretch, are still kind of cool to throw one’s text in and see what the machine churns back.

      – RightWriter, which is an old DOS proggy and I’m not sure what has become of it (google it?)

      – Grammatik, which comes with Wordperfect (at least version 10, it does).

    • Dew

      welle ced theori

    • Eric Olsen

      The point of this entire exercise is, or shuld be in my opinion, not to dissuade anyone from writing, but to encourage those who have something to say – as does everyone here as far as I am concerned – to make their expression as readable as possible.
      As Phillip said somewhere along the way, the better you know the rules, the more cleverly you can break them, or something.

    • The Theory

      for the record, i cannot spell, don’t know grammar, have no clue about proper sentance structure, or anything like that. So most of the entries i just grind out suck 100%. A few entries, however, capture my *sparkle* or something and become my inner voice which then become the entries which I look back on and say, “Yes, that was a good piece of writing, flaws and all.”

    • MD (#26) I’m very confused by your comment, which seems to be in response to mine. It seems that you’re implying that Dew skin is of a darker hue, a fact I know not one way or the other. I assure you that my comments to Dew were in no way related to her skin color, but were rather simple statements of my opinion on her writing skill.

      You then seem to be further twisting my words and attempting to turn them into some sort of racial slur against you. I assure you again that my words were chosen with no thought whatsoever to the color of your skin, only to the bitterness of your words.

      You missed my point entirely in comment 18, which is not surprising. Hint: It wasn’t aimed at Dew. You don’t seem to be as smart as you think you are, or maybe the bitterness overpowers your intelligence. You won’t have any more comments from me to worry about, however, as I should have learned some time ago not to feed the trolls.

    • Must echo MD’s comment re: Julia. Her Sisyphus Shrugged is a compelling, well-written blog that is on my daily must-read list. And she’s a great person too.

    • Eric Olsen

      Julia should join us, then.

    • As I mentioned to Natalie in an email, an important piece of advice I forgot is to suggest the writer read his material aloud to himself, particularly if the sentence construction seems bumpy. One can identify awkward sentences better orally most of the time. Natalie’s oratory style is a good example of how speech can be an effective guide to good writing.

      Julia is not giving her blog its due. Yes, she does some personal blogging, including keeping readers aware of what her little girl is up to. BUT, she also is one of the best writers of political commentary in the blogosphere. She has a knack for blending the personal and the political few bloggers can hold a candle to.

      Julia’s point about stats is also accurate. Currently, many of the third and fourth tier blogs’ stats are mainly the work of link exchanging among the mediocre. Good writing has next to nothing to do with it.

      I am not ignoring you, Mark. I need to become more familiar with your blog.

    • I dunno, I was impressed with the way you stayed on focus in our one conversation, considering that I (as usual) was bouncing around topics like a charged particle.

      Oh, also I parenthesize far too much.

    • Eric Olsen

      No Natalie, you teach like a speaker, and that is a good thing (you know, usually)

    • A lot of the best writing sounds like the author is speaking. I try to accomplish that in my work, to varyingn degrees of success. Then again, everyone tells me that I speak like a teacher, so whether this is a good thing, in my case, is debatable.

    • “I think some blogs are written in much more of a personal voice than others”

      that is exactly what i attempt to do…make my writing sound very close to my speaking voice, funny noises & all.

    • I tend to be discursive when I write, but it’s not an attempt at style – I talk this way too (strange but true).

      I think some blogs are written in much more of a personal voice than others – they don’t get the most hits or the highest traffic (lord knows I don’t), but they’re probably equally satisfying to the people who write them (at least mine is).

      De gustibus, I guess I’m saying. Of course, I have a mad passion for kimchee, so my gustibus is a little singular, I also guess.

    • Eric Olsen

      I vote thumbs up on the smart darkies.

    • Your writing IS great, Dew. Greatly in need of improvement. ‘Dumb darkies deserve approval’ pats on the ole nappy head notwithstanding, you need to go back and learn what you missed in the fourth grade.

      As for the ‘smart darkies are poison,’ perspective, that is nothing new. It is part and parcel of the insitutionalized and individual racism used to keep black people down for centuries.

    • Natalie’s critique, #4 above, seemed to be right on target. You seem to have the right attitude of taking help where you can find it, even when the source is poison. In the end, the only editor that matters is the one that publishes you, but we can all use improvement, no matter how long we’ve been writing.

      I’ve been known to say that “Some rules are meant to be broken, but what’s the fun in breaking rules if you don’t even know what they are?”

      Keep up the great work, Dew.

    • Dew

      Correction: I will respect you, regardless of you respecting yourself.

    • Dew

      I completely agree TDavid. It was not the critique that was of concern to me it was the intent. I’m not so silly as to run and hide in a corner because the ‘mean mac’ edited my writng, however harsh. It was the reasoning for doing so. As she/he pointed out it was I who stabbed them in the back so she/he unyielded their attack that previously they had hampered. By all accounts that is vindictive.

      I had already stated several times over that I am not the best when it comes to the grammatical protocol. In poetry, grammar in most cases can be done away with all together, depending on the line strcture you are using, if any.

      My most conspicuous issue is that I write what I am thinking. So the overuse of parathesis is because I have no other way to relay the sarcastic undertone that is apparent when actually speaking with me. You can not hear my infliction as you are reading so you lose quite a bit of the animation that is DEW. In writing I do my best to make it seem like a conversation. Maybe that is a fault?

      I am a generation X’er to the core. I don’t believe in rules, I believe in breaking them. I will respect you as long as I perceive you are respecting me. And I accept my faults as well as my assets equally. But above all I don’t sweat the small stuff.

      ‘Scared’ the title of my book is self-published and I am currently reworking it for the interest that I have peaked in several agents. I do expect them to ‘red-ink’ me horribly and that is fine. How else will I learn and grow?

    • Dew –

      You mentioned you have a book of poetry (published?), yes/no? I can attest (and so can others, I’m sure, if they have submitted non-fiction, fiction or articles for publishing) from personal experience that Mac Diva’s article critique above (not talking about any of her comments above) is standard fare for Literary Agents and editors.

      If there is fat then they want it pruned. Think a character has little point or use in the plot? Gone. Grammar, punctuation, spelling errors? Fix them. Scenes you love that they find are too much backstory and not enough advancing of the plot? Outta here. Even authors as successful as Stephen King have to go under the knife — though I’m sure he can fight for a lot more content than most (Maximum Overdrive, anybody?) and editors have slayed him for years anyway. Shows you what some editors really know about the economics of the business.

      Fiction and article writing are somewhat different animals, yes, but writing is writing. Despite any perceived (falsely or otherwise) agenda that Mac Diva might have had for writing this article, the bottom line remains that editors and Literary Agents — the folks who will have a direct impact on all our work before seeing print — are similarly as critical when it comes to technically admonishing a writer’s work.

      Personal and artistic feelings aside, unfortunately (for us writer’s feelings, that is), this is a fact.

      Now whether it is “nice” for Mac Diva to critique someone’s work without specifically requesting it is a whole other issue.

      My personal feelings are that if blogcritics is going to have editors, it should have official, designated editors rather than let the other blogcritics police each other on such technical issues through other article entries. I don’t think this is very appropriate and is not going to help encourage new blogcritics to join and want to submit articles if any other blogcritics (in a sense, the fellow collective) can come out and beat up technically on their writing.

      It’s one thing to constructively comment on the piece but to drag out another entry and perform a technical autopsy on it is not what I thought this site was about(?) Let the readers do that, fine, but other blogcritics? Why? Plenty out there to review that we don’t need to review ourselves, yes? Let the readers review us and use the comment area for critique, review or designate editors to screen all submissions and keep this internal technical stuff behind the scenes.

      Despite what we all think, most readers don’t break out the microscope like we do — they will skip reading writers who write bad (and Dew, I’m not saying you write bad, I’m just speaking generally). If the majority of the content is written poorly then it will naturally affect said reader’s opinion of the site and all the blogcritics writers.

      After all, comments can be used to critique a piece after publishing by readers 😉 But for one entry to directly use another as an example to pick apart technically doesn’t say too much for the blocritics collective.

      Just my 2 1/2 rusted pennies.

    • John, I wrote a piece on a review of Rebecca’s Blood’s book on blogging. It is around here somewhere. Rebecca disagrees with much of what the guy says about her, but the entry is still worth reading. There’s also an entry about interviewing Wil Wheaton, one of the celebrity bloggers, that touches on the issue you raise. And, another about interviewing Ethan Zuckerman (he founded Tripod), a very deserving celebrity blogger, who is expanding IT to the Third World.

      I write a series called Blogospherics regularly about issues of blogging for Mac-a-ro-nies. Some of those will hopefully be included in a chapter in a new book about blogging. (To the extent Blogger hasn’t eaten my archives anyway.) The books written so far are mainly how-to. I hope to see someone get beyond that.

    • Eric Olsen

      There are two sides to instruction: pointing out mistakes and noting highlights. To paraphrase MD, she is essentially correct that attention to writing detail (spelling, punctuation) does two things – it makes reading the content easier, and it serves to prevent readers from dismissing that content out of hand. It’s like a club with a very public but rather esoteric code, and if you work within the code that is one less excuse readers have to not read you.

      Now isn’t content the important thing? yes, it certainly is, and in this regard Dew has the goods, as has been pointed out. She is an old soul regardless of her age, and much that is sweet, penetrating, deftly observational, and wise comes from within her. With a little editing it shines, but MD is correct to point out that self-editing is the best editing of all.

      And may peace reign over the valley. Good God, y’all.

    • I agree, Phillip. Dew should examine herself. But, that takes intelligence and insight. I don’t hold out much hope.

      As for being on her bad side, the only choice seems to be to be either snowed by her deceptions or there. I prefer there. Having removed the long knife she shoved into my back so gleefully, I am going to keep my distance from now on.

    • A general word of advice to nobody in particular: When more and more people end up on your bad side, is it possible that your bad side is the outside? Blaming others starts to ring hollow after a while, when that list of “others” grows longer and longer with almost every post. Examine yourself, honestly, please.

    • Dew, or shall we say Miss Sneaky, ‘forgot’ to post the URL to the entry on her blog that preceded the comment she quotes. It is a long, vicious rant calling me everything from crazy to unfit to play in ‘her’ sandbox, i.e., Blogcritics. It appears that no one wanted me gone from Blogcritics more than ‘Sweet’ Dew. Classic Bell’s Rules 3 and 4 mentality there.

      However, that has nothing to do with this entry. I knew Dew was an awful excuse for a writer from the first time I read one of her entries. I also felt embarassed for her because her semiliteracy (after graduation from a black college that needs higher standards, obviously) plays into the stereotype of African-Americans as incapable of coherent speech. That was long before last night, when I was tipped off about the entry on her blog assailing me.

      Nuff said.

    • Marsden,

      Hello? I WISH I got more traffic at Mac-a-ro-nies than Blogcritics does. I am assuming most people don’t read my posts at Blogcritics. Or any minor blogger’s posts here. They likely just check out friends or skim us. Jan probably gets more readers here than anyone else because he has the highest name recognition. If my next book sells well, I’m gonna drop being anonymous and give him a nudge-:).

    • MD, one thing that struck me in your post #9 as surprising was the following:

      I made a point of not using a URL on my regular blog so as to spare the person used as an example embarassment. Most people who read the entry will never know the example’s name.

      You get more traffic than blogcritics? Congrats!

      Aside from that, this post is much appreciated, and will serve me well no doubt.

    • Dew

      Natalie I do appreciate your view and thank you for it. Through your posts and comments I can tell there is sincerity in your words, they definitely do not fall on deaf ears.

      I’m glad that ‘Dear Dad’ was able to touch you, that is always my intent. Although I do question myself, it is self inflicted, I don’t let negative comments or opinions deter me from my goals but I am more than grateful for the encouragement.

      As for Diva, I find it sad for you to make such a simple and predictable assumption about myself or my past. I was a student in the International Baccalaureate Program. I graduated with honors (without a curve) and I am not saying there were no fights or guns, I just didn’t see any. Unlike you I can not make such assumptions about things I do not know no matter how much I need them to be true.

      Don’t worry I will make this my last refute to any of the Diva’s comments because I know how hard it is for her to exhibit the least amount of maturity. Maturity, funny word isn’t it? It is also the reason I did not place a certain post on Blogcritics. At the time it was written the climate here was beyond hostile and I knew it would only add fuel to the fire. I do not expect Diva to understand such actions. (But I still thank Ash-a, not Ash-ley for the reference 😉

      I also apologize there is no conspiracy theory here to explore. There is no covert operation to write blogs and hide them from Diva, but I am flattered you see yourself in such high regards with me, that you would believe I am doing so. And with an accomplice too, that’s just precious…

      As for the imsinuation I am in a relationship with Al, you are quite correct! Seeming as though a relationship is the act of association I am in a relationship with everyone I encounter on this site. Now if what you meant to imply was that I am intimately involved with him I apologize for the misrepresentation. I do not know Mr Barger personally or anyone here for that matter. Although what I do know is that it isn’t me or my writing that is the problem, it is the fact that I defended your nemisis and not you. I did not jump on your band waggon to disspell and expose the evil racists lurking in cyberspace and that, to you, was simply intolerable. Every comment thus far has included reference to Al and a personal attack:

      Broaden your admission. You don’t know what anything is. And, strangely, Instead of realizing you are functioning at an elementary school level, you think there is something wrong with smart people. You seem not to have a clue about your limitations, though they are glaring. I will expend an hour or two to try to remedy that.

      Nor does your Uncle Tomming of Al Barger do anything to raise my opinion of you. It is just more evidence of lack of judgment, and, I suspect, profound stupidity.

      I realize you will have to consult a dictiionary to grasp half the words I’ve written, but hope you eventually get the message.

      These were your comments, Miss Diva. Yet you honestly feel I should believe you did not single me out? Your rationale by far is most interesting…

    • Inflicting pain? How? I haven’t said a word about Dew that isn’t true. In fact, I could have said some unflattering things that reveal her true character and did not. Let’s just say that Miss ‘Sweet’ is really Miss Sneaky and leave it at that, Natalie. I will email you the details.

      Meanwhile, Dew can be comforted by Joe and Al. Who could ask for more?

    • Re: #9

      Stunning. MD, do you enjoy inflicting pain? That was patently unkind. Wow.

      And no, Al, I am not asking you, so please be gracious and grown-up — as you were in your lovely post to Dew — and refrain from replying. Please.

    • Ms Dew, I usually go straight to your posts first of anything on the site. Keep ’em coming.

      I suppose there’s always room for improvement, but I like your writing just the way it is. You have interesting things on your mind, and you express them clearly and with some gentle charm.

      Thank you.

    • Joe

      I hereby concede my candidacy for biggest A-hole in the blogosphere. I see, now, that I’m way out of my league.

    • (Dew, your love affair with Al Barger is fine with me, though I wasn’t aware of it until AFTER I wrote the entry above. Ditto for your joyful celebration of his having driven me from Blogcritics. I learned about that through the grapevine AFTER writing this blog entry, too. Your gaiety was a bit premature, though. Good-bye ain’t always gone. So, you might want to be careful what you say about people behind their backs. Sometimes, word gets back to them.)

      I have taught people with the writing problems Dew has. They often come from environments where going to school and not getting into a fight on a given day is considered a major achievement. They get As and Bs merely for good attendance and not being disruptive. Then, they arrive at college and are surprised to realize that the academic performance they think is excellent is on the ninth or tenth grade level at best. A minority of such students buckles down and improves. Most, many of them declaring the tests wrong and themselves right, fall by the wayside. What they lack in ability, they often compensate for in attitude.

      Dew was not singled out for this post. (My other choice was Murphy Horner. . . .Who will now tell me off.) I made a point of not using a URL on my regular blog so as to spare the person used as an example embarassment. Most people who read the entry will never know the example’s name.

      I hereby apologize for anything sharp I may have said to Dew, but not for this entry. It needed to be written.

      Furthermore, I wish Dew and Al the best of luck in their relationship.

    • Sweet Dew, it did not occur to me that this was aimed at you. I mentioned you because someone else did prior to my posting, but I wanted to encourage you because your contributions here are filled with such wonderful ideas and vibrancy and humanity. My “editing” was not directed at you personally in any way; my hope was to offer an alternative to MD’s take on the craft of writing. I pray it did not cause you sadness. I most humbly apologize if my words caused you any pain. It was my honest thought that the purpose of this posting was for the benefit of all of us. Lord knows I can always use the help. And don’t call yourself untalented — that is in no way true. I’ve seen your writings here and on Dew Process: Your words and wisdom touch people; they certainly touch me in the deepest places of my heart. Your poem about your father, in fact, has been a source of comfort to me during this very dark time. So, thank you for sharing yourself through writing. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself. You are a very special scribe with a loving heart and a singular voice. That’s cause for celebration.

    • Dew

      I am honest enough to admit I took this very personally(stop) I am also honest enough to admit that I have not ever been the best where grammar is concerned nor do I care to be if the above is the result(stop) Had this been sincere I would be humbled and appreciative but I know better(stop) I wanted to join Blogcritics to bring a twist of opinion to the site (pause)not cater to the ego of an adult who can(apostrophe)t let go(stop) As evidenced by the fact that she sought me out (pause) more than once(pause)for no other reason than to insult me(stop) Yet you can feel yourself an authority to put Al Barger in his place(question) Is that not hypocrisy(question)

      I do not write because I have to(stop) I write because I choose too (pause)and though your opinion has been noted and discarded I hold on to the fact that my book of poetry is still going strong after 6 months so there must be other simpletons out there who enjoy grammatically incorrect reading(stop)Fortunately for my untalented soul not even the Diva can change that(stop) Until this post I had received critism but not flat out brutal honest about my ‘piffle'(pause)which ironically sparked continuous debate(pause)branch-off posts(pause) an all too brief resignation(pause) tears(pause) and this present contempt(stop) Imagine when I actually learn what I am doing (exclamation)I had become accustomed (look 3 syl-la-bles)to having always been considered one of the most creative and well versed amongst the academe in which I socialize(stop)Now I guess that speaks to their inadequecy instead of my own prowess(stop) The Diva is intelligent without question but she is also angry for what ever reason and it is directly related to color lines(stop) If the fact that I choose to embrace someone with no regard to their race makes me an Uncle Tom as you so politely referred (pause) then so be it(stop) I would much rather embrace those around me despite their faults, colors and opinion which differs from my own than to hold on to so much hate(stop) I hope coming to my site and cr t c z ng(pause)excuse me(pause) demonizing me (pause) my friends (pause)my writing (pause) and my life style (pause) which you know nothing about(pause) made you feel vindicated(stop) The only thing you have shown me with this maliciousness is that you are no different from the evil you claim to expose(stop) And if by chance you are different it is only in your cleverness to appear genuine(stop)

    • Some other good writing books are Writing for the Mass Media, The Associated Press Style Book and Briefing on Media Law and Writing the News: A Guide for Print Journalists.

      I hope they write something as a guide for writing as a means for effective blogging in the future. I have noticed that blogs that are well-written tend to get more attention, if their topics are worthy, or blogs that are written by famous bloggers, whether well-written or not.

    • Somebody resurrect William Strunk Jr.! 🙂 Omit needless words! Omit needless words!

      Sheesh, MD, one of my entries was within the last 48 hours, should I be nervous?

      I worked (er, volunteered and had my account comped, that is) in Dan Hurley’s Amazing Instant Novelist (AIN) Area (keyword: novel) at AOL in 1997 judging 250 word, and then later 1000 word short story contest winners. An enjoyable and fulfilling experience in writing and writers on the web. I didn’t do this job at first, of course, they asked me to come aboard after I entered and won a few of the contests.

      At AIN we saw all kinds of stories, writing styles, use and misuse of words, paragraphs and sentence structure. Also spelling and the infrequently awful use of colors and font sizes that younger, less experienced writers seem to favor over choosing good old B & W. My favorite submission (not!) was written in a tiny font size with carnation pink text on a white background. My comment to the author?

      I’d love to comment on your work, but for some reason after reading I’m suddenly feeling kind of pink.

      Personally, I’ve ratcheted down true editorial standards on the web. The only styles that annoy me are articles that with overly long paragraphs and/or where the text is difficult to read. It’s hard on the eyes and tedious for the reader trying to gulp one huge paragraph or survive a couple of sentences with garbled text. Yes, it better be a whopper of a rhythmic payoff if one is going to go much beyond a few sentences before busting out a new paragraph.

      Whew, doesn’t it feel better reading paragraphs like this?

      So … liberally break up paragraphs, run the text through a spellchecker and maybe let it chill for an hour or two before changing from draft to publish. You’ll notice things that you didn’t notice when it was fresh. If you leave it lingering longer, all kinds of irritations and bugs surface.

      Like my aforementioned article where I used the word “entertainment” in back to back sentences. Grrrr, where’s the thesaurus?

      And omit needless words! Omit needless words!

    • Bravo, indeed, but I would disagree with a little of this. Let’s go back to your revision of the paragraph, and specifically, to the first sentence:

      We have been warned not to eat at our desks and not to have drinks at our desks.

      The author originally wrote:

      We have been warned: not to eat at our desk, not to have drinks at our desk, any food must be consumed in the cafeteria.

      Now, I sense that she is trying to capture a sense of urgency here, that she is attempting to make us hear the litany of demands coming from management. I like this, but a few repairs are required to make the sentence sing, I think.

      We have been warned: Don’t eat at your desk. Don’t drink at your desk. All food must be consumed in the cafeteria.

      The result offers the urgency through the flow of the words. That is pretty good, I think.

      Good writing is more than the use of grammar and spelling. There must be an element of style involved both in word choice and in the way the words are used, so as to breathe life into the prose and, thereby, grab the reader’s interest. Often, I alternate between using Bush, Shrub, Dubya, Commander-in-Thief, Thief-in-Chief, etc., for purely stylistic purposes. (This is only in politcal op-ed pieces, mind you.) For one thing, it makes the article’s point of view very clear. For another, it is dreadfully dull to read Bush, Bush, Bush again and again.

      We are urged to sit in the front of the cafe and not to fraternize (read: bother) anyone from other departments.

      You excised the parentheses in favor of using an i.e. construction, which is perfectly good and reasonable. Personally, though, I like parentheses at times. They can be manipulated to create a certain rhythm in the writing. In that particular sentence, they create a pause right at a place where I (as the author) would want the reader to slow his or her pace. And, in truth, I think using a comma and inserting i.e. followed by the phrase and another comma creates the same sort of pause. But that’s just me, an editor looking for stuff to edit.

      The bottom line is this: There are many ways to good writing, and sometimes rules are made, as they say, to be broken. While respecting said rules — you have to learn them before you can break them – try all kinds of tricks and strategies and develop your own style and voice. Then you can be not only a good writer, but a singular voice.

      Great advice, MD. Thanks for posting this.

      And Dew, you’re terrific. Keep writing. Read, read, read, and write every single day. I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years, and experience has shown me that the combination of voracious reading and disciplined writing creates writers people want to read. You are certainly on that road.

    • Eric Olsen

      Absolutely right on all counts, except I would also encourage our sweet Dew who has much to offer and has an interesting way of saying it.

      I would also add this: the reason precise writing is important is that it reflects precise thinking, and in fact requires it.

    • It’s funny how relative it all is.

      I get annoyed while reading people’s writing all the time, but I know I am less than perfect. Still, I get the “grammar nazi” label frequently in certain circles where people’s minimum level of grammar knowledge is lower.

      At the same time, if a pro started looking through my writing and picking it apart, I would probably scream the same nazi bit because I feel I maintain a minimum standard level.

      You are right on all counts MD, but do you think a minimum standard level exists? Is that good enough?

    • Bravo, MD! While my own efforts sometimes fall notably short of perfection, I do believe that a little care can go a long way in making our communication effective.

      Then again, I’ve been called a “grammar nazi” a time or two. It’s all like water off a duck’s back… 🙂