STEVEN PINKER: 10
'GRAMMAR RULES' IT'S OK TO BREAK (SOMETIMES)
You shudder at a split infinitive, know when to use “that” or
“which” and would never confuse “less” with “fewer” – but are
these rules always right, elegant or sensible, asks linguist
Steven Pinker in a column for The
THE MYSTERY OF SACAGAWEA
Natalie Shure writes that, since aiding Lewis and Clark on their
famed 19th-century expedition across the West, a Shoshone heroine
has become a symbol for everything from Manifest Destiny to
women’s rights to American diversity. She wonders if it matters
that we don’t seem to know that much about her and traces how
writers and historians have created their versions of Sacagawea. http://www.buzzfeed.com/natalieshure/how-the-west-was-wrong-the-two-sacagaweas#.lfonp4W5L
KNOWN DRAFT OF KING JAMES BIBLE IS FOUND, SCHOLAR SAYS
Schuessler reports that an American scholar has found in an
unassuming notebook held in an archive at the University of
Cambridge, “what he says is an important new clue to the earthly
processes behind that masterpiece: the earliest known draft, and
the only one definitively written in the hand of one of the
roughly four dozen translators who worked on it.”
BUCK ROGERS AND THE COPYRIGHT TROLLS
Anthony Rogers was a character in Phillip Nowlan’s 1928 novel,
“Armageddon 2419 A.D.,” and, when a comic strip was made the
nickname of “Buck” was added. The heirs of the comic strip Buck
have been fending off movies and TV execs who would want to reboot
the concept without paying to rights to a company that may not own
the copyright. The Conan Doyle Estate had been shaking everyone
down for sub-litigation payoffs and asserting claims over Holmes
(despite serious copyright scholars all saying they had no right
to do so). Les Klinger won the Sherlock case and hopes to win the
case of hero from the future. http://boingboing.net/2015/10/16/buck-rogers-and-the-copyright.html
THE NEEDLESS COMPLEXITY OF ACADEMIC WRITING
Victoria Clayton discusses a new movement that is striving for
simplicity in governmental and academic writing. In recent years,
she says the driving force for clear writing has been Annetta
Cheek, the co-founder of the D.C.-based nonprofit Center for Plain
Language. An anthropologist by training, she left academia in the
early 1980s to work for the Federal Aviation Commission and is
responsible for the 2010 Plain Writing Act. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/complex-academic-writing/412255/
Another website explores the history of plain writing in
government and begins its discussion before the 1970s, saying,
“After World War II, federal employees like Jim Minor advocated
plain language in government documents. John O'Hayre, an employee
of the Bureau of Land Management, wrote a book called Gobbledygook
Has Gotta Go.” http://www.plainlanguage.gov/whatisPL/history/locke.cfm
A web search revealed useful information from this very
newsletter, back in August 2008:
In the 20th Century, rhetoricians tried to fight against
gobbledygook, multi-syllabic constructions that didn't say much.
For example, during World War II, the Office of Civilian Defense
advised in a pamphlet: “Such obscuration can be obtained either by
blackout construction or by terminating the illumination.” The
agency should have simply said [as President Roosevelt pointed
out], “During an enemy air raid, put up blackout curtains if work
must continue. If work can stop, turn off the lights.”
For more information about “readability” and the “Fog Index,” you
should Google or Yahoo those terms, along with “Rudolf Flesch” and
“George Orwell Politics and the English Language.”
COLD WAR SPY TO ANGRY OLD MAN: THE POLITICS OF JOHN LE CARRÉ
Adam Sisman, who has penned a biography of John le Carré, writes
in The Guardian that “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”
was such a hit that John le Carré (penname for David Cornwell) had
to resign from the secret service when his cover was blown. In the
decades since, as his new biographer writes, his politics have
become more overt, and more
In the New Statesman, William Boyd writes “Why
John le Carré is more than a spy novelist” and notes that le
Carré modernized the spy novel first established by Joseph Conrad
and made spy novels more realistic than what Ian Fleming did with
his James Bond melodramas. Boyd refers to Adam Sisman’s fine
biography of le Carré, which shows that young David Cornwell’s
childhood at times resembled that of a Dickens’ hero.
IN SEARCH OF TAD SPACES
By HOWARD DENSON
I won’t bore you with my tales of working as a printer’s devil,
setting up some type, stereotyping using molten lead, and furtive
attempts to figure out how to use a Ludlow machine for headlines.
Take my word that early on, I focused on types, various fonts, and
diverse and sundry peculiarities of printing, gaining more
knowledge about it than you may have, but less than a journeyman
printer would know.
This interest ratcheted up a notch or two when Aldus Page Maker
desktop publishing came along. This program let you lay out a page
as in the hot metal days without worrying about molten lead
splashing onto your pants legs and socks.
You eventually started noticing inconsistencies. For example, with
apostrophes and quotation marks, you have quote marks that have
curly tails and other quote marks that look like snake bites. An
apostrophe might have a curly tail…or a single fang mark.
If you are editing or proofing something, you keep an eye out if
the text gives you a mixture of the two fonts. You then fix the
problem so that the text uses a consistent style.
“So what? Who cares? Who notices?”
Actually, readers who pay attention to the language often spot
such irregularities, and they either feel sorry for the writer or
editor who let the flaw through…or they go tsk-tsk at the lack of
skill in the supposed professionals. I notice and care because I’m
an “indie” author who wants his books to be as professional and
polished as possible.
This preamble leads me to a problem that I have been fighting for
fifty years: the quote within a quote. What’s galling is that I
was unaware of another style requirement (see later in this
Let’s enter the world of Warnertopia, where candidate Bugs Bunny
is running for office. A story might say this:
Earth Party candidate Bugs Bunny came out of his warren and
announced, “As our founding bunnies said, I want a government ‘of
the carrot, for the carrot, and by the carrot.’”
Notice that the sentence ends with ’” (a single and double quote),
and, in hot metal days, it was devilishly hard to get the
punctuation through an editor, a linotype operator, and proof
readers in the composing room and on the copy desks. I would try
to check the galley proofs and the page proofs to ensure that it
came out correctly.
Another Warnertopia story may say:
“‘Of the carrot, for the carrot, and by the carrot’—that’s what
our founding bunnies fought for,” said Earth Party candidate Bugs
Here you encounter a problem produced by the curly font quotation
marks. When you have an initial quotation mark (“) and put a
single quote next to it, you end up with “’ (notice the second one
isn’t curling in the right distance). Also, if you are referring
to years, you initially get ‘99 when you want ’99.
Did I hear you scream, “Who cares? Who notices? So what?” Well,
many people do, so sit your fanny down and pay attention. (Sorry:
the teacher still comes bubbling out of me.)
So I laboriously go along initially typing ‘’99 and then go into
the date to delete the opening single quote since the mark that
shows that something is omitted curls the other way.
An advantage of the snakebite quotes and the single fang mark is
that you don’t have curly tails to worry about.
The defaults in programs may create irritations, as in this
“What’s up, Doc?” Asks Bugs Bunny.
The writer probably had “asks” properly written in lowercase, but
the defaults may be telling auto-correct: “Hang on, a question
mark is a terminal punctuation mark. That means the next word
should be capitalized.” In this case, it shouldn’t, so an alert
editor or proofreader will fix the error.
Then in the middle of the revisions and proofings of three of my
upcoming books, the eagle eyes of Frank Green (head of The Bard
Society) spotted a problem in Clare and the Country People and
I was not using the tad space.
In fact, I didn’t know what a tad space was, and, while it’s
probably discussed in The Chicago Manual of Style, my copy is
somewhere in the home library, I’m guessing down about the seventh
layer, a few inches from Hector’s helmet.
Let’s look at one of the Bugs quotations from earlier and see how
it’s supposed to look:
Earth Party candidate Bugs Bunny came out of his warren and
announced, “As our founding bunnies said, I want a government ‘of
the carrot, for the carrot, and by the carrot.’”
Here is what you do to get that small space between the single and
double quote marks:
· Highlight the
· Click on Home
and then Font.
· On the lower
right, click on the arrow to get the full page.
· Notice that you
have Fonts and then Advanced. Click on Advanced.
· You will notice
the screen shows options for Character Spacing, with the second
line being Spacing.
· Change Normal on
Spacing to Expanded. The default is set for 1 pt., but, to make it
easier to spot, this discussion has changed it to 2 pts. (And it’s
highly possible that the various email programs may simply omit
If you just hit the space bar, you will wind up with too much
space. You could go another route: Insert, to Symbols, to More
Symbols, to Special Characters. When you go down the options for
Special Characters, you will see ¼ em space.
These options are largely for Microsoft Word, but several word
processing programs will have similar options. PageMaker (now put
out by Adobe) had an option called “tracking,” and you could
expand or tighten a line as the page layout required.
After I went through an entire manuscript inserting ¼ em spaces, I
discovered an occasional problem. If the closing quote within a
quote was at the end of a line, I might have “…carrot.’ on one
line and “ all by itself starting the next line.
So I tracked down Frank’s directions and laboriously changed all
my changes to what is recommended earlier.
“So what, Doc? Who cares? Who notices, Doc?”
Just you watch it, you wascally wabbit!
NFW SCHEDULES NEXT QUARTERLY MEETING IN JANUARY
The Jan. 9 quarterly meeting of the North Florida Writers will
feature education writer and novelist Edward Baldwin.
The meeting will start at noon and end before Riverside VyStar
closes at 3 p.m.
Critiques after the speaker
For the critiques, someone other than the author of respective
works will read aloud the submissions (up to 20 double-spaced
TYPED pages of prose, and reasonable amounts of poetry or lyrics).
Authors may not defend their work, but they may attach questions
they would like answered (e.g., “Is the scene on the beach
convincing?”). Authors should listen to the words and rhythms of
Parking: VyStar requests that NFW members and guests park on the
side of the buildings to leave spaces in front for their regular
CHAMBLIN’S UPTOWN SETS BOOK RELEASE PARTY FOR WILEY’S ‘SECOND SKIN’
Wiley, an English department faculty member at the University of
North Florida, writes two series of mysteries: the Joe Kozmarski
Detective Novels, generally set in Chicago, and the Daniel Turner
thrillers, set in northern Florida.
In “Second Skin,” Florida businessman William Byrd is summoned to
identify the trussed-up, naked body of a woman found in a pile of
garbage on Blue Avenue. He recognizes the victim as Belinda Mabry,
the girl with whom he spent a passionate summer 25 years before.
He is determined to find out what happened to the woman he once
loved and must revisit his own troubled past.
In the Daniel Turner thrillers, Homicide Detective Turner appears
in stories told by others – victims, perps, innocent and guilty
bystanders. More than a secondary character but never quite
primary, he gets caught in the spirals of crime that he
investigates. He is the common element in lives and deaths in the
backwoods and on the city streets of northern Florida.
WRITERS BY THE SEA TO HEAR SEVEN STEPS TO GETTING BOOKS INTO READERS’ HANDS
Writers By The Sea, the Fernandina Beach chapter of the Florida
Writers Assn., will hear Raffaela Marie Rizzo Fenn, author
and marketing communications consultant, on Thursday, Nov. 19, .at
the Amelia Island Museum of History
233 S. Third St., Fernandina Beach 32034).
Her talk is entitled “Marketing Matters—Seven Steps to Getting
your Book into Readers’ Hands.” At 6 p.m., members and guest will
gather for good seats/announcements, and the presentation will
begin at 6:30, followed by breakout specialty groups.
Authors are learning that selling books in today’s competitive
environment requires more than simply making the title available
to readers. “Writing is an art, but selling books is a business,”
says Ms. Fenn. Her seven-step approach is aimed at helping indie
published authors unleash their business thinking to help them
sell more books.
She is a former senior executive with numerous business and
marketing communications awards. Her new book, “Thank you
for the Shoes: the Story of an Extraordinary, Ordinary Man”
launched in October, and is gaining national and international
attention. Currently, she serves as president of Ottima
Group LLC and its subsidiary, Giro di Mondo, Publishing
Services. Formerly she was with Rayonier Inc. and was the
inaugural president of the USA National Peanut Board. She holds an
MBA from Jacksonville University and a BA in media studies from
Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., where she graduated
magna cum laude. She is a member of the Florida Writers
Association, and serves as this year’s President of the Amelia
Island Book Festival. In addition to being a director on the
Nassau County Boys & Girls Clubs Foundation Board, she is a
lector at St. Michael’s RC Church in Fernandina Beach. Born
in Italy, raised in Connecticut, she and her husband, Mark, make
Amelia Island home.
A few key success factors covered to increase book sales include
developing an actionable marketing plan; unearthing your unique
“brand platform” and identifying and igniting your targeted
audience segments. With Fenn’s seven-step approached, authors will
be armed to help ensure their hard work in writing their book is
rewarded by the recognition and sales it deserves.
At Writers by the Sea, attendance is free to all writers, from all
backgrounds (adult and young adult), with an invitation to join
the FWA. Check for updates on meetings and more at:
· For more
information, contact the group leader, Nadine Vaughan, Ph.D. at
TROUBLE MEETING YOUR WRITING GOALS? TRY TIPS FROM CLAY COUNTY WRITERS
The Nov. 18 meeting of the Clay County Writers will focus on “Goal
Setting for Writers: Planning to Pursue Your Passion in 2016.” The
meeting will begin at 6:15 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. It will be in
the conference room of the Orange Park Library (2054 Plainfield
Ave., off Kingsley Ave. just behind the Dairy Queen).
Meetings are free and open to all.
The facilitator for the meeting will be Dr. Maureen A. Jung, whose
communication workshops have reached thousands of individuals
across the country: businesspeople, consultants, and professional
Since 1984, she has been a Fellow of the South Coast Writing
Project, University of California, Santa Barbara. She’s written
over a hundred articles for business, popular, and peer-reviewed
publications. A writer/editor of two White House presentations,
Maureen was lead writer on a successful $15 million Federal grant
for a healthcare nonprofit.
In 2012, she wrote A Place to Grow: Nutritious Food, Better
Health, Stronger Communities, a study of nutrition education and
obesity prevention projects for the California Dept. of Public
Health and the Network for a Healthy California. Maureen has
edited more than 20 nonfiction books, including Karen Elizabeth
Gordon’s acclaimed grammar and punctuation classics, The New
Well-Tempered Sentence and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The
Ultimate Grammar Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the
Goal-setting experts say the most powerful step in achieving a
goal is to write it down. Focus on your writing dreams and
jumpstart your plans to achieve them. Consider these questions:
* What steps do you need to take to reach your goals?
* What potential resources have you left untapped?
* How can you improve at the craft of writing?
* Where will you begin?
Aspiring writers are encouraged to join with others for a hands-on
exercise in mapping writing goals. Mind mapping is an easy,
practical approach to learning, planning, and problem-solving.
Bring along your to-do list, your questions, and your ideas. Each
writer will leave with a writing goals map, including steps for
achievement. Start now (if you haven’t already) to plan for
greater success over the next 13 months.
Ms. Jung, also the group leader for the Clay chapter of the
Florida Writers Assn., gives this update about the Clay County
anthology: “In our November and December meetings, we’ll discuss
progress on our group anthology project. CCW members may
contribute their articles, short stories, poems, scripts, memoirs,
etc. to this joint effort. Attend this session to find out the
details and to discuss your specific topics.”
Monthly meetings (the third Wednesday) focus on the art, craft,
and business of writing.
Some meetings offer presentations by author-speakers. We also hold
hands-on sessions, where writers sharpen their skills, give and
receive feedback, and leave with practical suggestions to improve
JAX BY JAX
ON NOV. 14 TO FEATURE 24 WRITERS IN PARK, KING, RIVERSIDE
Twenty-four writers and poets will participate in the Nov. 14 Jax by Jax celebration
at 12 venues near Park and King in Jacksonville’s Riverside.
The Saturday event will go from 3 to 7 p.m.
For $10, people may attend an after-party and book-signing at
Evervess Art Studio on the
corner of Rosselle and King Streets.
Organizer Tim Gilmore says Jax by Jax seeks to show this city how
its writers are writing it, to show Jacksonville its own thriving
writing scene, and to introduce the city to its own literary
voice. In 2014, its inaugural year, Jax by Jax brought out 500
people to see 14 featured writers. In 2015, Jax by Jax will
feature 22 writers in 11 venues around the intersections of Park
and King Streets in central Riverside.
The writers and poets include Fred Dale, Monica DePaul, Frances
Driscoll, Tangela Floyd, Sohrab Homi Fracis, Liz Gibson, Tim
Gilmore, Lisa Vick Grubba, Matthew Lany, Jordan Logue, Johnny
Masiulewicz, Tiffany Melanson, Emily K. Michael, Carol O’Dell,
G.M. Palmer, Marcus Pactor, Heather Peters, H.K. Rainey, Raleigh
Rand, Andres Rojas, Michaela Tashjian, Jeff Whipple, April Gray
Wilder, Hurley Winkler.
Readings will be held at the Annex Bar, Beer:30, Cool Moose Cafe,
Flaire Celebrations, Jacksonville Magazine, Nourish: A Juice Café,
Paperwhite Salon, Riverside Liquors, Silver Cow Watering Hole,
Sunday Tattoo Gallery, Superhero Hive Comic Book Store, Whiteway
For more information, go to http://www.jaxbyjax.com
or contact Tim Gilmore at 904.616.3884 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FWA NEWS FROM VIC DIGENTI
Lots of good news in this month’s blog post for NE Florida FWA
members, and writers of all persuasions. Click here to read all
Aside from a listing of our regular meetings you’ll find a tip of
the hat to winners from this year’s RPLA competition. Hopefully,
you’re among them, or plan to be next year.
The second edition of a paperback collection, “The Wrong Stuff:
Findings of a Forensic Grammarian,” is available online at Amazon.com and
Barnes & Nobel’s website.
WRITERS BORN THIS MONTH
To check out the names of writers who were born this month, go to
this website: http://howarddenson.webs.com/novwritersbirthdays.htm
The list includes novelists, poets, playwrights, nonfiction
authors, writers for the small and silver screen, and others.
Looking for your favorite writer? Hit “find” at the website and
type in your favorite’s name. Keep scrolling to find writers born
in other months.
With misgivings, the list generally omits lyricists (to avoid the
plethora of garage-band guitarists who knock out a lyric in two
minutes to go with a tune). Often lyricists are accomplished in
other writing areas and may cause their inclusion (e.g., Bob
Dylan, Johnny Mercer, and Cole Porter).
Unfortunately, some writers fret about identity theft and will
only say they were born in 1972 or whenever. Typically that means
they don’t get included on a “born this day” list. Recommendation:
Writers may wish to create a “pen birthday”; that way, their names
stay on the public’s radar.
If you see that we have omitted a writer, give us his or her name
(and preferably a way to verify the belly-button day).
SOME USEFUL LINKS
Writers, poets, and playwrights will find useful tools at
You may join us at any time on
Facebook. Webmeister Richard Levine has changed the privacy
setting of the NFW from Closed to Public. That way, you can check
out our group at your leisure.
SOMEONE TO CRITIQUE A MANUSCRIPT?
If you have a finished manuscript that you want critiqued or
proofread, then look for someone at
http://howarddenson.webs.com/potentialcritiquers.htm. Check out
their entries on the website to see if they suit your needs. They
include the following: Robert Blade Writing & Editing
(email@example.com); Frank Green of The Bard Society
(firstname.lastname@example.org); JJ Grindstaff-Swathwood
(email@example.com); Brad Hall (firstname.lastname@example.org);
Joseph Kaval (email@example.com); and Richard Levine
THE WRITE STAFF
President: Howard Denson (hd3nson@hotmail. com)
Vice President: Joyce Davidson (davent2010@comcast. net)
Secretary: Kathy Marsh (kathygmarsh@bellsouth. net)
Treasurer: Richard Levine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Presidents Emeriti: Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson, Nate
Tolar, Joyce Davidson, Margaret Gloag, Richard Levine, Bob
Alexander, JoAnn Harter Murray, Carrol Wolverton, Margie Sauls,