Making paragraphs flow

We all know that good paragraphs cohere around a single topic and are book-ended by strong, analytical take-away sentences. But how can a disjointed, staccato-sounding paragraph be made to have flow? Flow is an elusive quality — it’s the sense that sentences move logically and seamlessly without repetition or heavy-handed transitioning. Sometimes this flow comesContinue reading “Making paragraphs flow”

Intensifiers don’t

Intensifiers — the adverbs and adjectives that writers include to add force to their expression — don’t have the effect that some imagine they might. Take these two examples: Dave is a trustworthy employee. Dave is a really trustworthy employee. In which of these examples might a reader be left wondering if Dave will beContinue reading “Intensifiers don’t”

Words to watch for: zombie nouns

“The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction.” In her New York Times essay, the academic and writer Helen Sword terms “nominalizations” — that is, nouns that contains within them shorter verbs, adjectives, or other nouns — “zombie nouns” because they “cannibalize active verbs,Continue reading “Words to watch for: zombie nouns”

Words to watch for: the hollow verbs

“Shape without form, shade without colour, / Paralysed force, gesture without motion“: TS Eliot’s eponymous “hollow men” are said to represent Western culture after the First World War. It’s obviously a dramatic overstatement for me to apply Eliot’s post-apocalyptic words to a list of hollow verbs. And yet …

Bring clarity by objectifying your language

The mental movie of a mouse cowering the corner of a cage that has another mouse in it gets chunked into ‘social avoidance.’ You can’t blame the neuroscientist for thinking this way. She’s seen the movie thousands of times; she doesn’t need to hit the PLAY button in her visual memory and watch the crittersContinue reading “Bring clarity by objectifying your language”