Write about what you know, not what you heard on Fox News

Write about what you know, not what you heard on Fox News
image: dumblittleman.com

Last week I picked apart a paragraph that floated to my attention online and I have since been in touch with the author.  It was, as could be expected a rough go at first, but all is good now.

Not surprisingly, the reference source for said paragraph was either Fox News or something very Fox News-like.  You can read that hatchet job here.

As it turns out, the writer is not a bad person and much brighter than one might conclude having read The Paragraph, which was rife with every manner of writing error.

My problem, though was not with the composition itself, but this habit my conservative friends have of pouring the President’s name into a blender, mixing in all the evils of the world and turning it into a fraudulent frappe.

In an attempt to sound erudite (a word that was relentlessly mispronounced in the Divergent movies), the author included some stock market babble and a little mish mash about the oil companies and fracking, things he admitted that he knew even less about than the stock market.

We all use terms like depression, recession, market correction and bear territory like we know what they mean.  Well, I do, but not everyone does.  Most people, however think they do, and that is where they get in trouble.

I think it was Mark Twain who said, “Write what you know,” but it could’ve my editor, Jimmy.  In any case, it makes sense.

That advice might not be as limiting as it sounds.  Being alive is about learning new things, which means that each of us could, and should have an ever expanding knowledge base.  Having a wifi connection puts most things known to man at your fingertips.

One of Donald Trump’s strengths is that his speeches are in plain, no-frills English.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing even semi-intelligent sounding, but he gets his point across.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to “dress to impress” when writing.  Fancy words don’t have any impact if they’re used incorrectly.

Words, like numbers have meanings.  If you say, “The weather is really beating on Seattle,” you’re not really saying much about what’s going on in Seattle.  Could be a heat wave, could be a blizzard.  Weather is whatever is going on outside your window; rain, snow, the Santa Ana winds or the longest heat wave on record.

Punctuation can be a potent tool, but correct capitalization shows you’ve got a grasp of your task.  Sometimes the word “president” is capitalized, sometimes it’s not.  Sometimes there’s an apostrophe before the “s” in the word “it’s,” sometimes there isn’t.

If you’re unsure about any of the above, there’s plenty of places to look, including this one.  Spend some time, familiarize yourself with the intricacies of our magnificent language.  You’ll be a better writer for it.

These are the kinds of things that will make your writing more impressive, even erudite, if that’s what you’re going for.  Oops, is that a dangling preposition?

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