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"My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence. These little problems help me to do so." (Sherlock Holmes)

I sometimes enjoy embedding puns and subtle self-references into many of my answers and comments.

Remember, context is everything.


Never make the mistake of thinking that a tiny preposition has only one meaning.


Jan
8
comment How about a story as a series of anecdotes?
It seems like a lot of books follow this format. (The Five People You Meet in Heaven was the first that popped into my mind.)
Dec
28
comment alternatives to “he said” in dialog
Good general answer, although I don't think opined is particularly good in that example. Perhaps "I've found an important clue!" Bob exclaimed, or, "On the contrary, I think this clue is very important," Bob opined. (But that might just be the way I'm imagining it without additional context.)
Nov
26
comment How many errors should I expect from a proofreader?
No way to tell from the information given. You should at least reveal how many errors the proofreader found. If she missed ten but found a thousand, I'd say that's pretty good work. If she missed ten and only found twenty, I'd find that rather slipshod.
Nov
22
comment Headline method - How do I write The Economist-style headlines?
After doing the search you recommended, I find myself wondering: do you mean headlines, or tag lines?
Nov
9
comment Does this opening paragraph grab your attention? (very normal setting)
The new version seems much improved. I'd change "he didn't know what he was supposed to buy" to "he couldn't remember what he was supposed to buy." The sentence before that should be trimmed, too: "That's why he was standing in the busy convenience store." (No need to say the verbose "That had been the reason he had gone out, and entered" – that's all implied by the fact that he's standing there). One more suggestion: I'd change the first preposition from "at" to "inside". Otherwise, the wording can create the impression that Jun is outside, on the sidewalk next to the parking lot.
Nov
8
comment Does this opening paragraph grab your attention? (very normal setting)
alex: I wondered about that when I made that comment – maybe that's different in different country. I appreciate learning that. Still, it might be worth noting that an American reader, at least, would find that very strange indeed.
Nov
8
comment Does this opening paragraph grab your attention? (very normal setting)
That revelation might change the situation some, but the narrative still plods along. For example, don't say that he decided to sit on the stool, just have him sit on the stool. Also, "He scratched his ear and lifted his head" is your third sentence. How is that supposed to grab a reader's attention? It makes me feel like I'm in a long line at the bank – not getting strapped into a roller coaster for an exciting ride. Instead of focusing on his insignificant tics or who is in the store, try describing his panicked mind.
Nov
8
comment Does a Haiku needs to have exactly 17 syllables?
This is contradicted by the Wikipedia article about haiku. However, many people are taught the 5-7-5 syllable pattern for haiku, and it's become a commonly-held misconception. So, although I'd disagree with this answer in a technical sense, I think it reflects a widespread belief nonetheless.
Sep
24
comment Is it okay to call the reader's target audience stupid?
@Lauren: As I age closer to 50, I'm amazed at how many electronic devices have an array of buttons labeled with a tiny (3-point?) font, often black on black. (I even took a sharpie to the front of my television a year ago.) And when I first grabbed my DVD Recorder's user manual, I figured they had printed it in 10 languages, owing to its thickness. Nope, all English ~ all 118 pages :^\
Aug
21
comment What is it called when the outcome of the plot is not told?
I thought that was addressed (albeit indirectly) at the website, which says: "by leaving the major conflict unresolved, they [open endings] can also force us to confront your themes." Might that not be one way of emphasizing the journey over the destination? Just a thought.
Aug
7
comment How can I catch more errors when I proofread?
@ShantnuTiwari: I never intended to mock the user; not all humorous remarks are caustic. Sometimes humor can be used to communicate a point in a concise and memorable way. The O.P. (who responded to my answer 3 days after I wrote it, and even edited his question with "all these responses are great!") did not seem offended. When pointing out the irony or humor of a situation, two can chuckle together, there's no need for one to feel an affront. At no point did I attack the user with belittling language, like, "This is a stupid question." I'm sorry that you misinterpreted the tone of my remarks.
Jul
25
comment Which tense to use when writing a diary?
That seems to be what I've seen most; even this diarist used past tense as well :^)
Jul
17
comment How can I catch more errors when I proofread?
@ShantnuTiwari: I certainly don't find anything in this question irrelevant, or deserving of a flag. I was using the expression "asking the wrong question" idiomatically; as in "barking up the wrong tree," or "following a red herring." One other thing worth noting: my answer was migrated here from another forum when this question got migrated, so it may not be as ideally suited for a writers forum as it would be in a language forum. Still, I stand by it, and believe it makes a contribution to the overall discussion – albeit a minor one - as did the two people who upvoted it previously.
Jul
16
comment How can I catch more errors when I proofread?
@Shantnu: Perhaps it doesn't answer the question directly, but it does address the issue of whether or not the right question is being asked, or if the question has a valid answer. The O.P. wanted proofreading tips to help shave the process down from "hours" to "a few minutes". Most of the answers here allude to the fact that there's no magic solution to this hard problem. Even tricks like "read from the bottom up" might help make the proofreading process more thorough, but not necessarily more quick. The O.P. asked, "does anyone have any experience...?" I do; I've learned it takes time.
Jul
8
comment How/When to create deliberately boring characters?
In the old Star Trek series, they simply put on a red shirt. (Of course, that could have meant disposable just as easily as it meant boring.)
Jun
19
comment Does my story beginning hook the reader? (dialogue + narration)?
@JohnSmithers: I completely agree; which is why I specified "maybe" on my last suggested revision. However, such branding can be overused, and sound forced. Care must be taken in both directions. We've got a whole novel to reveal what kind of cigarettes she smokes; it needn't all be packed on Page 1.
Jun
19
comment Some doubts on the use of Italicized words
Italics are rude? You've got to be kidding me!
Jun
17
comment Does my story beginning hook the reader? (dialogue + narration)?
To become a good writer, one needs to realize how much rework is required. Usually, it takes several revisions to turn a mediocre passage into forceful and effective prose. You have let three people give you brutally honest criticism, thanked them graciously, and improved your piece. To me, that shows you have great potential. Once you've learned how to recognize these shortcomings in your own writing, and make incremental improvements, you'll be hooking readers in no time.
Jun
17
comment I'm getting tired of “he said” “she said” in dialogue; how do I get around it?
I agree that the method is overused in this answer. Then again, we're just trying to illustrate the technique here, so one might expect it might be used a bit densely in this small snippet, simply to show different ways the technique could be applied. I wouldn't expect a whole novel to read like this, but those are good examples of how to break up a monotonous string of he said/she said, which is what the O.P. wanted.
Jun
17
comment Does my story beginning hook the reader? (dialogue + narration)?
I like your advice to tighten it up, and your comment about how this usually takes several iterations: "took a package of Marlboro Light from her purse, and lit a cigarette up" becomes "took a package of Marlboro Light from her purse, and lit a cigarette" becomes "took a Marlboro Light from her purse, and lit it" and maybe even "grabbed a cigarette from her purse, and lit it."