Showing posts with label style. Show all posts
Showing posts with label style. Show all posts

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Evening

Marcel Proust 1900.

Good Evening.

Today was another very busy day. I put in my requests for conferences with my boss and am negotiating with him and the director about them. I will have to see exactly how it goes.

I spent some more time weeding the social science section. I contacted the system office to get a circulation list to check for items with low circulation to speed up the process. I am hoping I will get it soon.

I also had a meeting with reference staff and the library director discussing collection development and weeding. We are going to rearrange the layout of the library soon. It should be an interesting challenge.

I also spent a bunch more time ordering from the Baker & Taylor Paperclips catalog. I finished doing it today. I've gone through a years worth of mass market paperback titles and selected the ones which I think we should have. This covers fantasy, fiction, historical fiction, horror, mystery, religious fiction, romance, street lit (urban fiction), suspense, and a few nonfiction titles. There were also some computer titles as well.

This morning I read some of Copyediting & Proofreading for Dummies on the train. The book gives descriptions of the job duties of a copyeditor and a proofreader. It also explains the process and gives examples of copyediting and proofreading. There is a complete listing of all the major proofreaders marks with examples of how they are used. I am finding this very helpful in understanding how to make a document presentable to an editor. The book recommends, Woe Is I, a book on grammar which I have put on hold.

The book had a few interesting things which I had not seen before. There was a section with four different stylesheets from editors which was interesting to look at. The stylesheets set down rules on grammar and design for a particular publisher. I have seen proofreading tests, but not stylesheets.

The book also covers an interesting phenomenon. Most books are edited and proofread completely electronically. Manuscripts are forwarded back and forth by email between the editor, publisher, and author. A lot of proofreaders work from home. Reducing the amount of paper used in making books reduces costs and saves time. Yet, the physical book itself is still mostly a printed object.

Occassionally, you come across an interesting tidbit of information. Google has a define: command which allows you to look up information like a dictionary. I don't use dictionaries that often, unless I am looking up words for someone else. Then I tend to use The American Heritage Dictionary and Merriam Websters 11th Edition. The last dictionary I used was

A few style manuals are suggested. I have the Chicago Manual of Style at home. It is currently in storage in the attic. I tried to read it from front to back, but found it was very boring and hard to read. It was something which you would use as a reference not something to read for entertainment. In contrast, I have Words Into Type, a now long out of print style manual which I found quite enjoyable to read.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Writing Well The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction-- William Zinsser-- Review

On Writing Well The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, Sixth Edition, Revised and Updated, c1998 by William Zinsser is a guide to writing nonfiction. I found this book to be quite interesting. It is one of the first books that I have ever read that specifically focuses just on nonfiction writing. Almost every previous work I read on writing was focused on creative writing or poetry.

Much of the book is how to find your unique voice and not write like other people. He encourages people to develop an individual style different from other writers. The book reminds the reader that writing is more than about making money. It is about personal satisfaction. Zinsser describes how his mother would clip articles from newspapers for him to read that were examples of good writing.

For Zinsser that are two main focuses for the nonfiction writer. These are person and place. Every activity involves people and the best way to write about activities is to find out about the people who do them according to Zinsser. The other corresponding things which goes with people is place. All activities occur in a particular space. Zinsser describes his trip to see a camel caravan in Timbuktu as one example of an interesting place to visit.

The many different types of writing he covers: sports, memoir, travel, science and technology, humor, business, and the arts and criticism seem incidental to his focus on creating consistent craftshmanship. Zinsser comes back to a set of principles; write clearly and concisely, avoid jargon, use words people understand, and write about what you are interested in.

Writing is a process for him, never completely done, and always with room for improvement. He admonishes the novice writer to stick to their principles and insist that editors not change things without looking at the work first.

Nonfiction is as much literature in this book as fiction is. There is more nonfiction written than fiction being written every day. Journalism is just as valuable in Zinsser's creed as novels.

There was quite a bit of biographical information sketched into the book on writing. We learn that the author enjoys traveling, is a native of New York, is a city person, and loved writing for newspapers.

The one section I have some trepidation about was on how to interview people. I have been quite nervous about the idea of interviewing people for this blog. I have trouble rewriting what people have said. I often find myself being quite meticulous about quoting what people have said. I like to go back to ask people for clarification most of the time when I quote people.

If you are looking for a clear guide on how to develop a unique style, voice, and write clearly for nonfiction, this book is worth reading. The book, however does not cover a huge amount of material on grammar or usage. I think the book would make an excellent companion read to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. E.B. White is quoted several times in On Writing Well.

This book could be used to improve a lot of the blogs which I have been reading on the internet. Too many are focused on selling a product or service and do not have a personal voice, or a unique style.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Review-- The Elements of Style Illustrated, Entrecard

The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, Illustrated by Maira Kalman, Penguin, New York c2005. This is a truly wonderful book which makes an old classic even better.

I have seen a lot of blogs with heavy marketing and advertising prose. This book is about how to write, clear, concise, stylish prose. It was originally written in 1911 by William Strunk, Jr. an english professor who wanted to create a to the point book on how to write clearly. The book is considered a classic. Most writers claim to have read it. It is one of those books you are supposed to have read at least once.

His student, E.B. White took up the revision of the book in the second edition. This is the third edition. E.B. White is best known for writing the American children's classic Charlotte's web. He was also an essayist for the New Yorker. E.B. White further expanded the original book to include information on style. He wrote on how to design prose, form it into paragraphs, make the speaker identifiable in dialogue, and included sections on words to avoid like like, thrust, thus and other overused english.

The different between this book and other style books is that it is enjoyable to read. The examples used are entertaining. For example, the author writes "Be obscure clearly! Be wild in tongue in a way we can understand." He also exhorts people to first develop clarity, before deciding to use more flowery words. He uses many recognized people as part of his examples, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, E.M. Forster, William Faulkner, and others. It is a truly literary work.

The Maira Kalman illustrations add to the quality of the work. They are mostly light and airy watercolors. The watercolors are of captions from the text. An example is, "Well Susan this is a fine mess you are in." Above this caption is a watercolor of a basset hound.

This book has helped many people improve the quality of their writing, making it more clear, precise and understandable. I am glad I had the chance to read the latest edition.


I have been trying various methods to increase traffic to my website. So far Entrecard, a form of business logo exchange has gotten me the most results. I have doubled daily my traffic since trying this network. It is also fairly entertaining to use. You get to look at a lot of different blogs in many categories. It is kind of interesting seeing your logo on someone elses blog site.

The othe service that is working is Blogcatalog. It has essentially helped build a network of daily readers for my blog which I wouldn't have had if I didn't try their service out. I have joined several blog groups inside their network relevant to what I am writing about, science fiction, the environment, reading, and writing.
I got rid of the Widgetbucks graphic novel and book items and replaced them with a Powell's Bookstore affiliate search button. I thought this would make the site more consistent and look better. Widgetbucks was also not working very well. I also got rid of the fish tank and shrank down the blog catalog banner from 10 viewers to 5. I think it looks better.