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Writing tips and techniques

NEWS

9 ways to review and revise your writing

It's easy to equate revision with failure. “If I knew what I were doing, I'd get it right the first time,” many writers think. Revision is the best friend a writer can have. The trick is to use revision as a tool to make your writing clearer, sharper and more powerful. Here are some approaches to revising your work: Write … Read More
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Why I always play music during writing workshops

The most fun I have as a teacher is when I can incorporate music into writing instruction. (Photo by Armondo Solares) I was 46 years old, and my life and time were filled by three pursuits: teaching writing, coaching girls soccer and playing in a rock band. My imagination was born, or reborn, that year in 1994. Read More
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Coming clean: notes on becoming an honest writer

I’ve written four books since 2006, and I’m at work on another. But for every book that reaches publication, I have at least one (sometimes two or three) proposals rejected. One of them was to be called “The Honest Writer: A Guide to Originality.” I stumbled upon my proposal last week and delivered part of it to a group of … Read More
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Making the familiar strange: the legacy of journalist and novelist Gabriel García Márquez

This morning, on the front page of the Tampa Bay Times, I read the news that Gabriel García Márquez has died at the age of 87. He was a towering literary figure of the last century, journalist, novelist, essayist, public intellectual, and Nobel laureate. His fiction became a pillar in a literary movement known as “magical realism,” an oxymoron … Read More
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Why these are the 'Ten Best Sentences'

The editors of American Scholar have chosen “Ten Best Sentences” from literature, and readers have suggested many more. They threw in an eleventh for good measure. This lovely feature caught me in the middle of a new book project, "Art of X-ray Reading," in which I take classic passages such as these and look beneath the surface of the … Read More
NEWS

A new explanatory journalism can be built on a strong foundation

I like young writers with big ideas. I met Ezra Klein last year at a public writing conference sponsored by his old newspaper, The Washington Post, and the Poynter Institute. Like his writing, Klein was sharp, smart, and quick, arguing for a new kind of approach to writing about public policy. He said that in the digital age journalists were beginning to doubt the efficacy of what he called “the reverse pyramid,” his version of the more common “inverted pyramid.” He advocated taking more responsibility for what readers know and understand about government, policy, and all such technical issues. Sometimes this is best done in a Q&A format, or via a tidy bulleted list, forms that lead to less clutter, jargon, and bureaucratic obfuscation. Hooray, I thought. Finally, somebody is getting it. Read More
NEWS

Let grammar know who’s boss

So Tuesday is National Grammar Day. The first time I heard of that celebration, I thought that Poynter's Vicki Krueger had said “National Grandma Day.”  I’m not sure it’s a good thing that grammar – especially in New England – sounds something like grandma. I prefer to remember that at one time in the history of the English language the … Read More
NEWS

Blindsided: How Christie used passive verbs to turn himself into a victim

My brother frequently drives from New Jersey to New York across the George Washington Bridge to visit our 94-year-old mom. Her name is Shirley Clark, and she likes Chris Christie. She prefers her politicians to be straight talkers. She would agree with George Orwell that the best political rhetoric is “demotic,” a fancy word for the “voice of the people.” If I could bring Orwell back from his early grave, I would have loved to have sat next to him during the New Jersey governor’s press conference apologizing for dirty political tricks, or at his subsequent State of the State of New Jersey speech. Based on what Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language,” I think he would have given the governor a mixed grade. Reviewing Christie's words, there are moments when he seems to take responsibility for the traffic disasters as political vendetta in the city of Fort Lee. He says, for example, “I apologize to the people of Fort Lee” and “ultimately I am responsible for what happens under my watch – the good and the bad.” Read More
NEWS

Tips for Storytellers: Your personal brand

If someone "googles" you, what will they find? A well-crafted, professional profile? The finest samples of your work or structured settlement cash now? A summary of your ideas about the future of journalism? Over time, you leave quite a digital trail. Here are bits of advice for refining your personal brand—part of a series of graphics with … Read More
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