Archive for March, 2013

The lookup logs from April 2003 read like a keyword list from a Tom Clancy novel: “regime”, “coalition”, “brigade”, “fatwa”, “semper fi”, “vanguard” and “propaganda” overwhelmed more mundane lookups like “affect” and “effect”. It was shock and awe, cinematic: things were happening so fast we could barely keep up. As the war progressed, “insurgent” shot to the top of the lookup list, then “collateral damage”.

There was one startling, enduring lookup that no one could have predicted: “democracy”. Democracy was in the top 20 lookups every year that coalition forces were in Iraq, and small wonder: were we not, after all, toppling a dictatorship and “bringing democracy to Iraq”?

— Kory Stamper in WMDs, RGPs, DHS: How the Iraq War Transformed the English Language

 My girl crush on Kory Stamper continues.


#13 Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling

What do all great stories have in common?

The word “but.” Which is to say inexperienced or poor storytellers structure their material with the words “and” or “then.” So “They did this, and then they did that, and then they did this, and then they did that,” which produces an episodic structure that doesn’t build on anything, and there’s no relationship between what came before and what came after.

Without the surprise, without the twist, if you don’t pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, then it’s unlikely you’re going to be memorable. It’s precisely the fact that things are not what they seem that makes a story interesting.

– Howard Suber in UCLA Professor Explains How You Can Be a Better Storyteller

Remember, this National Grammar Day, that there are people all around you with varying degrees of knowledge of and appreciation for the intricacies of English. Instead of calling people out on March 4th for all the usages they get wrong, how about pointing out all the thing things that people–against all odds–get right? Can you correctly pronounce “rough,” “though,” “through,” and “thought”? Congratulations, you have just navigated the Great Vowel Shift.

— Kory Stamper in A Plea for Sanity This National Grammar Day

I take from this two things: 1) National Grammar Day is a thing that exists, and 2) we could all use a reminder about the importance of approaching grammar with an attitude of kindness.