Friday, May 29, 2009

Just that

Writing pet peeve:
Sentences in which the subject and the object are the same word, with "just that" in between.
Example: Knuckleheads who like the Yankees are just that, knuckleheads.
It is understandable how this happens in conversation. You might say, "The genius who first combined chocolate and peanut butter is, well, just that, a genius."
But it is inexecusable in writing. It reflects the worst kind of laziness, refusing to self-edit. It shows up in letters to the editor all the time.
Few letter writers bother to edit their own work. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but I can't imagine submitting something for publication without editing it first.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Newspaper bloopers

More from Richard Lederer, author of "Anguished English" — Newspaper bloopers:

The airplane was only a few feet from the ground when it crashed, witnesses said.

With the exception of victimless crimes (which need not concern us here), every single crime committed in this nation of ours involves a victim.

Simon Wynne has been kicked off the ESU basketball team after being arrested and accused of driving a parked car while intoxicated.

Montreal police don't hesitate to use whatever laws, regulations or persuasions they feel they need to control morality in the city and prevent it from getting a foothold.

A college friendship that began a year ago ended in matrimony yesterday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

You don't know Jack

Reader Jack e-mailed the following in response to last Friday's quiz:

I think the answers are
1. Moby Dick (or the great white whale) H. Melville
2. A tale of two cities, c. Dickens
3. Pride and Prejudice, J. Austin
4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, S. L. Clements (NDP Mark Twain.
5. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger ( I hated that book)
6. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, in my humble opinion one of, if not the greatest Writer of my Generation
7.The Great Gatsby, F. S. Fitzgerald (college Assignment, hated it)
8. The Old Man of the Sea, E. Hemingway ( I think this was Hemingways best work, many of the others were of the Strong Man, Breast-Beating, Hard Drinking, Courageous, genre (which he belied, by committing a messy suicide rather than show true courage and battle an illness,)(just my humble opinion)
9. 1984, Orwell
10. Absalom, Absalom, W. Faulkner.
Fun Quiz, and challenging, I liked it that you slipped a couple of easy one and a couple of more difficult (read forgettable) ones.

Jack knows his literature. He got 100 percent. Well done.

If you haven't yet stumbled across "Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language" by Richard Lederer, you ought to get your hands on a copy. A sample:

From a want ad: "Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with a round bottom for efficient beating."

Lederer has a sequel entitled "More Anguished English: an Expose of Embarrassing, Excruciating, and Egregious Errors in English."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


This is the 100th post on this blog. I orginally expected to post every weekday, which would have meant that the 100th post would have been published last August. But reality set in. I now shoot for two posts a week and often settle for one.

Speaking of 100, when the late Isaac Isamov wrote his 100th book, he chose to base it on his favorite subject: himself. At least he admitted it: "Any writer who is a monster of vanity and egocentricity — like myself for instance — would love to write a book like that." He called the book "Opus 100."

The prolific Isamov wrote or edited more than 500 books. And, if Wikipedia is to be believed, his works have been published in nine of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal System. Although he wrote on chemistry, astronomy, history and literature, he is best known for his science fiction novels.

He wrote: "I don't indulge in scholarly depth. I don't make creative contributions. I'm a translator. I can read a dozen dull books and make one interesting book out of them."

In a single decade, he wrote 68 books. That's a book every 53 days.

Asmiov is probably the most popular science fiction writer of all time. And the least popular. Critic John Jenkins wrote: "It has been pointed out that most science fiction writers since the 1950s have been affected by Asimov, either modeling their style on his or deliberately avoiding anything like his style."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Opening lines


Identify the books that begin with these first lines. Also identify the authors.

1. Call me Ishmael.

2. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

3. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

4. "TOM!"
No answer.
No answer.

5. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

6. To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.

7. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

8. He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

9. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

10. From a little after two o'clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in which Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that— a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Resume bloopers

Looking for a job in writing?

One tip: Proof your resume.

Back when I hired reporters, the first task was to narrow the list by eliminating as many applications as possible right away. A sloppy resume is a red flag. I remember one applicant who wrote that she was a part-time, on-call EMT.
She meant to write: I have one eight-hour shift a week.
But she left out the "f" in shift. Either that or she suffered from a chronic periodic bowel disorder. Regular irregularity? At least she knew when it was coming.

The online Resume Dictionary ( lists the following actual resume bloopers (with my comments).
* References: Dictionary, Almanac, and the Guinness Book of World Records. (What, no encyclopedias?)
* References will be executed upon request. (Even if they recommend you for the job?)
* Will provide sootable references. (Must be hiring a chimney sweep.)
* References will provide references. (But you have to figure out who they are.)

Application Bloopers —

Please list your past experience:
* I don't believe in reincarnation. (But ask me again in my next life.)
* Did not keep track. (Don't worry, we can call your mother.)
* I have no past. (You're hired, Jason Bourne.)
* I have no experience but I am willing to find some. (Just tell me where to look.)
* I have been clean and sober since college. (And I haven't been to college since last night.)

Reason for leaving last job:
* Maturity leave. (Don't worry, I got over it.)
* Took leave of abstinence. (I'm thinking of making it permanent.)
* The policy manual forced me to. (Something about showing up for work every day ...)
* Didn't need one. (A job or a reason?)
* For a bitter job. (That's why I'm here, to punish myself.)

Ever come across a resume or application blooper? Please share.