Wednesday, November 1, 2006

50 writing tools

20060629_140626_24309_1 Roy Peter Clark, of journalism’s Poynter Institute and its PoynterOnline blog, has recently (September 2006) published Writing Tools, a book of fifty essays on the essentials of better writing, many/most of which apply with equal force to legal writing. Poynter’s web site contains a blog devoted to these writing tools, periodically discussing each in greater detail. To get started, see Clark’s “quick list” of these tools; among them you’ll find memorable phrases that I think are destined to work their way into the lexicon of writing teachers everywhere.

A sampling follows:

·                     Be passive-aggressive.
Use passive verbs to showcase the "victim" of action.

·                     Let punctuation control pace and space.
Learn the rules, but realize you have more options than you think.

·                     Cut big, then small.
Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.

·                     Get the name of the dog.
Dig for the concrete and specific, details that appeal to the senses.

·                     Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.
Learn when to show, when to tell, and when to do both.

·                     Place gold coins along the path.
Reward the reader with high points, especially in the middle.


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