Ammon Shea's enjoyable, witty new book Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation shows that English isn't really bad at all — despite what legions of gripers and nitpickers have to say. Armed with facts and historical context, Shea gives readers an informed and enjoyable tour of the issues that annoy people the most about language.  Continue reading...
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Last month I examined the first lines of novels and how authors use different strategies to capture the reader. This month I will be looking at last lines, the different kinds of messages they send, and how they can leave the reader feeling about the novel as a whole.  Continue reading...
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If you have any interest in apologies, language as performance, or politics, you'll enjoy Edwin L. Battistella's Sorry About That: The Language of Public Apologies. This is a terrific book, full of compelling examples and expert analysis. Reading this book will not only help you become better at making a mea culpa: you'll become a sharper observer of other people's apologies too.  Continue reading...
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The first line of a novel has to accomplish many things at once. It has to grab the reader in some way with its immediacy, but also effectively introduce the rest of the book. A great opening line isn't a tweet, and it can withstand all the spoilers in the world, because literature is something thought through, and the pleasures are deeper than the next immediate payoff.  Continue reading...
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When beginning a story, a writer must decide, not only who will be in the story, what they'll do, and where and when they'll do it, but the point of view from which the story's people, places, and actions will be seen and described. Many options are available, and each one will make a big difference to how readers experience the story.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

Has Shakespeare's Dictionary Been Discovered?

Just in time for William Shakespeare's 450th birthday comes word of what could be an extremely important Shakespearean find. Two rare-book dealers have in their possession a copy of a sixteenth-century quadrilingual dictionary (bought on eBay!) that they claim belonged to Shakespeare himself. The dictionary is already known to be a favorite reference of the Bard, and the owners of this copy think the annotations are in Shakespeare's hand. But there are already many doubters. Read about it in the Guardian here.
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It's William Shakespeare's 450th birthday today. What better way to celebrate than with a whole host of learning resources focused on his words?  Continue reading...
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