Are you baffled by the perplexing terminology favored by American politicians and pundits? A new book by Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark is here to help. Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs, and Washington Handshakes is an informative and humorous guide to deciphering contemporary political lingo. Here we present an excerpt from the book's introduction.  Continue reading...
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In my recent reading I've gone on a major Mark Twain kick, and with every page I read, my admiration for Twain's writing grows. William Dean Howells, a contemporary and friend, called Twain "the Lincoln of our literature," and the title rings true, both for the plainspoken American vernacular that the two mastered, and for the boldness with which they faced our democracy's ugliest stain, the enslaving of African-Americans by European-Americans.  Continue reading...
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I've said it before and I'll say it again: the single most enjoyable way to improve your writing is to read good books. Take a moment waiting for the bus one day and think, "What's a classic that I know by name but have never read?" If one strikes your fancy, get it, open it to page one, and start reading.  Continue reading...
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"A breath of fresh air." "Few and far between." "At the end of the day." These are just a few of the clichés examined by Orin Hargraves, an experienced lexicographer and one of our regular contributors, in his new book It's Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliches. In this excerpt, Hargraves explains how to "free your speech and writing of unneeded and detrimental clichés."  Continue reading...
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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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