Writing well and with profanities

Today has delivered me a wealth of thoughtful pieces on the art of writing well, though not necessarily politely:

The case for profanity

The New York Times has criticised a range of publications – not least the Times – on the old-fashioned way that media outlets refuse to use profane words like ‘fuck’, and the importance of including them in appropriate contexts. The article links to the ‘Fit to Print’ blog chronicling instances of careful wording the Times has used to avoid profanities, including delightful examples like:

He also told them not to talk nonsense, though he used a less family-friendly word.

And the rather confusing:

Aside from the Internet law signed Monday, the Russian leader also signed a new profanity law that levies heavy fines for using four common vulgarities in the arts including literature, movies, plays and television.


Writing well on a deadline

The annals of the Baltimore Sun seem like an obscure place to find content when you’re on this side of the equator*. However, the former head of the Sun’s copy desk has written an excellent ‘macro checklist‘ for reviewing one’s writing without getting too far into the nitty-gritty.

The list includes some excellent probing points:

How much better would it be if it were shorter?

Does the article conclude merely than trailing off? Does the conclusion in some way reflect the elements of the opening so that the reader is left with a sense of completion?

If you made an outline of the article, would it show a series of subtopics clearly related to the focus? Do you see transitions from one subtopic to the next?

It also checks the bits that it’s easy to overlook when you’re writing for a short deadline:

Does the rest of the article match the opening? Are there elements in the opening that are not developed in the article?

Is the level of abstraction excessive? Are concrete examples presented?

I’m planning to use this checklist for a lot of writing here on. Keep an eye out for some positive improvements right here. And as always, feedback on my writing is very welcome.


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