person riding in a luxurious cab

Two types of prose from poet Robert Graves

In The Reader Over Your Shoulder: A Handbook for Writers of English Prose, English poet Robert Graves and his co-author, Alan Hodge, say: “There should be two main objects in ordinary prose writing: to convey a message, and to include in it nothing that will distract the reader’s attention or check his habitual pace of […]

weight and organize evidence

How to weight and organize evidence

In a typical financial white paper, you must organize evidence to support your argument. John R. Trimble’s Writing with Style suggests how you can do that. Step 1. List the evidence In Trimble’s example, a writer starts by listing all of the evidence. Next, the writer weighs the arguments. This is important because “the shotgun […]

MM d no d

MISTAKE MONDAY for February 24: Can YOU spot what’s wrong?

Can you spot what’s wrong in the image below? Please post your answer as a comment. Spellchecking wouldn’t catch this error. I post these challenges to raise awareness of the importance of proofreading.

bad vs. badly as shown by 3 boys sick in bed

I feel bad, or do I?

Which is correct—“I feel bad” or “I feel badly”—when asked “how do you feel?” I know “bad” is an adjective and “badly” is an adverb. However, I wasn’t sure which was correct in this case. So, I was interested in the entry for “Bad, badly” in Theodore Bernstein’s The Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to […]

Balance sentence length

Ideal ratio of long to short sentences?

Is there an ideal ratio of long to short sentences? A tip in John R. Trimble’s Writing with Style  made me ponder this question. Trimble says: As a rule of thumb, whenever you’ve written three longish sentences in a row, make your fourth a short one. And don’t fear the super-short sentence. It’s arresting. Sometimes […]