Entries by Denise

Writing succinctly – lessons from 1863

So much of the content written today must be succinct. Blogs, eDMs, social media posts — their length is measured in hundreds, not thousands, of words. It can be a challenge to boil something complex down to a few hundred compelling words — but if Abraham Lincoln could summarise his view of the American Civil […]

The inverted case study: starting with the results

You only have to read the two-page prologue to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History to find out that Bunny Corcoran was killed by his student friends. The rest of the novel explores the circumstances leading up to Bunny’s death, and the lasting effects it has on the group of students of which he was a […]

Imitation — the sincerest form of consistency?

When Sebastian Faulks was asked to write a James Bond novel to mark the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth, he was lucky enough to have a copy of Fleming’s article How to Write a Thriller to hand. This helped Faulks follow Fleming’s journalistic style of writing, and even copy his routine of producing 2,000 […]

Cut, to keep your content relevant

When the Guardian asked a number of authors for their top ten rules for writing fiction, the responses were intriguingly varied. Many of them mentioned the importance of reading widely (although a few disagreed). Many focused on the discipline needed to stick at the task, perhaps by writing an allotted number of words a day […]

Adventures in English not always required

I find that reading anything by Will Self turns into an exciting opportunity to learn new words or be reminded of others that are rarely used. Among the delicious words I encountered from skimming just a couple of his Guardian articles recently were: acicular, insensate, prelapsarian, fungible and fervid. That’s all very well when you’re […]

Trim the fat: simplifying abbreviations

Continuing with our theme of “things we were taught at school”, abbreviations are another area where we now differ from our colleagues in the US. Take ‘for example’, for example. I was taught to shorten the Latin ‘exempli gratia’ to e.g. Not only that but if the sentence continued, you’d have to add a comma: […]

Plain, simple language. That is the way to write English

“Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English.” So said master stylist Mark Twain, way back in 1880. Even though he would have celebrated his 177th birthday last November, Twain’s views on good writing still sound utterly contemporary. What’s more, they can be applied to content produced […]

Transatlantic English — the devil is in the detail

Just ten years ago, as an in-house writer, I was being asked to write in US English — not because our company wanted to talk to its customers in their ‘language’ but to give the organisation an international image. Back then, the corporations spoke and the audience listened. Today, communication is a lot more personal; […]