How to generate ideas for your writing

Painting by Adriano Cecchi

Learn the fine art of eavesdropping. Painting by Adriano CecchiI had forgotten how much I enjoy training.

Last night, I did a two-hour workshop on making blog content interesting at Bergvliet High School in Cape Town, which runs a very good continuing education programme.
It was small group, which made it possible for everybody to ask all their questions, and for me to answer queries and go over material in some detail.
Arising out of the workshop, I thought I’d share our starting point, which was how to generate ideas for writing interesting blog posts. Continue reading

Little language tip: Distressed, distraught

I spotted this on a site which shall remain nameless*.

In an article about a musician who had killed two people in a car crash was this phrase, used as a subhead:

“Singer takes to Facebook to express his distraught”.

Distraught is an adjective and can’t be used in that place in the sentence. The verb “express” needs a noun, and the right one here would be “distress”. The singer, on the other hand, can be distraught (or distressed).

  • I never mention the sites or names of authors where I spot mistakes. My purpose is not to name and shame or score points.

 

 

 

When to use the word alleged? Some simple rules

One of the most apparently difficult things to get right in news journalism is the correct use of the word alleged.
A Facebook post this morning from a local radio station illustrates the point:

“A shocking video has emerged online of an alleged taxi driver hitting a woman in a taxi at a CBD rank.”

See that alleged? It’s in the wrong place (and in fact is not even really needed) – and the sentence is just clumsy. Here’s what I would have done: Continue reading

What makes for a perfect paragraph?

Enter key

Picture by Artur Cimoch, freeimages.com

Long ago, at school, there was probably an English lesson about how and where to break text into paragraphs.

As I remember it, the idea was that one thought meant one paragraph, like this in a story from the Guardian:

“The Gambia is in financial distress. The coffers are virtually empty. That is a state of fact,” Fatty said. “It has been confirmed by technicians in the ministry of finance and the Central Bank of the Gambia.”

There are two sentences there, but they both relate to the question of how much money may be missing in The Gambia.

Compare that to the same thought in the Daily Mail:

But amid growing controversy over the assurances offered to Jammeh to guarantee his departure, Barrow aide Mai Fatty said the new administration had discovered that millions had recently been stolen.

‘The coffers are largely empty,’ he told reporters in the Senegalese capital Dakar.

Here, the Mail is applying what seems to be the modern trend, particularly in online articles: the end of every single sentence is a sign to hit the enter key and make a paragraph.

That makes for easy, fast editing and writing, and there is nothing wrong with that. Continue reading

Back to blogging

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Image Search.”

The prompt said:

Pick a random word and do Google image of on it. Check out the eleventh picture it brings up. Write about whatever that image brings to mind.
So I found the eleventh image for the word “tree” and decided to see how complicated it would be to do this on my phone.

The image is beautiful but formatting and working on this tiny screen is not.

Time to think about apostrophes

Time for the apostrophe
Recently, on Cape Talk radio (www.capetalk.co.za), afternoon host John Maytham read out a communication from a listener about a sign seen at the Mining Indaba where the apostrophe reared its small and annoying head. The sign said something like “Worlds’ Mines. How many worlds do the people at the Mining Indaba think there are?
Now this is one of the great dividers between the general population and Sticklers for English Usage (such as myself). In spoken English the apostrophe is irrelevant; in signs in shops that say Stickers and Tattoo’s (the Cape Science Centre, Feb 9) it doesn’t essentially matter: communication has been achieved and the shoppers know where to find the tattoos. Continue reading