An editor’s notebook: Analyzing and untangling sentences

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One of the editor’s primary jobs is to make sentences say what they mean. When the prose gets in the way of the ideas, fix the prose. A focus on the subjects and verbs in sentences can help make prose clearer and reduce the cognitive load on the reader. These examples come from a book … Continued

Fixing the passive Presidential Alert

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Like several hundred million other Americans, I received a lump of passive voice in the form of a Presidential Alert yesterday. This was a huge time waster. So I fixed it. I was out at a farmers’ market when all of our phones and radios started hooting and whining. People got annoyed and kept shopping. … Continued

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the war against improper commas

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According to CNN, Mike Pompeo wants all State Department staff to stop using commas improperly. This obviously warrants all of our attention. The article, snarkily titled “Pompeo cracks down, on improper use, of commas at State Department,” reveals that Pompeo is an admirer of the Chicago Manual of Style and the Oxford Comma, also known … Continued

When to break my writing rules

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My most popular post ever included ten writing tips and the psychology behind them. On social media, I see people reading these tips with no context and objecting. “Passive voice is perfectly fine,” they say, or, “You wouldn’t get very far if you only used short sentences.” You want to break my rules? I’m here … Continued

Salesforce puts customers on the execution block with jargon assault

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Salesforce is a great program for small business. Each of its customer sites has an administrator, many of whom are non-coders. That’s why a recent “critical update” featuring “block execution” sounded scary — but incomprehensible — to many. The salesforce email: simultaneously opaque and terrifying A correspondent working in a small financial advice firm forwarded … Continued