Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little

Author Christopher Johnson, Ph.D. (linguistics) is a verbal branding consultant and blogger. His book, Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little is about micromessages; namely, messages encapsulated in a word, phrase, short sentence or, in the case of a tweet, 140 characters. Whether or not you’re a writer, you’ll get a lot from this book. I actually bought a copy (no small praise) because I knew I’d be doing some serious yellow highlighting. Much to […]

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what not to wear

What NOT to Wear When Interviewing Someone: A Writer’s Guide

Just as there is a dress code when interviewing for a job, there’s one for doing an in-person interview. It’s a loose one, and you’ll not find discussion of it in any book. Here then is some guidance. Dress appropriately One of my first assignments as a reporter was to interview the director of a botanical garden. I wanted to look professional, so I wore my one good outfit: a pair of black slacks (anything […]

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How to Write a Book in 30 years

Can you really write a book in 30 days? Maybe, maybe not.  I do know, however, that you can write a book in 30 years. Here’s how: 1)      Spend the next 29 years talking about writing your book. 2)      Wait for a guarantee that your book will be universally acclaimed, not to mention profitable. 3)      Determine ahead of time every chapter, paragraph, turn of a phrase and punctuation mark. 4)      Write and rewrite your first […]

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 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Charles Dickens

Talk about speed writing! Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, and in just six weeks. His inspiration: financial ruin. In 1843, Dickens was hitting literary bottom. His first five books had made him England’s best selling author and a worldwide celebrity: Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and The Old Curiosity Shop. His next three books were duds (Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit and American Notes). Dickens also […]

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Photo courtesy of Illinois Library. Some rights reserved.

Conducting research: How much is enough?

Be a novice Although you gain knowledge and expertise through research, you shouldn’t strive to be all-knowing or, even, an expert. For that, go to grad school. All you need is familiarity, at least initially. It’s like taking a trip to Italy. Sure, it helps to know the language, but you can also get by with a phrase book, especially if you’re touring around for just a day or two. If you’re going to stay […]

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Things You Always Wanted to Know About 1927

  As I’ve written previously (“How to use trivia to strengthen your writing”), trivia is not trivial. Intersperse it judiciously, and it will give your work depth and make it entertaining. Too: trivia is just plain fun and educational. That’s why I collect snippets of it as I read. Here’s a batch about Prohibition, aka the 18th Amendment, which, from 1920 to 1933, outlawed the sale, production, importation, and transportation of alcoholic beverages.   When […]

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Why Editors Accept or Reject Query Letters

            When you submit a query to an editor, the editor will respond in one of three ways: yes, no, maybe. The editor says “yes” for these four reasons: Your idea appeals to her publication’s audience. That publication could be an off- or online magazine, newspaper or newsletter, among others. Your idea is solid. It has depth, scope and significance. Your writing is stellar. It’s engaging and succinct and, as […]

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Trivia writing

How to Use Trivia to Strengthen Your Writing

Trivia isn’t trivial when it comes to good writing. Use it wisely and judiciously and it will give your piece depth and make it more entertaining. Trivia can also be a great way to launch into an article, book or presentation; trivia, after all, is based on fact, however trivial it may be. Below you’ll find examples of trivia I’ve used in my writing. As you’ll see, each piece can be used in many ways. […]

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Before You Revise—Six Key Pointers

All works need revision—that final nip and tuck, spit and polish that makes writing sing. Before you begin the process (or start procrastinating), take a few moments to review the pointers below. They will help you flex your editing muscles. 1. Revision begins with re-vision, a stepping back to determine if you’ve delivered on the promise of your piece. Almost always there will be something you need or want to change. Welcome the opportunity, for […]

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Hot Tips for Working with an Editor

No matter what you publish, you’ll be working with an editor. (Even self-publishers have to edit themselves.) How do you ensure your relationship is a good one? By following these suggestions: Be realistic No one editor can make or break a writer. None wields that kind of power, which is not to say some won’t be helpful or hurtful (alas). The power they hold, however, is the power you give them. This is important to […]

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