“If it were all a party, the periods would be by the bar, drinking whiskeys and politely discussing the price of daycare, the commas chiming in at just the right moment, while the exclamation points pretend to dance, nodding furiously at anything anyone says, smiling so hard their eyes look crazy, taking way too many photos, teetering on their impractical shoes — tiny dots under those tall frames, fitting: excitement’s such an unsteady emotion compared to the loyalty of regret or the militia-like reliability of anger— spilling their Red Bull and vodkas, and claiming to have the time of their lives.”—Steve Macone on why everyone uses too many exclamation points!!!
“Most people say, “Show, don’t tell,” but I stand by Show and Tell, because when writers put their work out into the world, they’re like kids bringing their broken unicorns and chewed-up teddy bears into class in the sad hope that someone else will love them as much as they do. “And what do you have for us today, Marcy?” “A penetrating psychological study of a young med student who receives disturbing news from a former lover.” “How marvelous! Timmy, what are you holding there?” “It’s a Calvinoesque romp through an unnamed metropolis much like New York, narrated by an armadillo.” “Such imagination!” Show and Tell, followed by a good nap.”—Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing. Also: “Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your mellifluous sentences.”
“At their best, nominalizations help us express complex ideas: perception, intelligence, epistemology. At their worst, they impede clear communication. I have seen academic colleagues become so enchanted by zombie nouns like heteronormativity and interpellation that they forget how ordinary people speak. Their students, in turn, absorb the dangerous message that people who use big words are smarter – or at least appear to be – than those who don’t.”—Helen Sword on “Zombie Nouns”
“The Internet hasn’t given me a thick skin, because I already had one. I think women are better suited to dealing with commenters than men because we have the experience of having been eighth grade girls. No troll in the comments will ever have as intimate an understanding of all your insecurities as your teenage best friends, so the trolls have no idea what scabs to pick. Men seem more wounded by mean comments, and they expect you to be, too, saying stuff like, “I can’t believe the comments on your post! They’re so personal!” And then you look and it’s like someone calling you “a feminazi with bad hair.” And you think, “Are you kidding? I have great hair.”—Elspeth Reeve, at the Atlantic Wire, on how the Internet has brought out our inner eighth grade girl.
A note on impossible colours, via petitchou, lists several from fiction:
-In 1927, H.P. Lovecraft wrote a short story called “The Colour Out of Space” in which a meteorite crashed into a family farm in rural New England. The meteorite contained a mysterious globule of a color that was “almost impossible to describe,” with a note that it was “only by analogy” that professors studying the globule called it a color at all.
-David Lindsay in A Voyage to Arcturus described ulfire and jale, two colors visible under the sun Alppain: “Just as blue is delicate and mysterious, yellow clear and unsubtle, and red sanguine and passionate, so he felt ulfire to be wild and painful [and] jale [to be] dreamlike, feverish, and voluptuous.”
In 1949, Enid Blyton wrote The Mountain of Adventure, in which the children become involved in an experiment to create weightlessness: “Out of the hole in the pit floor shone a brilliant mass of colour — but a colour the children did not know!”
-In 1955, the poet Robert Graves wrote “Welsh Incident,” in which something unusual from the sea caves of Criccieth is described as “mostly nameless colours, colours you’d like to see.”
-Octarine is Terry Pratchett’s imaginary eighth color, described as a “greenish-yellow purple.”
-Mgru is a brand new color described in a short story of the same name by Stephen Moles as being like “a sarcastic pink or orange, but with a hint of gold impersonating lime,” “radioactive claret,” and “a really, really aggressive beige.”
But even in the world of totally normal and non-agressive beige, colours are almost never talked about without talking about something else. From Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways:
"A sign of refinement among the English middle class in the 1930s was to describe outfits in terms of fruit. ‘Lemon,’ ‘crushed raspberry,’ and ‘burnt apricot’ were particular favourites. The phrasing was important. A two-piece should not be ‘lemon’ but ‘in lemon.’ ‘In a nice lemon’ was even more tasteful. Calling anything a mineral, fungus, or building material was unthinkable but fashion eventually came round to anthracite, mould, and putty. In the 1950s Joyce Grenfell bought a length of tweed which, she wrote to a best friend, was ‘a lovely mud colour.’ She could have said taupe or grège. […] Although such associations seem silly it is impossible to convey the sensation of a colour without relating it to something else.”
Last year, Gigaom published a flattering story in which they used me as an example of why book publishers are no longer as important as they used to be. Authors can build their own brands now, and reach out to their own audiences.
But in fact, my career is an example of precisely the opposite: My publisher invested tons of time and money into me for a very long time: They paid for tours that hemorrhaged money. They paid for advertising. They fought to get me distributed in mass market channels even though my books were “literary.” And most importantly, they provided editorial support and guidance that made the books themselves far better than they would be if I published them by myself.
Not only that, but without Penguin there is no vlogbrothers, because Hank and I needed the initial activation energy of the first 500-1000 nerdfighters to make Brotherhood 2.0 work. Almost all of those nerdfighters were fans of my books who came to the project through Penguin’s marketing efforts.
So there is no Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars without the people who work at Penguin, and the narrative that Amazon wants you to believe—that publishers make books more expensive than they need to be and keep authors from making money—is a lie.
A world where everyone self publishes will mean fewer authors making a living and fewer books that reach their full potential as art. Period.
“It no longer occurs to me to query the use of four-letter words, even when they are used gratuitously, as in ‘I missed the fucking bus.’ I used to be a prude, but now I am a ruined woman. We had a discussion in the copy department a few weeks ago about how to style the euphemism: Shall it be ‘f’-word, f word, f-word, ‘F’ word, F word, or F-word? I don’t like any of them. Fuck euphemisms. Get on the goddam fucking bus.”—Mary Norris, on copy editing poorly-written tweets, profanity, and “activating” hyphens.
“I’d been taught about the breakdowns of butch lesbians: studs, bois, stems, stone, hard, soft, etc. One Google search would give you articles for days. But I had placed femmes into a tiny box, which consisted of pillow princesses who loved high heels and dresses. When I looked into the breakdown of femmes, I found only a few titles: femmes, stone femmes and lipstick lesbians. Even in queer communities, our society leans toward masculinity. Femmes have long been under the radar, and America’s views of ‘gay’— or anything else — is white and male centered.”—Becca Dickerson, “Peeling Back The Labels: ‘Femme’ By Default.”
“A pencil of lines
An erudition of editors
A rumpus of shapes
A madder of painters
A plagiary of writers
A tantrum of decorators
A click of photographers
A slant of journalists
A gild of directors
An obsolescence of appliances
A brood of researchers
A drift of lecturers
A breakdown of plans
A glut of commercials
A pitfall of fine print
A clutch of second thoughts
A squat of daubers
A slouch of models
A blur of impressionists
A set of designers
A squad of grids
A blessing of unicorns”—James Lipson, in An Exaltation of Larks.
“The most objectionable characteristic of 1950s pulp novels is that the lesbians in many of these novels hate themselves, or think they should. Protagonists have recourse to alcoholism, suicide, and violence. They often end up dead, drunk, or in psychiatric wards. According to Koski and Tilchen, this is caused by lack of political perspective. I would suggest that lesbians in the 1950s did not so much lack political perspective but political possibilities. One can hardly expect lesbian authors to change society single-handedly.”—Joke Hermes, in “Sexuality in Lesbian Romance Fiction.”
“Long before I knew what a reporter was, I read history with this passionate desire to have been there and gotten the real story. All history was journalism once and some bad journalism has distorted a lot of good history.”—Adela Rogers St. Johns, in The Honeycomb.