How plain is your English?

Clear writing has clear results. And I love helping writers say exactly what they mean so readers can understand. But I was sure I could write better myself. Then I started mentoring someone who specialized in plain English and I wanted to learn more. If you’re interested in it, too, do the CIEP Plain EnglishContinue reading “How plain is your English?”

A Room of Our Own

Virginia Woolf was clear: £500 a year and a room of one’s own is what one needs to write. More than a century later, more than a year in, we are still mostly stuck in our rooms, but whether those rooms are solely our own is another question. Unlike many, for me the move toContinue reading “A Room of Our Own”

The Writer’s Map

A beautiful illustrated book from Thames and Hudson is always a delight, but if that was all The Writers Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands was, I wouldn’t be writing about it here. It’s a map to, by, with, from, and for writers. The maps themselves are truly glorious and transport you across space andContinue reading “The Writer’s Map”

The Subversive Copy Editor

Is this the book that will finally get me on Twitter? Do writers need to read a book for editors? Should you judge a book by its title? Why write about this classic now? Carol Fisher Saller answers tricky questions for a living, as editor of the Q&A for the Chicago Manual of Style online.Continue reading “The Subversive Copy Editor”

The Tender Narrator

Czuły narrator is the book Olga Tokarczuk finally had time to write in 2020. When the world slowed down, she could, too (her beautiful picture book The Lost Soul, also illustrated by Joanna Concejo, was ever so prescient about slowing down). Much of her writing in this collection premiered for a different audience, including politicalContinue reading “The Tender Narrator”

The Writer at Work

A lot of writing about writing is about you, the writer. Which is understandable, and done well, incredibly useful, but can shift the focus away from the broader structures that keep you down and hold you up. Who helps you write, and who hinders you? What needs to change, what can you let be, andContinue reading “The Writer at Work”

Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well

Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well (King Lear, Act 1 scene 4) Shakespeare said it first, but it’s worth saying again and it’s probably every editor’s or reviser’s biggest fear. If revisers are like doctors, aiming to make a text better, should they be bound by the Hippocratic oath – or at leastContinue reading “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well”

Air and Light and Time and Space

A sort of wood between the worlds,* Helen Sword’s book helps you jump in and out of academic writers’ minds, to see if their way of doing things could be yours, and why (not). Sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror – I recognized my own processes and enthusiasms in theirs. Sometimes it’s like browsingContinue reading “Air and Light and Time and Space”

New year, new skill: copywriting

In a “normal” year – remember those? – I would go to Helsinki about once a month and abroad about every other month to meet colleagues and authors. Not doing this has been an enormous loss, professionally but above all personally. But it’s been good for my carbon footprint, and in 2020 I had timeContinue reading “New year, new skill: copywriting”

How to grow your own poem

Don’t run away from that title – stay and see what Kate Clanchy has to say. She absolutely knows her stuff. She’s spent decades teaching people how to get their poems into and out of their imaginations, up to standard and down onto paper. And just because she teaches in high school, which is quiteContinue reading “How to grow your own poem”