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One Writer's Ravings:       A Logophile's Blog for Language Lovers      

Is a Preposition All Right to End a Sentence With?

Remember the old rule: “A good writer never ends a sentence with a preposition”? Well, it’s too bad it was ever taught, because it is wrong, wrong, wrong. If you think I don’t know what I'm talking about, then I dare you to say, “You don’t know about what you’re talking.” Read More 
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Charlie's Introduction to TwainFest (San Diego, August 20, 2011)

Welcome to TwainFest — WriteOutLoud's annual celebration of Mark Twain's life and words.

Let me begin by saying that it is a wonderful thing, a miraculous and heartwarming thing, in this digitally throttled age of computers and cellphones and iPods and iPads and Kindles and all manner of portable hand-held devices, to address an audience that has gathered for the sole purpose of being read to.

Mark Twain could appreciate that.

Does anyone know where Twain took his future wife, Olivia Langdon, on their first date? Read More 
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Some Crusty Advice for Aspiring Writers

Like many who make the mistake of getting published instead of getting a real job, I often find myself in the unenviable position of trying to answer a question all professional wordslingers dread: "What advice do you have for aspiring writers?" Read More 
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Ode to the English Teacher

About ten years ago my colleague in verbivoracity, Richard Lederer, and I were invited to speak together at the annual convention of the California Teachers of English (CATE), held that year in Ontario, CA. Because I fancy myself something of an occasional poet, for the occasion I took the liberty of composing the following bit of doggerel, which Richard and I delivered as a kind of panegyrical pep talk to the tired and underpaid masses of English teachers who were huddled in attendance, yearning for a few freebies for their swag bags. Read More 
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Confessions of a Nymwit

I love when people ask me to coin a word for them because I love to make up words. The satisfaction of fashioning something that aptly fills a gaping hole in the language is akin, I imagine, to what a sculptor feels creating harmonious form out of earth or stone. And, unlike nearly all nonverbal artistic creations, a well-made word can elicit a chuckle or even, if it's especially clever, a guffaw. Read More 
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Good Writers Are Good Readers

One of my high school teachers once said, “When you’re all grown up, you’re going to remember only ten minutes of what you learned in high school.”

I think that assertion holds true for most of us. You may remember quite well the tribulations of your life in high school—your extracurricular triumphs and failures, your angst-ridden struggle to establish an authentic self—but how much of what you were supposed to learn from your classes and textbooks and assignments do you recall? I can’t remember a single thing I wrote in my term paper on E. M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India, but to this day I carry with me a few precious words of advice from my English teacher that junior year. Read More 
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Menu English

Had a look at a menu lately? No doubt you have and, no doubt, you cringed. It’s tough for writers, copyeditors, and English teachers to dine out, for two reasons: a paucity of disposable income and the rampant shoddiness of menu writing. Read More 
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Are You a Victim of Erroneous Correction?

Recently I received a breathless emissive from a reader of Verbal Advantage named Norma. She was in pronunciation distress, and she needed expert assistance. Here is what she wrote: Read More 
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Where Did You Learn That Word?

Some readers are annoyed when a writer uses an unusual word. I’m thrilled.

All my life I’ve read hoping to find words I don’t know, keeping lists of them and looking them up in a dictionary, where I would then come across more words I’d never seen before. I’ve never read only for pleasure or for information. For me, reading has always been a word-hunting expedition, a lexical safari. Read More 
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Mark Twain: Prescriptivist Writer

Mark Twain was born in 1835, a year in which Halley's comet appeared after its customary 75-year absence. Shortly before his death in 1910, Twain said that because he came in with the comet he might as well go out with it. And that's just what he did, departing this earth at age 75, the day after the comet made its closest approach to the earth. Any Twain aficionado has to wonder whether the great writer's soul ascended to that wandering celestial body or to the Christian heaven that he mocked so irreverently and hilariously in Letters from the Earth: "From youth to middle age all men and all women prize copulation above all other pleasures combined, yet . . . it is not in their heaven; prayer takes its place." Read More 
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