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Darwin’s Brilliant Choice of Language

17 Apr
Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

It goes without saying: Word choice is so important, for capturing with precision an idea we are trying to express, and for creating a desired effect on the reader’s imagination.

Here, from Nautilus, is the story of Charles Darwin’s choice of the term “natural selection” to describe his theory of evolution.  Why was it better than “evolution?”


Darwin’s theory of evolution is often credited with removing the notion of intentional design from biology. But perhaps its genius was in doing so gently: The language in which it’s couched allowed readers to hold onto the idea for just a little while longer.


See the full article here. It’s interesting and short.




Prof. Trump’s Writing Lesson

3 Apr

Today, a lesson in powerful writing from Donald Trump.

Donald Trump









It surely wasn’t his intent to instruct anyone about anything in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel on ABC.  But look at this analysis from of Trump’s answer to Kimmel’s question, “Isn’t it un-American and wrong to discriminate against people based on their religion?” Continue reading

When You Get Blocked

19 Mar

“Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” says a sorrowful song about the season that is about to begin. (I recommend the Betty Carter version). We might say the same for writer’s block.

A resScreen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.50.16 PMearcher at the University of Pennsylvania has a nice bit of advice for finding a frame of mind that could help you dig out of the rut.

Continue reading

Structure and writing

19 Jan

CV1_TNY_01_14_13Mattotti.inddJohn McPhee writes an interesting essay in the New Yorker (Jan. 14, 2013) about how he creates and uses structure to build long-form non-fiction writing.

College essays are short form, of course, but the idea of structure in telling a good story is worth thinking about when you write anything.  McPhee even knows where his story is going to end before he starts writing.  That may not be every writer’s dream way of working, but think about a passage like this from McPhee, and how it might apply as much to a college essay as it does to one of his 16, 000-word articles: Continue reading