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Five Ways To Get Over Writer’s Block

And so VR is once again my guest.
And why is this? Was keyboard unimpressed?

Sincere apologies to Sir Tim Rice for mauling his much better lyrics, but it is the truth. I have been completely unable to get anything out of my keyboard for weeks upon weeks. Apart from one rather geeky diversion into speech punctuation.

To break the spell, at a good friend’s suggestion, I plan to go back to voice writing mode. So this blog – apart from the introduction which was written on tablet – was intended to be written in one hour flat, from start to finish, using voice recognition (VR).

An ironic twist – at this week’s London Book Fair (#LBF18) I spent time helping on the SfEP stall in the hilariously labelled ‘Writer’s Block’ in Hall One at Olympia.

Yes, writer’s block sure is what it feels like – thanks for the reminder!

There is no obvious reason for it. So this blog is an attempt to work out what may be going on. Why does the pen/keyboard/voice suddenly go dry for no apparent reason?

Style Corner: The Uncomfortable World of Speech Punctuation

I’ll admit straight up: speech and quote punctuation is one of my blind spots. It always has been, from the moment I started retraining as a proofreader and copy editor.

It is one of those things where there seem to be so many equally valid variations, and small ones that either matter or don’t. How are we to know which, from a logical point of view?

This blog attempts to bring some sense to the disorder.

To start with, what are the areas of variation?

Style Corner: The Oxford and Other Commas

In a December 2017 edition of Style Corner I denounced the so-called comma splice – the practice of using a comma to separate two full sentences – with the simple advice “don’t do it” (at least in business writing).

Then someone kindly reminded me that in July 2016 I’d written another piece which suggested I was actually quite relaxed about the comma splice.

It was true. I had, and (at the time) was. I’ve now changed my mind, at least so far as business writing is concerned. So in case you’re wondering, I have amended that earlier blog and removed the offending, excessively liberal sentiment.

Then, in another valid challenge, I was reminded that some of the finest lines in English literature are actually comma splices. Dickens was not a bad writer, most would agree. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – not a bad start to a novel!

With both challenges in mind, perhaps the proscription shouldn’t have been quite as definitive as I suggested in my December blog.

This blog goes on to talk about some other realms of comma usage, including the serial (Oxford) comma and other uses.

Bridge and Water

A Sound Experiment: Writing By Voice And Ear Alone

This blog is a sound experiment.

It will be written entirely by voice recognition – with keyboard-based editing at the end – and it will be written in less than an hour.

I don’t know how many words it will be but I am aiming for 1000. Another aim is to achieve a plain English standard based on Flesch readability metrics – without trying too hard.

I have two main objectives: (1) to test the efficiency of writing by voice recognition alone; (2) to see if the ‘sound test’ really does work. I am always telling my City, University of London students to listen out loud to their own work, to hear themselves reading it back. Is the ear really a better judge than the eye? Maybe I will know more by the end of this blog.

I’ll share some of my thoughts on that at the end and I hope you will give me yours too.