Showing posts from February, 2011


Maps are a special kind of writing, combining words and symbols in a graphic way. I love maps!

Just do it

Of course, Nike beat me to this slogan. But I don't think they'll mind if I tag along with their thought--sometimes the only way to do something is just to do it.

When I write, I have two modes. One is painstaking--I edit as I write. I often write in my head like this, to pass the time on the tram or at the dentist. This is slow, painful and no fun at all--I do it to distract my thoughts from the present moment. The writing produced may be exact and appropriate, but it doesn't exactly sing. Your soul doesn't take flight when you read it.

The other mode is more like journaling, or writing poetry. Teenagers often write like this, pouring their emotions and longings into their words. This writing moves you even when it's ragged and raw.

When I can't get going on a writing task, I switch to mode 2--just do it. You can always refine it later, or scrap it. Just doing it builds fluency and creativity into your writing skills repertoire.

Rhetoric, again

Repetition is one of the primary tools of rhetoric. Little children know this instinctively; when they learn a new word that they like, they repeat it gleefully. Repetition of sounds is the basis for rhyming poetry. Here are just a few of the many kinds of repetition used by the Greeks in their rhetorical studies.

 "Nevermore!" ------------------------
A good website you may look at is Repititon in rhetoric

Repetiton of sounds:
ALLITERATION is repetition of initial word sounds: silly Sara, Marilyn Monroe, Sylvester Stallone, Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Patek Philippe, and so on. ASSONANCE is the repetition of vowel sounds (a,e,i,o,u,y) in adjacent or nearby words. Mad cat, go home, sweet dreams, General Electric, Toyota Camry, London Town. Sometimes the end sound is also repeated, making simple rhyme: hurry-scurry, fat cat, surround sound, fly high. CONSONANCE is repetition of consonant sounds in adjacent or nearby words. better butter, little battle, jumpy chimp, Wonder Br…

Theme in writing

To complete my original task of delineating the 6 major aspects of writing, today I'll talk about themes.

The word "theme' is not unfamiliar. We go to theme parks, we know that TV shows have theme music and the old-fashioned word for an essay is theme. Decorators have themes (color schemes, seasons of the year) and sermons have themes (sin, redemption).

The defines theme as follows (note the derivation, from Greek to Latin to Old French to Middle to English to Modern English):
1. A topic of discourse or discussion. See Synonyms at subject. 2. A subject of artistic representation. 3. An implicit or recurrent idea; a motif: a theme of powerlessness that runs through the diary; a party with a tropical island theme. 4. A short composition assigned to a student as a writing exercise. 5. Music The principal melodic phrase in a composition, especially a melody forming the basis of a set of variations. 6. Linguistics A stem. 7. Linguistics See topic. tr.v.

Using rhetoric to persuade

The ancient Greeks invented and perfected the art of rhetoric, which is simply the use of language to persuade. In days past, a classical European-style education included an in-depth study of rhetoric. Three men who used rhetorical devices with confidence and authority are Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Winston Churchill. Their speeches are textbooks of rhetoric.

Rhetorical devices are not difficult to identify. Here is an example of the use of contrast:

"The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds."~John Maynard Keynes, economist.

Keynes contrasts new and old ideas, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of applauding the power of new ideas, which you might expect from an influential economist whose ideas shaped the study of economics for decades, Keynes points out the immense power of old ideas, which are so embedded in people's minds that…

Signs, signs, everywhere signs!

I love sign. They are like poetry, in that they compress meaning into a few words or just images. Here are some Prague signs.