Writing Tips: Style

Why wouldn’t you want to be clear?

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The obvious answer is – if you want to mislead. A fascinating study published in the US Journal of Language and Social Psychology suggests that when scientists’ research turns out to be fraudulent, the language is often a giveaway. Two researchers at Stanford University, California, studied more than 250 scientific papers that had been found […]

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Wogan’s words

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Tributes to the much-loved broadcaster, Terry Wogan, speak of his ability to communicate with millions as if they were his friends. Many also mention his skilful use of the English language. When the BBC was taken to task some years ago for failing to police its presenters’ and reporters’ use of English, the campaigners made […]

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Learning from a writing master

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Skewering the phoney and pretentious is one of the great pleasures of life. It doesn’t happen often enough. Thank goodness for the likes of Richard Ford, the American novelist, who sets much of his work in New Jersey, but writes about people who are recognisable anywhere. I just read this passage from The Lay of […]

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Doges and lolcats

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I don’t normally write about internet memes, but I do like to write about the way language changes and I think that increasingly those changes are conceived online. Captioned pictures of animals speaking in a unique way are nothing new. We’ve had the “O RLY?” owl and the lolcat but the latest addition is the […]

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Word of the year 2013: troll

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I’ve picked ‘troll’ because it has recently changed its meaning. I’m not talking about the word in the sense of goat-bothering, flesh-eating monsters. I’m not even talking about the change it experienced around 20 years ago, when it started to refer to problematic users on internet message boards. A bit of history: most online forums […]

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Phone + tablet = ?

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If you love using your tablet, but you wish it were a phone too, you are probably the target market for the latest addition to the mobile device family: the phablet. Yes, we have smartphones, and large tablets and mini tablets, so it was only a matter of time before someone developed the obvious portmanteau […]

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An advert that’s giving me a headache

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When I saw a particular advert this morning, I was tempted for the first time in my adult life to vandalise a poster. If, like me, you’re a bored train commuter, perhaps you recognise the following: “This is for those who take their own route. The ones whose spirits can’t be dampened, even by the […]

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Websites need style

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Having a style guide is essential for a professional-looking website or publication. We at Clarity have written style guides for clients, usually big companies, but having one specially written is probably beyond the means of small and medium-sized businesses. For the rest of us, the best thing to do is to borrow someone else’s. I […]

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Euro lifeboats and other metaphors

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The European Commission has just inaugurated the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which is basically a large pot of money meant for keeping struggling Eurozone members afloat in tricky times. The President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, was speaking at a maritime conference, so he decided to use a fitting metaphor to describe the ESM. […]

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Lessons from the poets

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On National Poetry Day, a poet appeared on BBC Radio 4 this morning to criticise what he called the daily abuse of language by politicians. Michael Horovitz said every politician should learn a poem and say it back before making any public pronouncement. That should keep quite a lot of people quiet, but we might […]

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