Scripturient:  Writers and reading

This post is about, and for writers, for reporters and editors, for book authors and editors, magazine editors, feature writers, layout artists, copy editors and anyone who either fancies themselves one of these, or has the curious desire to become one (curious because, at least for freelancers, it often involves spending more money on books ...

Scripturient: Square words

Writing has been described as the most significant human invention. We tend to think of inventions as mechanical things, like the wheel, or fire, or the printing press, the airplane, the internal combustion engine or cell phone. But without writing, few of them would exist. Writing allowed us to share the others, to improve them, ...

Scripturient: Reading Moby Dick

Recently, coincidental to while I was reading Herman Melville’s classic novel, I read a story that some folks in Vancouver took offence to the name of a restaurant: Moby Dick’s Fish & Chips. Apparently the property overseers mistook the “Dick” in the name for a euphemism for penis, rather than reading the name of the ...

Scripturient: Politically correct pronoun madness

Scripturient: Fowler for the 21st Century

On the desk of every writer, every reporter, every editor, every PR director and every communications officer is a small library of reference books. A good dictionary (Oxford, American Heritage, Merriam Webster, Random House but gods forbid, never a generic Webster’s). A thesaurus (likely Roget’s). A style guide (CP for Canadians, or AP for Americans… ...

Scripturient: Reading Letters: Designing for Legibility

The human brain is truly a remarkable machine.* We can see a bunch of lines and in that same brain turn them into an M and know it’s not a V or an N or a K or W. Yet M isn’t a ‘thing’ – it’s an abstract representation of a sound that itself has ...

Scripturient: Why Fonts Matter

The first problem I have when receiving a new book on typography is that I spend far too much time looking up the typefaces described or sampled therein, and searching for them online, instead of reading. Then I start looking at (and critiquing) the typefaces chosen for the book itself. It’s a trees-not-the-forest kind of ...

Scripturient: Power, ambition, backstabbing

Power grabs. Backstabbing. Lust. Ambition. Conniving. Hypocrisy. A weak but well-meaning ruler. A grasping second in command who viciously usurps power. A bureaucrat jealous of the nobles, jockeying for power and trading favours to get his way. Sleazy nobles selling their loyalty for petty trinkets. A cast of despicable, grasping characters all out for themselves, oblivious of ...

Scripturient: The definition of evil

I try to choose my words carefully. Words have power, words can create emotions, words linger and stick with us. Words matter. Words can be tools of great precision and effect. So when I hear or read them being abused, misused or simply inappropriately chosen, my hackles rise. I want to make corrections. I want ...

Scripturient: The gems of Salomé

I was perhaps 11 or 12 when I first encountered Oscar Wilde’s play, Salomé. Some of it, at least. At the time, I knew nothing of Wilde, his writing, or even much about theatre in general. After all, I was in grade seven or eight. It would be a few years before I encountered (and developed ...

Scripturient: Type Crimes and Taxes

Type crime is the term author Ellen Lupton uses in her book, Thinking With Type, to describe egregiously bad typography. That description came to mind as I perused the latest fluff mailer from our MP; the so-called “Tax Guide.” So-called because it isn’t a guide: it’s the usual, dreary Conservative whack-a-mole propaganda about how great ...

Scripturient: Teas or Tisanes?

I suppose it’s crotchety of me, but whenever I hear the term “herbal tea” used to refer to an infusion of leaves or fruits that contains no actual tea, I get shirty. They’re actually not tea at all, they’re tisanes, a pleasant French word that means’herbal infusion.’ They should be called such and labelled appropriately ...

Scripturient: The Secret to Good Writing

Spoiler alert: the secret to writing well is…. (insert drum roll)… writing. Writing a lot. Every day. Every possible minute you can spare. Writing and writing more and then writing even more. But doing so within a pre-specified limit. Oops… Now we all know that, aside from some local bloggers and EB columnists, most of ...

Scripturient: Grammatical Hell in a Handbasket

The Washington Post has started the apocalypse. Yes, they have. And the whole world is about to go to hell in the proverbial handbasket because of it. The maw of Hell has opened… The Post has decided after decades – centuries? – of editors, writers and grammarians arguing about the lack of gender-neutral singular pronouns in ...

Scripturient: Moved by myself…

After watching Collingwood council meetings on Rogers again, I felt I should re-post a link to a piece I first wrote several years ago, then again in 2014, then re-wrote in April of this year: Me, myself and I Every time I watched the meetings, I also watched councillors say the same thing: “move by myself.” The ...

Scripturient: A Sense of Pinker’s Style

I share one of Steven Pinker’s passions: I like to read style books, grammar books, language books. To me, they’re like literary chemistry sets. When I was young, getting a chemistry set for Christmas or a birthday opened a whole world to me. I’d explore all sorts of interactions and experiments until I had run out ...

Scripturient: Nope, That’s Not by Marcus Aurelius

An image appeared on Facebook purporting to be a quotation taken from Marcus Aurelius. Having read his Meditations more than once, I was baffled because it didn’t look at all familiar. The quote is: Everything we hear is a opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. It’s a good ...

Scripturient: Where Have The Real Heroes Gone?

Heroes, it sometimes seems, have been relegated to legend and myth. There are none left, none of the sort I used to associate with the name. Not in the media, anyway. The word has been so abused in the media over the last century, tossed about in such a cavalier manner that it has lost ...

Scripturient: The Venereal Game

The Venereal Game is the provocative subtitle of James Lipton’s 1968 classic, An Exaltation of Larks (reprinted in 1977, and later expanded in the 1993 “ultimate” edition). Venereal, in this sense, comes from venery which in turn comes from the Latin venari, to hunt or pursue, rather from the sexual connotation.* The collective nouns in much of ...

Scripturient: Another Archy Poem

Most of Don Marquis’ Archy pieces were written in lowercase. The literate cockroach, we learned, would stand on the typewriter and dive, head first, onto the keys. But this way, he couldn’t use the shift key to get capital letters or punctuation (he did get capital letters, once, when Marquis left the shift-lock on the ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Prenzie Scamels

Four hundred years after he wrote them, we still use in everyday speech the many words and phrases Shakespeare coined. He gave us so many, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to list them all here. But two words he wrote have stopped us dead: prenzie and scamels. What do they mean? Were they more ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Bad Designs

I’m not a graphic designer. I was not formally educated in that art. However, over the years, my jobs in editing and writing for books, newspapers, magazines and publishers have required me to learn the rudiments of layout, typography and design. I am the first to admit my design talent is merely adequate. Despite that, ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Me, Myself and I Redux

At Collingwood Council meetings, you will always hear someone say “Moved by myself…” when presenting a motion at the table.* Argh! Where did these people go to school? Clearly our education system has failed us if people were raised to say that. And this is in the public record, too. To me it’s like nails on ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: Defining Classical Music

I listen to classical music a lot, even more than before since the arrival of the new classical FM station in Collingwood. But while my listening at home is through a selected collection of CDs, the content played on radio – internet radio included – is more eclectic. Airplay often includes soundtracks, music from musicals, even ...

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: The Responsibility of Free Speech

In January, 2015, Marie Snyder, on her blog, A Puff of Absurdity, raised the question of how free should speech be. I share her concerns about the apparent limitlessness of our rights: our right to free speech is not matched to any inherent responsibilities, civic or moral, to behave in a mature manner, nor does ...