The Whole Truth about the Semicolon

My guest blogger this month is my son, Charles, to whom I gave his own page on this website. . He’s an English teacher at Coastline Community College in Orange County, CA, where he’s taught classes on science fiction and Harry Potter. Mostly, however, he teaches pre-English 101 classes for students who aren’t quite ready for freshman comp. This is why he can speak and write so clearly and cogently about the esoterica of Gooder English.

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Blogorrhea–it’s fun to make up new words

This is a slightly rewritten version of a blog I wrote five years ago. I think it’s still (or more) germane today.

BLOGORRHEA. I just made this word up. (I haven’t seen it anywhere else.) It’s related of course to “logorrhea,” an “excessive flowing of words,” which is related to “diarrhea,” which comes from dia, “through,” and rhein, “flow” via Middle English, Latin, and Greek. I receive a lot of blogorrhea via email. I’m sure you do, too.

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“Adverbs are radioactive.”

That’s what my son says. He should know. Most of his babysitters were Ph.D. candidates in English, and now he teaches English at a community college in Orange County. One of the classes he teaches is English 99, which is pre-Freshman Comp (English 101). Nearly all of his students are still learning English, but they don’t know quite enough to cope with English 101.

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Fussbudget Editor

I’m a major fussbudget when I’m editing.

As I edit, I am fairly conservative about our language. I believe that we should respect its history and construction. That is, if there’s already a word that works, it may not be necessary to make up a new one (unless we do it for a specific purpose). Some years ago, for example, I campaigned on a listserv against the word “gaialog.” Using this stupid word instead of “dialog” to indicate women talking made me crazy.

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Gooder English

What are you writing? I can help you write “gooder English.” That’s the phrase I stole from the Spanish-American performer Charo for engineers who were writing user-hostile computer manuals. I’d just pat the guys on the knee and say, “I can help you make that make sense. Let’s go for gooder English.” The “gooder” makes my authors laugh.

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Why Writers Need Editors

In his comedy, The Clouds, Aristophanes sends a young Athenian man to school at the Thinkery, which is run by Socrates. I wouldn’t even begin to compare myself to Socrates, but I have a pretty good idea what it’s like to live in a Thinkery. I live a wonderful life working and playing with words. I’m blessed to have edited more than 300 books, which—counting the people who have come back to me with their second or third or fourth project—means I’ve helped maybe a couple hundred people make their dreams of holding in their own hands a published book they wrote come true.

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