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When T.S. Eliot Invented the Hipster

  Prufrock cannot bring himself to ask his companion the “overwhelming question” (which he never identifies) that carries us through the poem. He is paralyzed by the same overwhelming fear of missing out (yes, “FOMO”) that plagues a generation facing endless options and clear few choices: “In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse,” Prufrock laments. Instead, not daring to “disturb the…

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Why I Still Blog

I particularly value blogging because of the visibility of older content. Facebook and Twitter don’t make it easy for you to contextualize links pointing to something relevant you posted a month or a year or decade ago. It may seem right to ask, after so many years: what is left to discuss about blogging? We all know what it is. We all know what it does. What used to be…

How to Write Dialogue -- Jerz's Literacy Weblog

Writing Effective Dialogue (Punctuation and Actions in Creative Writing)

“Punctuating dialogue properly is important,” says the old man, “But actions speak loudly, too. When I offered you tea, and you unlaced your boots at my hearth, we didn’t need any words stating that there was a comfortable lull in our conversation. The careful placement of details created a little pause. It was a good example of showing rather than telling.”

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain in 2015

What Could Have Entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2015?

If the pre-1978 laws were still in effect, we could have seen 85% of the works published in 1986 enter the public domain on January 1, 2015. Imagine what that would mean to our archives, our libraries, our schools and our culture. Such works could be digitized, preserved, and made available for education, for research, for future creators. Instead, they will remain under copyright for decades to come, perhaps even…

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Split Infinitives in English: Not Actually Wrong, But Unwise

The rule against split infinitives is a bookish restriction serving no real function in English. However, many people have memorized the “no split infinitives” rule and take it very seriously. It’s best never to split infinitives (unless you want to really emphasize the risk you are taking). More: Split Infinitives in English: Not Actually Wrong, But Unwise.

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Does the phrase “based off of” make you shudder… or shrug?

When I first started noticing the phrase “based off of” in student papers, I thought it was just a careless typo. But I’ve noticed it more and more in online writing and in casual speech.

Saying “based off of” may be related to the phrase “flying of off,” as it seems to mean something like “is now different from, but was once more obviously similar to.” By contrast, “based on” may be taking on the meaning “still directly connected to.”

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About that Cough, Rough, Pony, Bologna Meme

Do the spellings of cough & rough, pony & bologna bug you, too? English evolves organically, without our permission. Words that look similar but are pronounced differently generally came to the language from different sources and/or at different times, by an organic process that is not controlled by people in smoky board rooms. In our day, private organizations such as dictionary publishers or the Associated Press do regularly make decisions on…