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The Sentence That Knocked Down the Berlin Wall (But Almost Didn’t)

Words that defined Ronald Reagan’s presidency, as remembered by the White House speechwriter. As a speechwriter you spent your working life watching Reagan, talking about Reagan, reading about Reagan, attempting to inhabit the very mind of Reagan. When you joined him in the Oval Office, you didn’t want to hear him say simply that he liked your work. You wanted to get him talking, revealing himself. So you’d go into…

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Things that have made me start singing “Tradition!” in my head so far today

After last night’s first rehearsal for “Fiddler on the Roof,” things that have made me start singing “Tradition!” in my head so far today: 1) Reading the name “Alyssa.” (Alyssa!) 2) Thinking about textbooks for next semester. (Edition!) 3) Thinking about hell. (Perdition!) 4) Turning on my car engine. (Ignition!) 5) Thinking about my upcoming state vehicle inspection (Emissions!) 6) Thinking about sending my kids to college. (Tuition!) 7) Hearing…

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Writing a Cutline (Caption): Three Examples

In journalism, the “cutline” is the text below a picture, explaining what the reader is looking at. It’s what most people call a caption, but to a journalist, a “caption” is more like a title, while the “cutline” first describes what is happening in the picture, and then explains the significance of the event depicted. Here, we see a dry, pointless cutline offers nothing at all that the reader can’t gather…

Avoid Padding

The Best Way to Start an Academic Paper

Both of the following writing samples demonstrate effective use of grammar, punctuation, and other surface-level matters. Which version does a better job introducing an argument? Version 1: The Best Way to Start an Academic Paper In universities across the country, students start papers in different ways. Some papers start with a statement about life or some abstract quality like truth or justice. Others start with a striking quotation from notable…