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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…

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Stop Using ‘Poet Voice’

This article analyzes (and skewers) that lilting steamroller tone of voice that so many poets use when reciting their work. During this banter the poet uses a slightly performative but mostly natural voice. It’s the voice they’d use to introduce you to their grandmother. Then they read the title of their first poem and launch into the first line. But now their voice is different. It’s as if at some…

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Language Log » 25 Questions for Teaching with “Word Crimes”

A little perspective is good. So is genre awareness… anybody who takes this song literally is missing the point of satire. After the apocalypse happens and society collapses, my knowledge of the difference between irony and coincidence won’t help me escape the zombie hordes. While “grammar nerds” are psyched about Weird Al’s new “Word Crimes” video, many linguists are shaking their heads and feeling a little hopeless about what the…