How Poetry Helps You Improve Your Writing

While I’d rather see a reminder that we need to know the rules of formal writing, so that we can choose to ignore them deliberately, otherwise this author makes a good case for the value of poetry. (Great training for the art of writing engaging headlines and story leads.) Poetry is not bound by the constraints of sentence and paragraph structure, context, or even grammar. In the magical world of…

William Shakespeare (Portrait)

Coined by Shakespeare? Think again

For years, Shakespeare has been thought to deploy greater linguistic variety than contemporaries like Marlowe, Kyd, and Jonson; scholars have estimated that he coined as many as 1,700 words, and that he employed a uniquely large vocabulary of at least 20,000 words. As professor Alfred Hart, long the authority on Shakespeare’s vocabulary, wrote in 1943, his addition of new words play after play shows “how deep and apparently inexhaustible were…

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Don’t Like Hamlet? Now’s Your Chance To Rewrite It

“It’s not really fair to say, ‘Look at this guy who died 400 years before I was born. He certainly had different opinions than me about the value of women.’” North says. “There’s stuff that doesn’t age as well, and what you do is you either adapt it so it works better now, or you ignore it.” For the purists, the original storyline remains in To Be Or Not To…


Despicable Me 2 “Bottom” gag will do for A Midsummer Night’s Dream what Disney’s Little Mermaid’s Ariel did for The Tempest

The name “Bottom” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is already funny, but I expect my students will likely snigger at it, thinking of the “Silas Ramsbottom” gag from Despicable Me 2. I read The Tempest before I saw Disney’s Little Mermaid, so when I think of Prospero’s spirit Ariel, I do not think of a teenaged red-haired mermaid, but my students regularly refer to the Shakespeare character as “she.”

The New Journalism, Redux

The lineup is solid, no doubt about it, and speaks to the health of and the prospects for what’s come to be called “long-form journalism.” (Why long-form instead of just “long,” I couldn’t tell you. But, as long as I’m in a parenthesis, I can say that another positive development is the arrival of several Web sites devoted to this kind of work—notably Longform, The Atavist, Longreads, and Byliner.) However,…


Victorian Literature for Accounting Majors

If I can get the English majors in my news writing class interested in the statistics unit, I’ll be very happy indeed. “When I first realized that I had signed up to be in what is essentially an English class with only accounting majors, I expected the conversation and discussion of the books we read to be lacking in depth and analysis,” said Elizabeth Applin, a senior. “I did not…


Finished Reading “Fibble,” Book 4 in “Heck: Where Bad Kids Go.”

I finished reading to my daughter the fourth of the nine “Heck” books, featuring Milton and Marlo Fauster, who find themselves in the adolescent afterlife.. This book features a visit to the Furafter, the animal version of the afterlife. I love the fact that the canine equivalent of Limbo is called “Stay!” I also wept tears of joy when I realized how long in advance the author set up a…