Dissecting a Frog: How to Write a Humor Piece

Analyzing humor, as E.B. White famously said, is like dissecting a frog; few people are interested and the frog dies of it. Nonetheless, writing humor is a highly logical exercise — fit idea X into form Y for humorous result Z — and can therefore be broken down in ways that more slippery kinds of prose tend to resist… While there’s no substitute for a naturally sharp sense of humor,…

The American Scholar: Celebrity Profiles

Phllip Lopate writes a good essay on the challenges of writing a celebrity profile. My take: Just as Plato argued that ideal leaders would be so well-balanced that they would not desire to lead (and thus would not have the power-lust that would enable them to rise above their competitors), it follows that ideal celebrity profile writers would be so well-balanced a journalist that they would not desire to flatter celebrities enough to be…

The facts evolve as we look into how our re-accommodation process that involved goons dragging out a limp and bloodied customer has caused our stock to plunge.

The language in the official United response to the “re-accommodation” incident deserves some analysis . Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. If you “refuse to leave voluntarily” that omits the “was randomly selected and ordered to leave,” and it…

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Making a case for a singular ‘they’

  I am definitely on team revise-to-avoid-using-“they”-as-a-singular-pronoun, but the 2017 edition of the AP Stylebook (the industry standard writing guide for journalists) acknowledges the limited use of “they” as a singular pronoun. As always, the goal is clarity, not rigid adherence to a rule. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is…