Friday, December 16, 2016

Write Tight (Part 2 of 7)

"In the midst of all the Christmas merriment, Henry literally fell off the chair in laughter." I read that sentence in an article, but Henry didn't fall. The sprinkling of literally troubles me: To many people, that word has become a symbol for something beyond ordinary responses to events.

Couldn't the writer have told us about excessive laughter? Perhaps Henry kept howling over something others found only slightly humorous. How would we know? The writer took the easy way out—he used an over-generalization that doesn't communicate well. (Originally, I wrote a sweeping statement, but that sounded like a cliché.)

LOL has become popular in tweeting and I often wonder if they really do laugh out loud. More likely, it means, "I thought it was funny."

I ask myself what I want to say; 
then I use appropriate words to express my meaning.

4 comments:

  1. Cec,
    This is the first time I've commented on a blog post, and I'm long overdue. I've read your writing tips for years and consider you my most faithful writing mentor. Your writing book was the first craft book I purchased and remains my favorite. It (and your blog posts) exemplify what it means to write tight. Thank you for all you have done to encourage and educate writers. I know I speak for many when I express my profound gratitude.

    I have one question, though, that has bothered me every time I see a post or article encouraging us to "write tight." Because I know you're a professional and won't get offended by my question, I finally feel the freedom to ask it: I know everyone likes rhyme and meter, but shouldn't it be "Write tightLY?" Isn't "tight" an adverb that needs an "ly" at the end?

    Whew! Now that I've gotten that out, I feel much better. Merry Christmas!

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  2. Lori is correct. Tight is normally an adjective and tightly is an adverb. However, today we tend to take the -ly ending off adverbs, especially in writing informal "commands." Drive slow is a common example of this trend.
    And in this case, write tight rhymes, which makes it easier to remember. Further, the words have been in the publishing vocabulary as long as I can remember (even though technically incorrect)

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  3. The English language is changing all the time and often we don't like some of the changes. But the only languages that don't change are dead languages, so I grit my teeth and accept things like "write tight." In another 50 years people will find our use of "ly" as archaic as King James English.

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What are your thoughts?