Friday, December 17, 2010


10-second review: When reading something she has published, Ellen Goodman, becomes upset if she finds a problem with the finished work. A universal experience?

Quote: “When I read my column in the paper and I find I’ve used the same word twice close together or if I’ve got something dangling, I can’t stand it.” Ellen Goodman. The Writer’s Yearbook, 1981.

Comment: Following is my [RayS’s]description of the characteristics of standard, edited, publishable and formal English:

What is standard, edited, publishable English? The closer students are to conversational English, the farther they are from what I think of as “standard, edited, publishable English” or “formal” English.

In formal English, I discourage the use of the word “there” because, as the opening word of a sentence, “there” postpones the direct expression of the subject of the sentence and causes a problem in subject/verb agreement. The word “there” tends to be used too often by inexperienced writers. Unnecessarily repeated words are the hallmark of inexperienced writers.

I discourage the use of “it,” “get” and its cousins, “getting,” “got,” and “gotten,” and the word “thing,” all of which tend to be needlessly repeated as well as lacking in precision. These words, used sparingly, give a feeling of informality, but needlessly repeated, they clog expression.

Of course, I discourage unnecessary repetition of words of any sort.

I encourage making clear reference to the demonstrative pronouns, “this,” “that,” “these” and “those.” “This idea…. That issue…. “These participants…. And “Those designs….”

I encourage use of the active voice. Direct expression has its virtues.

And I encourage looking for and fixing parallel structure and dangling modifiers which interrupt the flow of expression.

The result is what I call “standard, edited, publishable Englishor, “formal English.”


Title: The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing. Thomas Clark, ed., et al. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1994.

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