Actually, it’s awfully well written

I am wary of how to be a better writer guides, but the Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See by Holt Uncensored is excellent. The sections covered are: repeats (crutch words), flat writing, empty adverds (avoid fat writing), phony dialog, no-good suffixes, the ‘to be’ words, lists (uh, well, ignore this one), show don’t tell, awkward phrasing, and commas.

I have five crutch words I am trying to break myself of. They are: actually, ultimately, that, however, and fuckthepresident.

However, in regards to the essay’s section on comma use, my problem with commas is that I tend to use too many rather than not enough. One of my favorite college computer teachers, who happened to have a PhD in English, used to tell me he wanted me to write comfortably without worry about punctuation, and then go through the work when I was finished and delete half the commas — adjusting the text accordingly. I still try to follow this today, but am not always successful.

As for flat writing, that’s the bane of technical writers. It’s very difficult to write actively when you’re talking about code. Something about code flattens written language. Still (is still a crutch word? Hmmm), flat, or passive writing, is a very effective tool to use when you’re involved in a sensitive written debate, such as in comments. The flat writings nollifies the bite of the words, making it less, uhm, flammable.

If you want your writing to be perceived more passively, write more passively.

All in all, an excellent essay.

Just Shelley

To Keep Burningbird Or Not

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

One issue I’ve been debating off and of about with myself is whether to keep the Burningbird weblog. I’ve splintered off so many interests into different weblogs, and the main reason I do so is there is there is an assumption that everything I write is somehow a ‘flame’ and what I write then becomes seen in this manner. I’ve become hesitant about even making comments in other weblogs because of this.

Yes, I am a passionate writer, and yes, I can have a temper. But I’m also capable of calm reason, instances of beauty, thoughtfulness, generosity, and even playfulness. I am growing very concerned that my writing is perceived surrounded by a faint ghostly lick of flame; I wonder how much of it is truly being seen, read in its own regard, or just dismissed as so much ‘Burningbird’ burning.

I look at other webloggers who have acheived a reputation for thoughtful writing, such as Jonathon Delacour or Joi Ito or AKMA or Liz Lawley, as well as other folks both liked and, perhaps more importantly, respected. It is true that for the most part, they do think carefully before they write, and this is reflected in their writing. But I’ve seen all four write angrily, become cranky, and even get a bit snippy (and I say this with respect, so please, all of you don’t get angry with me). Of course they do, and that’s what makes all of them so enjoyable to read. I don’t want to read the writing of automatons.

Yet how much of this is perceived because they have a (well deserved) persona of being a thoughtful writer? As I have that, equally well deserved, persona of being what? Passionate? Hot tempered? A whiney, negative, self-centered, tempermental bitch with a cause?

I wrote a comment in another weblog this morning that I had hoped to be seen as thoughtful, but ended up being perceived as an attack. In fact, from the response, it was seen as me being the same old Burningbird. I wouldn’t mind being taken to task for bad writing, or a thoughtless comment — but it was painted as me being me, and disregarded because of same.

Stops me dead in my tracks.

Maybe splintering the writing into different weblogs won’t do a bit of good because it’s too late for me — I am Burningbird, and Burningbird is me. And regardless of how I write, and what I write, I’ll never been seen as anything else.