One Million Lovely Letters

Website – onemillionlovelyletters.com

Every so often, if you are lucky, you come across a simple idea that lifts you out of whatever hole you have managed to dig for yourself that day. This happened to me recently when I heard about the One Million Lovely Letters project.

The backstory of the founder, Jodi Ann Bickley, is heartbreaking, but the result that came from it is heartwarming: to write a letter of support to anyone who needs one. This is such a simple thing, but the effect on those who receive the letters is extraordinary, and it shows the impact of heartfelt words, written in ink and alive on paper.

If you value the written word and believe in the power of human solidarity, then visit Jodi’s site and tell others to do so. The world needs more projects like this, connecting people across continents via well chosen words.

 

The Serial Comma – The smallest thing that can start an argument.

Although there are many small things that can start an argument, the smallest has to be the serial comma. It is not commonly used in British English, with the notable exception of the Oxford University Press and its famous dictionary. On the other side of the Atlantic, it appears to be universally used in American English, but I am unsure of the Canadian stance on the subject. So the British describe the colours of their flag as ‘red, white and blue’, whereas the Americans see theirs as ‘red, white, and blue’.

The writing of a story is a journey for the author. I expected this when I started, and it proved to be true, but not just on the larger scale of storytelling where you have to ask yourself what you should write next. Writing requires self-analysis, so you look at your prose more carefully than a reader ever will. You remove a word from a sentence only to reinsert it, then read the two versions aloud to listen to the difference in cadence before making a final judgment. You deliberate as to whether or not to leave two sentences as separate entities or connect them with a semi-colon. You look at how many dialogue tags you have used, as the overuse of ‘he said’ and ‘she replied’ slows down the pace of the conversation. I did all of this and more as I melded an idea with a blank piece of paper to form a tale, and during the many hours of reading my prose aloud I noticed one particular discrepancy between what I was saying and what was written on the page.

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The Lazy World of the Easy Adjective

After a series of posts about the subject of euthanasia, I think it is time to return to the world of words for a while, so I will start with a small bugbear of mine that illustrates a larger and more troublesome point.

Despite the English language containing more words than any other, there is a growing trend of adjectival indolence in everyday parlance. No longer is scenery described as picturesque and lovely on a small scale, or striking and majestic on a grand scale. All landscapes are now ‘stunning’, from mountains to farmland to garden ponds.

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Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words

Writing a novel, no matter how long, is like swimming up and down an empty pool. You can decide how many lengths you want to swim on any given day, your short term goal of the opposite end of the pool is always in sight, and no one will get in your way. Once you have swum all the lengths necessary to produce a completed story that is fit for sale, you must venture into open water, where you will find none of the comforts of your private pool.

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The Long Drop to Short Text

Every author who seeks to independently publish their own work must face a transition from one end of the writing spectrum to the other, from many thousands of words, all arranged into punctuated sentences, to the 140 character limit of a tweet. After composing a symphony of words in isolation, you must find a few short notes that will be heard within a cacophony of constant noise.

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Chapter Headings – Am I being unfashionable?

Chapter headings seem to appear less nowadays than in the books I read at school, but I would rather not make a definitive claim about that because I also remember summers being longer back then. I have always liked each chapter in a story to have a title that gives an identity to the forthcoming portion of the overall text and invites me to read on and discover the reason behind the headline.

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The Value of a Good Sentence

Sentence fragments. More common now. Overused?
Their place? End of a paragraph. Closing exclamation.
Much use anywhere else? Not really.

People converse in sentences, proper and complete, either long or short, blunt or sharp, as dictated by the content and the tone of what they want to say. Sentence fragments are dropped into casual speech because a level of familiarity already exists between the speaker and the listener, but the core of the dialogue is still comprised of sentences. When a narrator is talking to a reader, the need for good sentences is greater because the two participants in the conveyance of the fictional dream do not know one another. There is no level of familiarity that permits sentences to be chopped up and served as quick bites of text, yet there appears to be a growing trend to do so, as if the proper sentence is somehow too safe and sterile to reflect the edginess of the author’s cutting prose.

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