Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Elements of Twitter Style

We at the BloGG have a soft spot for contrarian grammarians. So we couldn't help but notice this conventional wisdom-challenging from digital marketing expert Erin Everhart extolling the linguistic virtues of Twitter. Unlike many literary purists, who see Tweets and texts as accelerating the disintegration of good grammar, Everhart finds a valuable benefit in hyper-condensed writing. She argues that Twitter, with its uncompromising 140-character limit, compels users to exercise concision, cut adverbs, and target audiences more carefully. Anyone else believe Everhart is in the right place?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Around the Word

We're welcoming back the week with some peace, love and understanding:
  • Dennis Glover proposes a truce in the Redfern Park Speech battle raging between former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating and veteran speechwriter Don Watson. Watson recently took credit for penning the famous address, delivered in 1992, in which Keating apologized to indigenous Australians for atrocities committed by early European settlers.  Glover tours the rhetoric brilliance of the speech, considered a crowning jewel of oration down under.
  • Ever caught yourself on a date scanning the bookcase of your companion? The New Republic burrows into a new matchmaking site for bookworms seeking literate romance. Alikewise.com lets you scroll through users' virtual bookshelves and read their thoughts on books they post. The founders, Matt Sherman and Matt Masina, believe that reading choices offer a wider window into a person than do other networking niches (think Cupidtino, a meetup for Mac users)—while still catering to the literati.
  • The New York Times Magazine explores how gendered nouns, spatial terms and color names affect patterns of thought and behaviors—like physical orientation and color perception—that seem instinctual. Guy Deutscher, who adapted the article from his forthcoming book Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages, focuses his lens on Guugu Yimithirr, an indigenous Australian language with no words for "left" or "right." Its speakers get around with an internal GPS of uncanny accuracy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stylish Syntax

The BloGG likes to stay à la mode, but the glamour hints offered in Roy Peter Clark's hot new book have nothing to do with the Kate Spade wedge or bewitching wearables. Instead, The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English dishes out advice for fashioning effective sentences while evading the schoolmarm's frump-factor.

Clark opens with a parable of flexible orthography from the Middle Ages, when the word "grammar" (which originally meant "learning") was twisted into "glamour," the knowledge of magic and spells. A pun does the charm: "spell" denotes "both the order of letters to form words and an incantation to show your mystical power and influence" as Clark remarks on Paper Cuts.

Now this crusading senior scholar at the Poynter Institute is out to cram the glam back in grammar. His book, which is receiving rave reviews from The New York Times and others, teaches readers how to "cross-dress the parts of speech" and treat the elegant semi-colon as a "swinging door" in a sentence.

On the first page, Clark recalls coming of age when Webster's 1961 edition kicked up a ruckus by accepting "ain't" into the fold. Rather than "refudiate" the living idiom, this grammar guru encourages readers to harness the power of words without locking language up.

Take a look at an excerpt and "Learn seven ways to invent new words" while you enjoy your August "staycation."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last Blast of the Trumpet

This summer's favorite onomatopoeia—vuvuzela—once again has fans buzzing. The straight plastic horn blasted by South African soccer supporters at the 2010 World Cup—and lambasted by TV viewers around the world—was almost banned by FIFA. Now the Oxford Dictionary of English has embraced the vexatious instrument, along with over 2,000 other terms, in its Third Edition released Thursday. The dictionary (a kissing-cousin to the vaunted OED) was first published in 1998 and is dedicated to capturing the ever-expanding global wordhoard.

Each year's new entrants offer a sort of Year-In-Neologisms, a barometer for measuring where the pressure has risen in the economic, political, online and environmental climate. Among the notable matriculants in the class of 2010 are a few trendy Internet memes including "microblogging" (brief bursts of information trafficked by sites like Tumblr or Twitter), a "tweetup" (meeting arranged via Twitter) and "social media" (of which the BloGG is a representative!).

And, as debates rage over divisive issues like climate change and financial regulation, the ODE offers a shared vernacular from which activists, politicians and businessmen can fish up terms like "carbon capture" and "geo-engineering" or "toxic debt" and "quantitative easing," all recent inductees.

If you're interested in seeing a fuller list, you can find it at Time Magazine. So, for all you "cool hunters," we're curious to hear what words or faux-nemes you think the ODE missed!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Schmear Campaign

Here's a classic only-in-New York story — and one that's catnip for language mavens and Starbucks haters everywhere. 

Our new hero is Columbia Ph.D. Lynne Rosenthal.  As the New York Post reported earlier this week, Rosenthal lost it when she was forced to answer whether she wanted cream cheese or butter on the plain bagel she ordered at the Starbucks on West 86th and Columbus.  She told off the barista so vociferously that the cops were called and ended up escorting her out off the premises.  This is apparently not Rosenthal's first run-in with the Starbuccaneers — she is known to routinely protest the coffeehouse's kooky size system by ordering "smalls" instead of "talls." 

We were all ready to mobilize a Let Lynne Loose campaign, but alas, she did not have to go to the grande house.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Around the Word

After a well deserved and greatly appreciated summer break, we're back to scouring the web for words of wisdom worth sharing.  Here's today's take:
  • Copyblogger shares the 60 standout insights (one for each speaker) from their recent conference "The Influencer Project."  From testing digital trends each month to meeting online contacts offline, these tips from marketing pros are sure to up your influence with the audiences you are trying to reach
  • The Wichita Eagle reviews The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time, a book about two sharpie-bearing pals on a cross-country mission to correct all the public-facing typos that are, ultimately, breaking down our communication
  • Nick Morgan creates a new kind of honor roll -- one which celebrates speakers not for their presentations, per se, but for their pleasantness behind the scenes. Consider it a reverse blacklist for meeting planners

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Holtz vs. FitzPatrick, continued

Media master Shel Holtz is stepping up his write fight with his fellow PR pro, Liam FitzPatrick, who boldly claimed that good writing "doesn't matter" in the communications field.  Rounding up responses from a few of his pals in the PR trade -- including top execs from IABC, Cisco, and Wylie -- Holtz makes a strong case that good writing not only helps to assert opinions and express  ideas, but is essential in knowing what we think in the first place.  We're glad to see these two thought leaders engaging in this debate, which is helping to bolster our existential argument that good writing matters as much as any other part of the communications food chain if not more so.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why We Need Editors

TheAtlantic.com's senior editor Alex Madrigal makes a compelling case against the marginalization of editors in the digital age.  Just look at the recent appreciation for design -- and the success of a movie named after a font [Helvetica] -- and it's clear that the public, too, can grasp the shortcomings of DIY.  Madrigal argues that editors are like the pavers of writerly roads, and that it's only a matter of time until the bumps start to bother us.