Twenty-some years ago, during the first wave of dot-com hysteria, I worked as content director at an audio-and-music startup called Audiocafe.com, on Mission Street in San Francisco.
Category: Soup To Nuts
Back in the 20th century, I used to record myself reading chapters of a fellow college student’s textbooks, as he was blind. At the time, unless someone was sitting with him reading the textbook out loud, his only option to hear the text was to listen to a tape. Sure, Braille was also an option, though I’m guessing most of his textbooks may not have been available in Braille.
Each genre of writing has a timeframe, its temporal setting—for news, product reviews, press releases, and nearly all corporate writing; the timeframe is the present. Anything else—celebrity profiles, short stories, screenplays and stage plays, novels—can have any sort of timeframe you wish. A story about a Civil War soldier can be told in the present tense, as if it’s a thriller...
As all high school graduates know—or are supposed to know—in modern English, double negatives are considered at best improper and at worst, indicative of semi-literacy. “I don’t have none” is an ungrammatical response to a question such as “Do you have any money?” Even more ungrammatical are “stacked” negative elements, such as “I don’t have none never.”
Every piece of writing is founded on a point of view, or “POV” in screenwriters’ parlance. A story’s point of view may be objective or subjective, from inside or outside depicted events—sometimes called “interiority” and “exteriority” by writing teachers—and may have a singular perspective or multiple perspectives.
Here’s a snippet of an October 21 CNN news report about the debunked theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory, intended as a potent biological weapon:
Awkward sentence construction interferes with narrative flow in every kind of prose, from news reporting to fiction. Sometimes it’s unintentional on the part of harried or wooden-eared writers, and sometimes it’s a conscious attempt to adhere to a publication’s “house style.”
The Star Trek mission statement—“to boldly go where no one has gone before”—has been criticized many times by grammarians who insist that it’s wrong because inserting the adverb “boldly” between “to” and “go” yields a so-called “split infinitive.”
Every era has its linguistic fads. Our own is prone to borrowings from engineering and technology, or at the very least borrowings that sound technical, efficient, precise, and authoritative—even if they don’t mean much or are blatant nonsense.
Screenwriting guru Syd Field worked for a long time as a script reader for major film studios. Each morning he would face a stack of scripts to be read and passed further up the development chain or rejected as unusable.
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