Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

November 4th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Book Review, Reviews, Tips and Tools, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 2 Comments »

On Writing homeMaybe it’s because I was born in the San Fernando Valley, home of the Valley Girl, that I don’t really care for the word awesome. I’m not sure whether Moon Zappa used it or not, but it seems very much like a Valley word to me. And I didn’t move all the way from California to the East Coast because I liked the Valley.

That’s probably more information than you need to know about me, but I wrote it for a reason. I want you to know there has to be a special reason for me to call anything awesome. So, with that explanation out of the way, here’s my assessment of Stephen King’s On Writing: it’s awesome.

Part memoir and part writing primer, this book is a must-read for anyone who writes — or reads, for that matter. King’s life story, which takes up the first half of the book, would be interesting even if the prose weren’t well written. But it is, and his accessible writing style elevates the material even more.

As interesting as the first half is, the second half is the reason I’m writing this review. Full of tips for writers, On Writing not only educates; it inspires. King obviously loves the craft of writing, and not just for the enormous amount of money it has earned him. In this book he honestly lays bare his own creative process, which happened to incorporate a life-threatening car crash and the struggle to came back to productivity again. He then goes on to hand out excellent common sense advice and practical tips for writers, along with sincere encouragement.

So if you ever feel your creative gas tank getting low, I highly recommend this awesome little book. If you’re like me, you’ll walk away inspired.

Buy this book

We hope you enjoyed this book review of On Writing. You might also want to read our other book reviews:

The Elements of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

You might also be interested in these gifts for writers.

Copyright 2007

Commonly Misspelled Vocabulary Words

November 3rd, 2007 carlajc Posted in Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 2 Comments »

Some words just beg to be spelled wrong or otherwise abused. Here are some of them:

Common misspellings
(The bold words are spelled correctly.)

Don’t you just want to take out that extra “c”?

a lot
A lot of the time, you see this written as “alot,” which it’s not.

I’ve misspelled this with an “a” replacing the third “e” more times than I want to admit.

I tend to want to ease out that second “e” and make it “easment” but that would be incorrect.

What a strange spelling to indicate something that’s on fire. This word seems more suited to a mythical forest creature than to indicate the hot nature of one of the planet’s basic elements.

Here’s another example of a word with an “e” (after “for”) that gets left off a lot of the time.

I always have to look twice at this word to make sure I’m not confusing it with gouge.

Unlike “easement” and “foreclosure,” the proper American form of this word doesn’t contain an “e.” If the writer is British, however, chances are you will find the “e” in place, making “judgement” an acceptable spelling.

You can blame this one on the people who lived in France about 400 years ago. We’ve had to live with that extra “i” ever since.

This one has always bothered me. It’s not that the spelling doesn’t make sense, it does. It’s just that it looks funny to me. Other people must agree because it is often misspelled.

Not only does it have two pesky double consonants, but every time I spell it, I want to replace that last “e” with an “a.”

So many people pronounce this purs-er-veer-ance, it’s easy to think it has a third “r.”

If precede is spelled with a “c” and means “to go before,” then why would supersede, which means “to take the place of,” be spelled with an “s”? I have no idea. They both indicate movement and would seem to be related.

words with “or” instead of “er”: lessor, grantor, mortgagor
There are many words that seem like they should end in “er” but instead terminate in “or.” In some cases, such as in “lessor,”swapping the “or” for an “er” (“lesser”) changes the meaning entirely.

You might also be interested in these related posts:


A Pre-posting Checklist: Stop in the Name of Blogs!

November 2nd, 2007 carlajc Posted in Grammar, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing Tips and Tools Comments Off on A Pre-posting Checklist: Stop in the Name of Blogs!


Reviewing the following checklist before you submit each post can save you time and possibly embarrassment:

[ ] Have you run your spelling-check software?

[ ] Have you incorporated your keywords into your copy and headline?

[ ] Does your headline convey that your post contains content that benefits your readers?

[ ] Are there any words that might have questionable capitalization, punctuation or spelling? If so, look them up in a dictionary or The Chicago Manual of Style. Also, see our list of common word errors.

[ ] Does your post contain content that benefits your readers?

[ ] Have you written anything that might really offend someone (and therefore get you in trouble legally)?

[ ] Have you broken your text into paragraphs that aren’t too long?

Special note to WordPress users:

Don’t take copy from a Microsoft Word document and put it into your blog. Doing so can create code problems. If you have copy from a Word doc in a WordPress post or page, do the following: (1.) copy it into Notepad, (2.) delete it from the WordPress interface and then (3.) paste the copy from Notepad back into WordPress. This will remove the bad code.

Another great solution is to use free Windows Live Writer software to create your blog posts.

If you have any tasks you think should be added to this list, please leave a comment.

Clipboard photo by Danny de Bruyne

You might also be interested in these writing-related WordPlay posts:

  • Grammar Myth #1
  • Grammar Myth #2
  • Internet Terms Guide
  • Keywords 101
  • Using Quotations
  • Wordz We Misspell
  • Writing Tools for Bloggers
  • Copyright 2007


    A Short Checklist: Writing Tools for Bloggers

    November 2nd, 2007 carlajc Posted in Book Review, Grammar, Punctuation, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 2 Comments »

    Writing tools for bloggersWriting good blog posts isn’t difficult when you’re passionate about your topic. But that same passion can cause you to not notice if a few (or maybe even more than a few) errors slip through. If you want to raise your writing to the next level, the following tools can help:

    * Your spelling-check software

    This is your first line of defense against typos. That’s pretty obvious. But what you might not realize is that because aspects of the English language actually change more often than you’d think (a good example is the recent influx of Web-related terms), spelling software sometimes isn’t up-to-date. So, here’s an important caveat: if your software doesn’t contain a word, or if you suspect it’s displaying the wrong hyphenation, capitalization, etc., you should refer to a dictionary or the next tool below.

    Chicago Manual of Style* The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

    Available in print and versions, this resource is a practical guide to editorial style. Although the online version offers easy answers to most questions that can pop up while writing, it doesn’t address all of them. You need the print version for that.

    Some examples of the questions TCMS answers:

    • Should president be capitalized when not used in front of someone’s name?
    • What is the proper format for citing an information source?
    • Which is correct: Web site, web site, website or Website?

    The online version is based on an annual subscription, but there is a 30-day free trial. Also, they offer a free-for-everyone that answers common grammar questions.

    Please also read our full review of this book.

    Buy this book

    Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home* Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

    Send, by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, is the first comprehensive guide to e-mail etiquette and standards. Since e-mail and the immediacy of blogging are closely related, awareness of the newly emerging rules regarding electronic communication can only benefit bloggers. Written with wit and style, Send is both a great resource and a fun read.

    Please also read our full review of this book.

    Buy this book

    There are obviously plenty of other good resources out there, but using even just these three will help you significantly improve the quality of your writing.

    Sometimes communing with others can help too. If you like to read, why not try a social networking site for book lovers or a general social networking site? Seeing how others write can often either inspire you or show you what not to do. And if the objective of your blogging is to make money, you owe it to yourself to learn how to make money online with Google Adsense. Many bloggers will tell you it’s the gold standard for monetizing a blog.

    Copyright 2007-2011

    Grammar Myth #1: Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

    November 2nd, 2007 carlajc Posted in Grammar, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 8 Comments »

    Grammar mythsThere are a lot of grammar myths floating around, perpetuated by well-meaning people who are, unfortunately, a little behind the times. But don’t blame them (or yourself, if you’re one of them); the English language is a work in progress. Rules that were actually taught in school years ago have been debunked, and others have taken their place. One rule that has no basis in fact but has been widely taught anyway is the prohibition against ending a sentence with a preposition. I used to buy into this one myself.

    In case you aren’t familiar with the term, a preposition is a word that expresses a relationship to the word(s) it precedes. Some examples are in, on, from, by, to, for and with. An example of a sentence that ends with a preposition would be:

    There are some things I will not put up with.

    To understand why the rule prohibiting this structure is inappropriate, consider how silly the sentence becomes when rewritten to move the preposition from the end:

    There are some things up with which I will not put.

    According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the rule about ending a sentence with a preposition stems from an “ill-founded superstition.” This superstition probably started with people who studied Latin, which has a grammatical structure that doesn’t allow for sentences ending in prepositions.

    If you disagree with what I’ve written in this post, please read my comments below.

    Also, see grammar myth #2: You can’t begin a sentence with and or but.

    You might also be interested in these related posts:


    Copyright 2007

    More 50-cent Vocabulary Words

    November 2nd, 2007 carlajc Posted in Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 2 Comments »

    Here are some more tough vocabulary words. Match the terms below with their definitions. See the bottom of this post for the answers.

    1. Dearth (pronounced: derth)
    2. Frisson (pronounced: free SAW)
    3. Furbelows (pronounced: FUR buh lohz)
    4. Heterogeneous (pronounced: he tuh ruh JEE nee uhs)
    5. Misogyny (pronounced: mi SAH juh nee)
    6. Mordant (pronounced: MAWR dint)
    7. Profligate (pronounced: PRAH fluh git)
    8. Rectitude (pronounced: REK tuh tood)
    9. Sartorial (pronounced: sahr TAW ree uhl)
    10. Tautology (pronounced: taw TAH luh jee)

    A. Composed of unlike or unrelated parts; widely different
    B. Extremely wasteful; recklessly extravagant
    C. Caustic or sarcastic
    D. Needless repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase or sentence
    E. Pertaining to clothing or dress, especially men’s
    F. A shudder or tingle experienced from excitement, fear or pleasure
    G. Correct conduct according to principles
    H. Hatred of women, especially by a man
    I. Showy, useless trim or ornamentation
    J. A scarcity or lack

    (Scroll the page so you can’t see the answers until you’re ready.)




    1J, 2F, 3I, 4A, 5H, 6C, 7B, 8G, 9E, 10D

    Also, you might want to try Fifty-cent Words: A Vocabulary Words Quiz.


    Copyright 2007