Spring Training

Making Grammar Cool Again

By Joe Diorio

Everyone can use a workout to stay in shape. (That’s probably the lamest opening line I have ever done, but I’m sticking with it.) So here are a few exercises to tone up our writing.

Proofreading tip. For me, proofreading is the toughest part of writing. “I’ve already written this,” my brain tells me. “There are no mistakes.” Of course, it’s right after I hit “send” on that email when I realize I really wanted to write “duck.”

That said, here is a nearly foolproof proofreading technique:

  1. When you finish what you are writing, stop and play a game of solitaire on your phone. It doesn’t have to be solitaire. Just do something other than look at what you wrote.
  2. Next, return to the document and change the font. Sans serif to serif or vice-versa, doesn’t matter.
  3. Then proofread the document.

This simple procedure works wonders. Changing the font will trick your brain into thinking you are reading a brand-new document and you will inevitably catch mistakes you might not catch otherwise.

Shaking the cobwebs loose. Part I. Regardless* if you are writing a business press release or a passage for your great American novel, we all need to shake our creative juices.

Describe this as though you are an angry motorcycle cop: Opening the windows and letting in fresh air.

Stop laughing. It’s an exercise to stretch your creative juices and NOBODY has to see what you wrote. I have used the Ernest Hemingway quote about first drafts far too often, but just trying an exercise like this works. Try it. Here’s my attempt:

Wasting little time, he ripped the double-hung open like it was an offensive lineman in his way.

Send me yours!

Shaking the cobwebs loose. Part II. If you’re stuck, try changing one aspect of your draft. Writing a scene for a novel? Change the weather. Writing about a new gadget the Trask Company will roll out to the market? In your draft (and I can’t stress this enough – in your DRAFT, not anything you send around for review) write about the new gadget’s global killing effects. Writing about something that is completely off-topic will help you generate fresh perspectives.  

The “est”?

After defeating the Villanova University women’s basketball team to move into the “Elite Eight” of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship tournament, University of Miami Coach Katie Meier told reporters, “there is no ‘est’ here. We’re just looking toward the next game.”

Meier’s use of the term “est” is a crazy-shortened version of the word “best.” It’s colloquialism for sure, but it’s one that I admit I hope doesn’t catch on. After all, take away ‘est’ from ‘best’ and you are left with ‘b’ and methinks a shortened word should have enough left to have the original meaning attached to it.

The practice of shortening a word to an idiom isn’t new. Fifteen years ago when the Philadelphia Phillies were winning Major League Baseball championships every year, a popular T-shirt sported the word “ill,” stylized with the same font used in the word “Phillies” uniforms. 

Book News

Mark your calendars for May 2024 (or thereabouts). That’s when my second book, Murders at Trask. Crisis communications and the art of making nothing happen will be published. It is a look at crisis communication planning and is loosely based on a mass shooting event that I, sadly, was in the middle of 40 years ago.

I shall be relentlessly promoting, asking for early reviews, etc. You have been warned.

Let’s write carefully out there, people.

* Yes, I used regardless, not irregardless. (But both are words. Honest.)

One thought on “Spring Training

  1. Joe, I can’t wait for your next book. I love the title – and your change-the-font proofreading tip.

    Steve Neumann University ________________________________


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