A colleague who teaches journalism wrote to me recently, saying that she’s seeing too many sentences like this: What I take from this interaction is that it’s important to be empathetic … What strikes me most about the reporting team’s process is… “I’m having trouble explaining succinctly why this is bad writing,” she adds. “It’s clearly unnecessary […]
A reader in Portland sent me a lovely email complimenting an article I recently wrote, which had just posted online. The headline made me gasp: “A Local Shares Things to Do in Oahu.” It’s true, I’m a local to O‘ahu (which I spell the Hawaiian way) and it’s true that in the article I shared […]
Today I’m excited to announce that I’ve just turned a longtime dream into a reality: I’ve published a book of lesson plans for teachers who use Sin and Syntax in the classroom. Its 372 pages come with ideas for discussions, in-class exercises, homework assignments, handouts, answer keys, and even a big grammar test. There are readings galore, of my heterodox favorite passages (from Charlotte Brontë to Muhammad Ali!).
A colleague of mine recently shared this story: “This afternoon I was sitting in a doctor’s office reading a random article about Utah hot springs in whatever magazine was on the table, and belly laughing. I read the lede: ‘I was floating on my back, looking at the Wellsville Mountains in the distance and dissolving problems in water the precise temperature of inner peace,’ and I thought: Chris Colin.”
We who know Chris and his writing agreed: he has a distinctive (and funny) voice.
Recently, one of my young cousins emailed me to ask about copy-editing resources. As the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, she had decided to institute a new step in the paper’s editing process. My many emails exchanges with her made me realize that while I’ve blogged about literary style and good editing in the past, this little-understood and vastly under-appreciated part of the publishing process deserves some attention.
The best writers I know have habits to make sure their words are as powerful as possible. It may seem old-fashioned, or just tedious, to work with a dictionary and a thesaurus at your side, but this is part of the practice of writing. Take a common noun like fruit, which many of us might use in a first draft. We can do better than that, right?
Being bilingual is a cornerstone of my writing life. My multi-culti take on vocabulary and grammar has given me insight into Hawaiian culture, guided my perspectives on syntax, and shaped my ideas of adventurous prose. And being bilingual has developed my ear for language and given me a true appreciation not just for vocabulary, but also for the sound of words and the rhythm of sentences.
OK, you may think a grotto is “a small picturesque cave,” possibly near the sea or a lake, and probably sprouting ferns or fountains. Maybe you’ve seen a grotto in a fancy garden, like the Grotta Azzurra at Capri or Le Nôtre’s at Versailles, and associate it with Old World intrigue or even religious shrines.
Like many citizens, I’m finding it impossible to ignore reports about the new U.S. administration and its “disruptions.” I try to stay nonpartisan here (and in my books), since I prefer to poke fun at all ridiculous political speech, and to applaud any brilliant syntax.
I have been tuned into all things Hawai‘i this year, what with the release of my new books, both featuring Hawaiian subjects. So when I read that Disney’s Moana earned a spot behind Frozen as the second highest grossing Thanksgiving Day debut of all time, and held top rankings at the box office for several weeks, I was excited. Is Hawaiian culture finally going to get the attention it deserves?