Thursday, April 12, 2012


Anyone who tells you to delete any of the eight parts of speech is full of you-know-what.

The best writers use the English language the same way a conductor uses an orchestra. Each instrument in an orchestra has its place; together they create beauty and magic.

That is what good to great writers do with words. They make you wish you had said that or thought to put words together in that particular order. They intermingle words to create melody, mood, beauty and magic.

A writer can be a technician or she or he can aspire to be an artist. Technicians can write what you want when you want it and they can do it very well.  An artist cannot. A good technician can earn a decent living and gain enormous renown while most artists are known only to their girlfriends, boyfriends and mothers and fathers. And sometimes not even to them. They end up saying “Wait till next year.”

So, too, if  Amberson, the editor, wants a thing written without using an adjective or the word suddenly or the word actually or the word that; if she scorns all words ending in  -tion– she can find many writers who will give her what she wants  and she will reward them for their attention to detail. More, she will make it an ironclad rule and spread the word that such words are to be forever banned because she does not like them.  Such words are to be likened to shingles or acne or God forbid - AIDS.

Anyone wishing to come to Amberson’s attention and to earn a living writing for her would be foolish not to heed her dictates or the dictates of any of a number of such guardians of the English language such as speakers at writers’ seminars and instructors at MFA factories and so-called book doctors.

 Holding truth before us, it is fair to say that many writers become willing acolytes to these heresies and make a good living  avoiding –ly endings and adjectives and adverbs and –ing endings even though such prohibitions collectively would prevent  anyone from uttering more than  a grunt.

Yet, no one would dream of telling a painter that he or she may not use red. Or blue. Or any other color. A sculptor is at liberty to chip away at marble or granite or anything from paper to plastic. Who will say to her – “You can’t use marble because I say so.”? Going back to our orchestra, will anyone be heard to say –“Get rid of the drums, they detract from the music” or “No one listens to the piano anymore - a keyboard is better.” ?

But writers? They, none of them, are artists apparently. Rather they are snot nosed kids to be pushed around and made to stand in corners. And they do. Here is a litany of all of the elements of language that someone somewhere decreed are obsolete or a hindrance to good writing.


 –ly endings



show, don’t tell

-tion endings

-ing endings,



prepositional phrases

the verb to be.

Try this - write a paragraph on anything at all.  At least 30 words. Now strip out each adjective, adverb and each of the items above and see what you get. If it is not gibberish, you are beyond being a genius.

Artists create. What they bring forth is unique; it is a part of them and their very being just as a woman’s baby is a part of her blood and flesh and being. No one should ever tell a writer what to write creatively. An ad for soap powder, an article on radiation or the prison population lend themselves to the technician or the journalist. They are not making things up or trying to create an effect or an emotional surge.

Artists, like mothers, create. Can we tell an expectant mother that her child may not have blue eyes or a certain color skin? 

A more extensive discussion of the basic ignorance surrounding the don’t use this can be found at

In future we will look at the use some famous writers have made of language and the prescience of George Orwell. 

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