What’s a split infinitive? Let’s start with what an infinitive is. It’s the irreducible form of a verb, composed of two words, to and the infinitive form of the verb. Examples: to run, to swim, to party, to study. All of any verb’s other forms derive from the infinitive. [Read more…]
More often than not these days, you hear people use the term one-dimensional to describe a shallow or superficial rendering of a person or an idea. But the term that serves that purpose is actually two-dimensional. Mathematically speaking, a one-dimensional entity is a single point or a line—not really an “entity” at all. Neither can be seen because they don’t take up any space. They’re theoretical. A two-dimensional entity is a plane. It occupies space, but it’s flat, without depth. Three-dimensionality adds depth to a two-dimensional entity. It can expand a plane to a cube. So when we speak of an inadequate characterization in a movie, for example, we’re referring not to something as slender as a line, but to a surface without depth—in this case, the depth of personality, humanity, and believability. [Read more…]
Good Editors, Bad Editors, and Revision
My last post illustrated the work of a good editor, whom I’d define as someone so attuned to your writing that she can help you say what you mean more clearly and more eloquently than you’ve so far been able to do for yourself. I often tell my students that a good editor will make you want to propose marriage. [Read more…]
Wrangling over a Single Sentence
As if to fulfill my need to demonstrate an especially nit-picky, real-life instance of revision, an editor with whom I’ll soon be publishing an essay (on the modest topic of love in Shakespeare’s plays) has been working with me for weeks on a single sentence from a 5000-word piece. The assistant editor first emailed me about the sentence, which occurs late in the essay and concerns the protagonist of Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline:
The ultimate point, though, isn’t Posthumus’s failure, any more than is his failure to act out of compassion, rather than in defense of his male honor, the end of the story.
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