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elements of style writing

What You Can Learn from The Elements of Style

When I first started on my writing journey, my mentor offered me a few books on writing. One of them was this tiny gray book I’d never heard of before: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. When my mentor handed it to me, he warned me that it could be pretty dense.

The Elements of Style is a book with a certain … notoriety. Do your own quick Google search, and you’ll find no end to people who hold it up as a holy text of the craft and just as many who admonish it as an abomination.

As it is with many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But whether you’ve never heard of the book before or you already have a strong opinion about it, here are four lessons every writer can learn from this little gray book.

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what i learned submitting to modern love

8 Ways Submitting to ‘Modern Love’ Improved My Memoir

On June 24, 2020, the New York Times published one of my essays on their website for the first time. 

Soon after “All We Can Do Is Sudoku” appeared online, an executive editor from Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, followed me on Twitter. As a writer of nonfiction seeking representation, I was thrilled. I’d written the memoir To Have and to Hoard: How I Found Treasure in My Husband’s Trash and planned to query agents soon.

Publishing in a goal publication is a confidence-booster. But even reaching for your goal pub can increase your confidence and improve your writing—whether or not your piece is accepted. I didn’t know that when I dove in, so I want to help other memoirists and novelists use their time wisely.

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writing of anthony bourdain

What We Can Learn From the Writing of Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was the rock ‘n’ roll star of the culinary world. He made his name in the white-hot hell of New York kitchens, and was known for his cavalier style and love of French cuisine. 

He also loved to write. He found it therapeutic, a way to gather his thoughts and ideas away from the gleaming knives and fiery threats of the cookhouse.

But his passion for the kitchen also glowed through his writing. He treated words the same way as he handled ingredients—with a deep respect for their flavor, but a commitment to simplicity over fuss. 

Writing the way he spoke, his style was no-nonsense and to the point, almost aggressive. After his death in 2018, he was hailed as the “Hemingway of gastronomy” and it’s easy to see why: Both men wrote honestly and directly, and had little time for nonsense.

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bertrand russell writer

5 Ways Bertrand Russell Can Help You Become a Better Writer

Feeling self-conscious, struggling to translate your thoughts into words, or just not being able to write consistently. If you’re a writer, you’ll be familiar with all of these issues.

The craft of writing is something we shape and hone over a long period of time. Often, the enormity of this task causes us to shudder. “How can I get to that level?” is what we often ask ourselves when reading the work of greats such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce.

While it’s incredibly difficult to hit such heights, striving to reach them is a noble task and gives us the potential to create great things.

Taking inspiration from the work of master thinkers can provide writing help to take us to the next level. Often, their musings can be applied to our writing in order to make it more thoughtful, more challenging, or simply better-written.

Take Bertrand Russell, for example: a British philosopher with an unconventional outlook on life. Growing up in Victorian England in the late 19th century, society was firmly entrenched in old-fashioned ideas of class and religion. 

But the young Russell rebelled against such notions.

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