More on writing

My niece sent me this: “The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.” Meant just to be a joke but I detect an important message for writers in there: be sure to keep tenses consistent.

On another note: Our local paper publishes a column on words, aptly called “Watchwords”. ┬áThe author, Mark Abley, urged that it was time to retire anachronistic proverbs As does he, I keep seeing these in papers I review and I can’t help but wonder if the writers understand their meaning or know their origins. A common proverb is “This is an example of the pot calling the kettle black.” Less familiar, and less useful, are “No man is a hero to his valet”; “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”; and “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb”. I understand the first but am less certain about the other two. Much less familiar (to English writers and readers) and much, much less useful are “Better to be in front of a chicken than behind a pig” (from Taiwan) or “Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants” (from Japan), or “A camel does not drink with a spoon” (from Iran). Moral: choose your adverbs with care.

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