1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such astoe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles’ heel, swan song, and hotbedcome to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic.
For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
Long words don’t make you sound intelligent unless used skillfully. In the wrong situation they’ll have the opposite effect, making you sound pretentious and arrogant. They’re also less likely to be understood and more awkward to read.
Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree (Ezra Pound). Accordingly, any words that don’t contribute meaning to a passage dilute its power. Less is always better. Always.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
The man was bitten by the dog. (passive)The dog bit the man. (active).The active is better because it’s shorter and more forceful.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
This is tricky because much of the writing published on the internet is highly technical. If possible, remain accessible to the average reader. If your audience is highly specialized this is a judgment call. You don’t want to drag on with unnecessary explanation, but try to help people understand what you’re writing about. You want your ideas to spread right?
6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.
This bonus rule is a catch all. Above all, be sure to use common sense.These rules are easy to memorize but difficult to apply. Although I’ve edited this piece a dozen times I’m sure it contains imperfections. But trust me, it’s much better now than it was initially. The key is effort. Good writing matters, probably more than you think.
Dépaysement: The sensation of being in another country.
La douleur exquise: The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have. Even a Sex in the City episode was named after it!
Chômer: To be unemployed, but because it’s a verb, it makes the state active.
Profiter: To make the most of or take advantage of.
Flâneur: As defined in the book Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, it’s “the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothing, including his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.”
Esprit d’escalier: The literal translation is staircase wit, but it means to think of a comeback when it’s too late.
Retrouvailles: The happiness of meeting again after a long time.
Sortable: An adjective for someone you can take anywhere without being embarrassed.
Voila/voici: It’s so necessary that we use it all the time. “Voila” literally means “there it is” and “voici means “here it is.”
Empêchement: An unexpected last-minute change of plans. A great excuse without having to be specific
Different kinds of work have different time quanta. Someone proofreading a manuscript could probably be interrupted every fifteen minutes with little loss of productivity. But the time quantum for hacking is very long: it might take an hour just to load a problem into your head. So the cost of having someone from personnel call you about a form you forgot to fill out can be huge.
This is why hackers give you such a baleful stare as they turn from their screen to answer your question. Inside their heads a giant house of cards is tottering.
“To say that we learned everything from the ground up is literally true. I began by filing square angles into metal, and making the surfaces as smooth as possible. In a direct visceral way this gave us a feel for the materials, a respect for precision, and pride of workmanship.”—
Stefan Daniel, Division Manager, Product Management at Leica Camera AG
How many product managers do you know who are this intimate with the product they’re managing? How’s the quality of their product compare with Leica’s?
How is it that phones can find our exact locations using a network of space satellites, and broadcast it to our real and virtual friends via high speed wireless internet, but that can’t detangle the reciprocal voicemail tangle that follows a just-missed call?
“Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: On the road, we often live more simply, with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance. This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear” — disruption, in other words, (or emancipation) from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide.”—Pico Iyer, “Why We Travel”
“My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, “Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.” What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”—
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.
You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.
Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.