Writers at Work: The Art of Revision

By Ray E. Boomhower

“Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.”
—Bernard Malamud

“If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”
—Arthur Quiller-Couch

“The wastepaper basket is a writer’s best friend.”
—Isaac Bashevis Singer

“No Problem, I’ll Delete It.” Good Luck With That.

By Jack Limpert

The Washington Post had a good piece this week on Jimmy Fasusi, a Nigerian immigrant who loves to repair typewriters. The story said that although much of his business is repairing more modern equipment, “manual typewriters are his passion.”

Fasusi says customers from as far away as Russia and South America buy the typewriters he sells on his store’s website. “They’re motivated, Fasusi thinks, by concerns over government surveillance of online activity.”

When Old Editors Talk to One Another

“How much do you think the Washingtonian is paying these days?”

“I think still $1 a word, maybe occasionally a little more. In the early ‘70s, it was ten cents a word. I remember because I once told Kitty Kelley, “Kitty, you’re never going to get more than ten cents a word.” Ten years later, after the Washington Star folded, I told Maureen Dowd, “Maureen, nobody is going to pay you more than $25,000 a year.”

Hey, Washington Post, We’re Not Best Pals. Enough With This “We” Stuff.

By Jack Limpert

The start of Kathleen Parker’s column in today’s Washington Post:

Why we can’t dismiss Donald Trump

Donald Trump can’t help himself. Nor can we.

The “worse” he gets, it seems, the better we like it. Watching Trump is so deliciously awful, we don’t hang on every word. We hang on the edge of our seats waiting for the next word….
As I’ve said before, on mornings when Post writers suggest the writer and reader are best pals, I can’t help but replay the old Lone Ranger joke in which the Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves staring up at canyon walls filled with hostile Indian warriors. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto and says, “What do we do now, Tonto?” Tonto says, “What do you mean we, Kemosabe?”

Julius Duscha: Soft-Spoken, Tough, One of the First Media Critics

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.58.07 AMJulius Duscha started as a reporter in St. Paul, reported for the Washington Post from 1958 to 1966 and headed the Washington Journalism Center from 1968 to 1990. We met in early 1969, just after I started at the Washingtonian, and he wrote for us, doing some of the first good media stories.

Back then there was very little media criticism. In 1968 I had been a Congressional Fellow in the office of Vice President Hubert Humphrey. When President Johnson didn’t run for re-election, Humphrey became the Democratic candidate for President and I traveled with the writing press as a kind of assistant press secretary.

Journalism 103: What the Hyphen Does

From the Washington Post of July 19, 2015 in a story on the status of research into Alzheimer’s:

“This is one of the rare, good news stories,” said Richard Lipton, who heads the Einstein Aging Study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

It is good to have good news about Alzheimer’s, but the way the writer punctuated this quote needs help.

How About Journalists Who Went to State Universities vs. Those Who Went to Ivy League Schools?

From the  New York Times review of the book In Search of Sir Thomas Browne by Jim Holt:

The history of English prose can be seen as a dialectical struggle between two tendencies: plain versus grand. The plain style aims at ease and lucidity. It favors simply structured sentences, short words of Saxon origin and a conversational tone. It runs the risk of being flat. By contrast, the grand style — also called (by Cyril ­Connolly) “mandarin” — aims at rhetorical luxuriance. It is characterized by rolling ­periods decked with balanced subordinate clauses, a polysyllabic Latinate vocabulary, elaborate rhythms, stately epithets, sumptuous metaphors, learned allusions and fanciful turns of phrase. It runs the risk of being ridiculous.

David Bradley Says He Failed—I Think He Misses John Fox Sullivan

By Jack Limpert

David Bradley, chairman of Atlantic Media, said this week that the National Journal will drop its print edition later this year to focus entirely on its digital offerings. He explained the print decision by saying, “I believe I failed….A few years back…distracted from National Journal’s work, I took both my eyes and hands off the task. In the long run, I don’t think a weekly print magazine can thrive. Still, had I not failed for a time in my role, I think National Journal might have prospered longer.”

In Case You’ve Ever Thought About Becoming a Speechwriter

By Jack Limpert

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 3.18.10 PMA book titled The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics is making noise. It might better be called Revenge of the Speechwriter; its author, Barton Swaim, ends up eviscerating Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor he worked for. Swaim, a native of South Carolina and graduate of its state university, actually was a communications officer for Sanford—that means writing many more press releases than speeches, but the book is scathing and entertaining enough get some attention.

Journalism 102: The Source’s Words Are Quotable, But His Grammar Is Awful. So…

By Mike Feinsilber

It’s a dilemma. Your news source issues a statement. You want to use the statement but it contains a sore-thumb grammatical error. Quote it anyway? Change it? Write around it? The dilemma often confronts reporters, as it confronted Emily Heil and Helena Andrews, who write The Reliable Source, a gossipish column in the Washington Post.

Their source was Jose Andres, “superchef with a growing national brand,” as Heil-Andrews branded him in the Post on July 9, when he reacted to Donald Trump’s racist rant (“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”) about undocumented Mexican immigrants.