Every Friday, Chicago-based writer and editor Evan Peterson offers five stories that scribes of all stripes should check out. It’s the Week in Writing:
Writing is frequently about style—grammar, punctuation, word choice, and so on. But a couple of articles this week compare writing style to clothing fashions. In other stories, you may pick up some advice from and about George Orwell, John McPhee, and writers who became actors.
Language is fashion.
Sure, language doesn’t change at the same pace as fashion trends, but the fashionable way to speak and write has evolved dramatically in the U.S. over the last 100 years or so. This piece from The New York Times
' Draft column shows how much, and occasionally provides the sartorial equivalent. Writer John McWhorter's point is that just because you hear or see someone using "incorrect" language ("you was" was once the preferred choice of the refined crowd) doesn't mean he’s dumb. It just means he’s out of fashion. Read the story here
AP Stylebook on style.
We know that the Associated Press has a lot to say about style, but if you're familiar with the 2012 Stylebook, you also know they have a good deal to say about style
—as in designers, designs, colors, and fabrics. This post from Las Vegas Weekly
covers some changes in that category. For example: "You should avoid using nude as a description color. Instead use sand or champagne." Read the full story here
Some advice from John McPhee.
Recently, The Paris Review
began running a series called “The Art of Nonfiction,” on the heels of its long-running “The Art of Fiction,” in which the magazine conducts a lengthy interview with a nonfiction writer about the his or her process. This week, it spoke with John McPhee, a longtime New Yorker
staff writer and author of more than 30 books. He discusses the importance of reading his work aloud, why he never wrote for his high school newspaper, and why writers develop slowly. Perhaps most interesting is the story of how his first New Yorker
story—about former basketball player and Senator Bill Bradley—led to his first book and job at the magazine. Read the full interview here
Authors in movies.
Plenty of writers and authors have tried their hand at playwriting or screenwriting, but you may know that a few have also had some success in front of the camera. The Millions
put together this list that includes some authors you may recognize from several roles (George Plimpton, Gore Vidal) to some you probably never would have guessed (Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Ayn Rand). Check out the list here
The importance of Being Orwell: A volume of George Orwell's diaries from 1931 to 1949 is set to be released.
According to this introduction by the late Orwell expert Christopher Hitchens, the text has plenty to say about all the rich personal experiences that influenced books such as “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “Animal Farm.” These include Orwell's time spent in Morocco, his days as a British colonial policeman, a BBC radio reporter, and a soldier fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Hitchens describes it as Orwell's “infinite capacity for taking pains” to know things, and eventually apply them to his writing. Read the essay here
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.