This week, a former dictionary editor tells us why it's OK to use "lexical dark matter" in our writing (sometimes)—and by that he means making up words. One study found that over half of words that appear in English books fall into this category.
Also, how to let writers down easy when you're editing them, why we use short words, and a look at what made Ray Bradbury great.
Using undictionaried words.
Occasionally, writers with the strongest vocabularies put a new spin on a word to evoke the right meaning. A former editor-in-chief for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press explores this phenomenon in The New York Times
. “It may seem that the hundreds of thousands of words available in traditional dictionaries would be more than enough for anything you could want to express, but experience shows us that there’s always room for one more word, as long as it’s in the right place at the right time.” Read the full story here
Editors, how do you let a writer down easy? Three experts weigh in at PRNewswire's ProfNet blog. Much of it boils down to whether you're paying a writer. Professionals will understand that you need to stick with a certain editorial length and style. If you're working with writers who aren't pros, this piece mentions a few polite ways to critique. Read the full story here
What made Ray Bradbury great?
You know the name Ray Bradbury, even if you never read his books or short stories. Days after the author’s death
, Keith Ferrell explains in a piece for ReadWriteWeb
why Bradbury’s name resonates. His science fiction stories include “no vast fleets of armed-to-the-gills starships or interplanetary cruisers; no battles, robots, or hair’s breadth escapes. Instead, there are people.” Read the full essay here
Long words or short words?
Whichever style guide you use probably warns against long words. In a piece on Writing-Skills.com, Stan Carey explains the origins of those rules, and why it's almost always best to avoid "inhorn" words: "Long words may be beautiful, evocative and forceful; in the right place at the right time they can delight our ears, tickle our brains and stir our hearts. They can also annoy and exhaust us." Read the full story here
The English and Chinese words you can't use.
You can use them, but you might get in trouble. This post from The Atlantic
lists English words from the Department of Homeland Security's Analyst's Desktop Binder that the agency monitors on social media and other online venues. Some of them are surprising (“response,” “mitigation,” “Maritime Domain Awareness”). And some are not (see for yourself). There’s also a list of English words blocked in China. They include "Facebook" and "blood is on the square." See the full lists here
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.