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~ The Write Way ~

Friday 6 July 2001

Greetings,

If two dogs and a cat weren't enough, we now have a feathered member of the family. It arrived the way most of the non-human Stewarts did - totally unannounced and unplanned! I happened to glance out of my office window to admire our new paving, just in time to see something brightly coloured flutter from one side of my field of vision to the other - with our cat bouncing along behind it.

 

By the time I'd dashed out the front door, they'd both come to a stand-off at the gate. The flutterer was a young budgerigar (a native Australian parrot about the size of a canary), and it was not a happy chappy - it had obviously escaped from a cage somewhere and had flown until it was exhausted. (These birds aren't native to the coastal regions, so I knew it wasn't a wild bird.)

(I think our house must have one of those coded messages that tramps used to mark on the gates of houses where you could get a meal and a bed for the night during the Great Depression in the 1920s ... only this one is only visible to animals and birds.) Of course I had to take it inside, find somewhere for it to live (a trip to the local markets provided an elegant Olde Worlde cage) and equip with with Life's Comforts. (Do you have any idea of all the paraphernalia one tiny budgie can use? Swings, feeders, a bath, cuttlefish, millet sprays, seed cakes, sand-paper cage liners ... Egad!) 

A quick search on the Internet also instigated another search in the garden for suitable perches (apparently it's not good for birds to sit on those uniformly round perches - irregular, knotty twigs are healthier and more fun). See what you learn by subscribing to this newsletter? 

Rainbow lorikeet Betty Boop has settled into the family very well. She sleeps in her cage at night and spends the day out of the cage, locked in the landing area on the north side of the house (here in the Southern Hemisphere, that's a lovely sunny spot). She has half a tree that we dragged up the stairs and wedged into one corner so she can fly around and perch on it, and she chats to all the rainbow lorikeets that come to feed in our trees every day. (The photo is of a lorikeet - these are beautiful birds that soon make themselves at home if feed is available.)

And, yes, she's definitely a "girl budgie" ... we found that out by doing a search for "budgies+sex" ... mind you, that's probably the first time a search for "sex" on the Internet hasn't turned up any porn sites! Subsequently, I didn't look past the first page ...

Hmmm ... something wrong there, isn't there?

That "subsequently" is definitely out of place. This is one of those words we use to signal to our readers that something is about to change. You need to alert your reader as early as possible in a sentence that you're making a change - especially if it's a change in mood or time. Signal words give hints about what is about to happen in what you're reading, and understanding them is a key to comprehension. If I'd used that very under-rated little signal word "but" you'd have understood exactly what I meant:

 ... mind you, that's probably the first time a search for "sex" on the Internet hasn't turned up any porn sites! But, I didn't look past the first page ...

By using the appropriate signal expressions (transitional words and phrases) between sentences and between paragraphs, you provide clear signposts and direction arrows for your readers. Since the aim of writing is to communicate with others, it makes sense to do everything possible to ensure you communicate clearly. Writing sentences with accurate, well-placed signal words ("since," "because," "therefore," "although," "consequently," "on the other hand," "however," "but" etc.) will enable your readers to follow your point conveniently, with no misunderstandings.

I've been racking my brains trying to think of a way to link what's gone with what's to come (as every writing manual instructs is the right way to write). But, all I've been able to come up with is a Monty Pythonesque, "And now for something completely different ..." 

Here are some Handy Rules to help you with your writing:

Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." 

Comparisons are as bad as clichés. 

Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous. 

Be more or less specific. 

Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake. 

The passive voice is to be avoided. 

Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed. 

Who needs rhetorical questions? 

Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

These are great, aren't they?

This week's quiz:

Match a word from the list with its definition below: hirsute, taciturn, turgid, multifarious, pillory, imprecation, torpor, pariah, pique, adamant

1. an outcast, a rejected and despised person

2.  not talkative; silent

3. resentment at being slighted

4. excessively ornate; swollen or bloated

5. to punish, hold up to public scorn

6. hard and inflexible; unyielding

7. varied, motley, greatly diversified

8. lethargy, sluggishness, dormancy

9. an invocation of evil; a curse

10. hairy, shaggy

My reference last week to the Bulwer-Lytton entry that "defied description" led Chuck Albert to send this special request:

"Would you be nice enough to send me Marilee's phone number?"

Chuckle ...

My family's exploits are probably quite familiar to you by now, so I thought you might be interested in hearing my son's latest CD. [more] has a very distinctive sound - they write all their own material and have been getting some reasonable air-play out here with this release. They all have "real jobs" but still dream of being able to play music for a living! 

If you have a few minutes to spare, you can listen to them - there's a selection of tracks from the CD available on the site. And if you happen to be a big record tycoon ... feel free to throw lots of money their way!

Last week's quiz:

Match each word with an antonym from the list:

ungracious, extempore, god-like, hypocrisy, unhurried, goodness, homogeneous, changeable, paltry, uneducated  

1. benign - UNGRACIOUS

2. diabolical - GOD-LIKE

3. premeditated - EXTEMPORE

4. immutable - CHANGEABLE

5. hectic - UNHURRIED

6. formidable - PALTRY

7. heterogeneous - HOMOGENEOUS

8. erudite - UNEDUCATED

9. honesty - HYPOCRISY

10.depravity - GOODNESS

Since you enjoy language as much as I do, you'll find a visit to this site run by Tony Rogers to be worthwhile:

"Bikwil is the home of quiet enthusiasms, where its contributors celebrate in essay, art or poem whatever beguiles them.  The key spirit is one of positivity.  Content includes material on language, literature, music, nature, the performing arts, hobbies and science, plus a generous helping of humour.  Bikwil is published bi-monthly in Sydney, Australia in two forms - as a printed magazine and electronically."

I heard this story on the radio yesterday:

A couple had just moved to a new suburb and the husband was driving to work for the first time. His wife rang him in a state, saying, "Arthur! I just heard on the radio that there's a fool driving the wrong way along the expressway."

Arthur looks up and says, "One fool? There's hundreds of them!"

Oh dear.

If you know anyone who would like to subscribe to The Write Way, please send them a personal invitation to join us each Friday, just cut and paste this link and email it to them: mailto:WritingTips-subscribe@yahoogroups.com 

Word of the Week: Yeuling (n) Walking around fruit trees praying for a good crop. Try it if you wish, but the author can only say that he has found swearing, abuse, and threats of extreme violence to be more effective. (Hall of Superior Words)

Tautology of the week: added bonus

This week's Latin phrase just leapt off the page when I saw it ... given the current trend for this type of show on television these days:

Magnus frater spectat te! (Big Brother is watching you!)

MAG-noos FRAH-ter SPEK-tat tay!

If you received this from a friend, click here to receive your own copy:  mailto:WritingTips-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Regards,

Jennifer

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