We need the singular ‘they’ – and it won’t seem wrong for long

Today, it’s hard to remember the degree of resistance that nonsexist language evoked at the time.

An insider view of the history of nonsexist language by a woman who was in a position to implement.

Language evolves especially if we decide to make it do so:

Yet Webster’s third edition and nonsexist language did not cause the sky to fall. In fact, their innovations became normalised surprisingly soon.

How sex, religion and jealousy drove a fatal wedge into Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s frenetic friendship

AEON is exploring a new mode of producing high quality media – crowdfunding.

If you contribute $500 to the Kickstarter campaign you get your face in the animation depicting this classic intellectual feud:

How sex, religion and jealousy drove a fatal wedge into Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s frenetic friendship Read more

The language of depression

People with depression use language differently – here’s how to spot it

Increasingly, computational linguists are able to detect patterns in how our moods are expressed in words. It’s not just the obvious, such as saying, “I’m happy or I’m sad,” but over- and underuse of classes of words.

Searching the ‘words’ of those suffering depression shows overrepresentation of ‘negative’ words as might be expected but also overuse of the pronoun ‘I’. Now, skewed patterns also include ‘absolutist’ vocabulary:

Our lab recently conducted a big data text analysis of 64 different online mental health forums, examining over 6,400 members. “Absolutist words” – which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as “always”, “nothing” or “completely” – were found to be better markers for mental health forums than either pronouns or negative emotion words.


Today LitHub starts a new series of questions for writers. Fascinating to see what top level concepts go into a book and where writers were in their lives when they produced a book.

How might you answer?

1. Without summarizing it in any way, what would you say your book is about?

2. Without explaining why and without naming other authors or books, can you discuss the various influences on your book?

3. Without using complete sentences, can you describe what was going on in your life as you wrote this book?

4. What are some words you despise that have been used to describe your writing by readers and/or reviewers?

5. If you could choose a career besides writing (irrespective of schooling requirements and/or talent) what would it be?

6. What craft elements do you think are your strong suit, and what would you like to be better at?

7. How do you contend with the hubris of thinking anyone has or should have any interest in what you have to say about anything?

Important message means powerful writing: abundance versus scarcity mindset

The fact is that the scarcity mentality and the perpetual warrior style it demands are incompatible with any civilized political creed.

This quote comes from today’s New York Times opinion piece by David Brooks. It exemplifies how a big thought yields powerful writing. His concept of the world shifting from a philosophy of abundance to one of scarcity is an idea of the times. A massive idea that makes for a deeply memorable short piece. Massive ideas packed into small spaces are the stuff of Pulitzer’s. How will your writing change how the world thinks — and sees itself?

Writing in Brazil about clichés and original ideas

O maior clichê sobre clichês é que eles não são originais e, por isso, devem ser evitados a todo custo. É uma afirmação cheia de boas intenções – como é característico dos clichés – mas que deixa de fora um ponto muito importante: todo clichê já foi uma ideia original.

How good is your Portuguese? Here is a great website full of more than 500 articles on writing, especially short stories.

Google Translate does a good job opening the door:

The biggest cliché about clichés is that they are not original and therefore should be avoided at all costs. It is a statement full of good intentions – as is typical of the clichés – but that leaves out a very important point: every cliché was an original idea.

Read the full article here and don’t let the Portuguese stop you.