Technique in Nonfiction – The Tools of the Trade
by Steven Darian
ISBN 10: 1-60797-571-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-60797-571-7
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What Tools is About
Whether you’re doing a scholarly work or a textbook, shooting for a trade book on the New York Times bestseller list or an article in The Atlantic–it’s the same challenge: writing well. Really well. No matter what you have to say, good writing helps you get there.
Tools of the Trade focuses on the four keys to writing good nonfiction: heightening the reader’s interest; increasing their understanding & remembering. And developing the relationship––while avoiding the no-no’s The techniques in the book are designed to help you accomplish these things.
A Tradebook & a Textbook
Tools is a tradebook–for everyone who wants to make their writing glow. For those who want to use it in their teaching, we’ve also done an online Instructors‘ & Students‘ Book, with realworld activities, and range of finger exercises.
The examples in Tools come from the works of the masters, including articles from the best of print journalism–like the NY Times & the NY Review of Books, the Economist & the New Yorker. Plus many years as a professional editor. As well as Darian’s writing & those of his students.
Tools of the Trade contains all the writing techniques you’ve ever come across in your reading–whether you recognized them or not. In places, it goes right down to the cellular level. Yet, it’s not academic. For its purpose is to help you take the next step–or the next hundred steps–on the road to great writing.
Who is Darian? In addition to a being a professional editor, Steven Darian has been a teacher (Columbia, Penn, & Rutgers). And has written a dozen books: scholarly & textbooks; novels & popular nonfiction.
I AUDIENCE, AUDIENCE, & ABOVE ALL…
Kinds of Audiences. Genres. Point-of-View & Assumptions. Drowning in Details. Writing Beneath the Skin
II STYLE IS SUBSTANCE
- Use Conversational Language: Actives & Passives. Contractions
- Sensitivity & Emotion–Once More, With Feeling: Sensitivity.Borrowing from Literature. The Warm Fuzzies. Right in the Gut: Things that Make You Cry. Sadness
- Social Science Style
- Or: Beware the Evil “I”
- Interest & Enjoyment. Drama, Intensity, & a Bit of Mystery
- Satire, Irony, & Parody
- Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow: Time & Tense as Style
- Speaking versus
III WORDS: FIRST, THE CAVIAR
- Appealing to the Senses: Using Concrete over Abstract Words. Using Sense Verbs.
- Bon Mots, Mal Mots, & High-Impact Words
- Historical, Literary, & Cultural Allusions.
- Folkwords & Latinisms. Foreign Words & Phrases
- Cowboyisms & Coinings. King Jamesiansms & Variant Spellingz
- Verbs: Verbing/Verb It. Empty Verbs. A Lesson in Creativity
- The Death of Grammar: a Noun is a Verb is an Adjective
- Texture: Modifiers. Underwriting & Overwriting. Weakeners & Softeners.
- Emphasizers: Typographic & Verbal. Intensifiers. Warnings & Alarm Bells
- Paraphrasing, Synonyms, & Clarifiers
- Disclaimers, Speculations, & Imaginaries
IV WORDS: THEN THE CAVEATS
- Buzz Words, Slang, & Jargon
- Formality: Middle English, Anyone? Informalisms & Register
- He/She, Him/Her, Himself/Herself–& Their Alternatives
- Beware the Wicked Which, of Whom we Speak.Pusillanimous Prepositions. Where Oh Where
- Impersonal Pronouns & Other Impersonalities. Throw Away Your Crutches
- Beyond Measure: The Language of Quantifying
V LIFE SENTENCES
- Any Questions? And How!
- Mild Imperatives
- Contradiction & Comparison
- Something Old, Something New
- Sentence Fragments
- Elliptical Sentences
- Inverted Sentences
- Snip Snip: Reduction. Simplistics. Empty Phrases There is/There are… Shorthands
- The Subject––Verb Disease
- Sentence Length. OR: How Long O, Lord?
VI CUTTING UP THE PIE: PARAGRAPHS. HEADINGS & TITLES. BEGINNINGS & ENDINGS
- Meet the Paragraph. When & How to Divide
- Beginnings & Endings. Openings & Closings. Scenarios
- Prefaces & Introductions
- Richness & Information Density (ID)
- Headings & Titles
- Design: White Space
- Lists & Itemizers. Pairing. Some Functions of Lists. Lists as Style. Lists as Information
- Ties that Bind: Transitions, Segues, & Missing Links
- Summaries & Mini-Summaries
VII THE BIG PICTURE
- Semantic Frameworks
- Choosing the Title
- Where Else to Look. Navigating the Text
- Reminders & Forecasting Statements
- Organizing the Material: The Ground Shifts
VIII SOME WRITERS’ TECHNIQUES
- The Rhythm Method of Writing: Rhythm, Repetition, & Parallelism. Rippling. Alliteration. Lack of Parallelism. Negative Repetition
- Could You Give Me an Example, Please?
- Extension and Aphorisms
- Well-Known Lines from Literature & Film; Songs, FairyTales, & Nursery Rhymes
- Ambiguity & Double Entendre
- It’s People, Stupid! Using Dialog–Real & Imagined. The Magic of Place. Let the Reader In
- Prepositions as Style
- Figurative Language: Similes & Metaphors. Reification.Personification & Animation. Oxymoron
IX QUOTING, REFERRING, & CITING SOURCES IN THE
TEXT: A SLIGHTLY HERETICAL VIEW
- Quoting: A Little Twist
- Citing Sources in the Text: A Slightly Heretical View
- Using Online Sources
- Bibliographies: Yes or No?
X REVISING, DEVISING, & CONNIVING
- The Big Picture
- Relating the Parts to the Whole
- Understanding & Remembering
- Relating the Parts to Each Other: Transitions
- How Interesting is It–Really? Richness
- Playing with Language
- The Sound on the Page. A Little Fine-Tuning
- Vary? Good! Vary Good
- The Totality of Style. Overkill
- Tell Me a Story: Themes & Plotz