3 little words make a hendiatris

A hendiatris is a figure of speech in which 3 consecutive words express a central idea.

Examples of a hendiatris (pronounce it hen DIE a triss) include:

  • “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” [President Franklin Roosevelt’s advice for speakers.]
  • “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” [Olympic motto meaning “Faster, higher, stronger]
  • “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.” [French motto meaning “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”]
  • “Veni, vidi, vici.” [Julius Caesar’s boast: “I came. I saw. I conquered.”]
  • “Wine, women, and song.” [Anonymous]

Writing tip: Use a hendriatis to add pizzazz to your writing.

How to incorporate threes into your nonfiction writing.

More about incorporating threes into your nonfiction writing.

Fall 2017 classes at Temple University

I have no idea what this means.

Ready to learn more about writing nonfiction? 
Now’s your chance. 

Write Your Personal Blog
https://noncredit.temple.edu/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=9063158

Grammar for Grownups
https://noncredit.temple.edu/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=90682

Business Writing Essentials: Random Acts of Writing
https://noncredit.temple.edu/search/publicCourseSearchDetails.do?method=load&courseId=8989791

Please sign up at the link. Please holler if you have any questions. 

Write great beginnings

north-of-here-seattle
Journalists call story openings “ledes.”

Whether you call them beginnings, openings or ledes, you need to agonize over them – because you have about 250 words to grab your readers.

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, gravely, “and go on ’till you come to the end. Then stop.” Lewis Carroll.

Up top, identify the message of the e-mail, web page or article. Learn new ways to begin a piece of writing. “A lead ought to shine like a flashlight, down into the whole piece, if possible,” says John McPhee.

Avoid these bland, trite leads

  • An apology or complaint: As you probably know….
  • A panorama or vague overview: Urban sprawl is a problem each of us faces every day.
  • A truism, a cliché, the obvious or platitudes: We are dedicated to being the world’s best at bringing people together – giving them easy access to each other and to the information and services they want and need – anytime, anywhere.
  • The Adam-and-Eve approach: Back when the company was founded….
  • There’s good news and there’s bad news….
  • A dictionary definition.
  • To whom it may concern.
  • Dear Sir or Madam.
  • Enclosed (or attached) please find.
  • It has come to my attention.

Yes, grammar matters.

you're right

A man I don’t know sends an e-mail. According to his signature, he handles website development, digital marketing strategy, SEO, social media, paid search management, and content marketing. So, while he probably is not a writer himself, he might hire or consult with writers. He says:

“I am not trying to connect with you for any particular reason. I am trying to do a better job of connecting with people I have met so that I don’t have to go to a million places to find people when opportunities or potential introductions arise.

“For example, if someone came to me with a need for a writer who was crazy fanatic about grammar. I would likely send them your way but might give up if I have to search all over for your contact information.”

Wow, I think. He thinks I am crazy-fanatic-about-grammar. I am, and proudly so. It’s not for nothing I have co-opted my friend’s nickname of Comma Momma. I swear, though, I never corrected this guy in public, perhaps because we have never met. Then I wonder: Who wants a writer who is not crazy-fanatic-about-grammar (CFaG). Do people call and ask him to recommend writers who are or are not CFaG?

Similarly, who wants a tailor to alter a jacket without being crazy-fanatic about making the sleeves the same length? Who wants to eat a restaurant meal where the chef is not crazy-fanatic about a clean kitchen? Who wants a website designer who is not crazy-fanatic about checking broken links?

But this is not the only dude who asks if grammar matters. In fact, I teach a course at Temple University Center City called “Does grammar still matter?” The answer, if you care, is that grammar does matter.

The fact that teachers don’t teach grammar at any grade level doesn’t mean it’s not essential to clear communication. It is. The fact that parents don’t or can’t correct their children’s oral or written grammatical errors likewise does not diminish the value of good grammar.

I teach grammar to adults because they didn’t learn it in school or they have forgotten it since. They come to class for refreshers, hoping to recall first-, second- and third-person voice; active and passive verbs; and the difference between affect and effect.

I am not alone in believing that grammar matters.

Andrew Hindes lists credibility, professionalism and clarity among the 6 top reasons why grammar matters.

Richard Nordquist says that people associate grammar with correctness. “Knowing about grammar helps us understand what makes sentences and paragraphs clear and interesting and precise.”

And Steve Tobak writes about creating content for social media: “If what you’re writing will be public and has your name attached to it, assume that anyone who works with you or might be interested in hiring you will see it. As such, whatever it is can be conversational, and a typo isn’t the end of the world, but it should still be reasonably grammatically correct…. Business writing is about clarity in communication….”

I remain, sincerely yours, CFaG. Consider signing up for my grammar class at Temple.

Write positively, not negatively

A restaurant
When you write nonfiction, use positive words rather than negative ones.

Set the tone for what you write by using positive expressions. Use positive words to soften messages. Use positive words to make you or your organization seem friendly and interested.

Imagine yourself as a reader. Which would you prefer to read?

Positive words Negative words
appreciate blame
beneficial careless
capable complain
commend decline
cooperative disappointed
efficient doubtful
excellent failing
recommended impossible
reliability neglect
sincerity unfairness
thoughtful wrong

 

Write sentences in a positive manner so they sound friendly. Otherwise you may annoy readers or damage your existing relationship with them.

Negative sentence 1. We must have a copy of your specifications by October 15 or we will be unable to deliver on time.
Positive sentence 1. Please send us your specifications by October 15 so we can deliver on time.
Negative sentence 2. This certification may only be used by individuals who have passed the specified course and exam.
Positive sentence 2. You may use this certification after you pass the specified course and exam.
Negative sentence 3. We are unable to insure that equipment because you failed to enclose the serial number and original sales receipt.
Positive sentence 3. We can insure that equipment as soon as you send us the serial number and original sales receipt.

What sentences have you written recently that you are ready to revise?