Great Courses, Great Sentences 06 of 24

Notes on Lesson 6 from the course Great Sentences by Professor Brooks Landon (from The Great Courses):

This lecture is titled “The Rhythm of Cumulative Syntax”:

Main thing from this lecture is the focus on sentence and sentence structure owes a lot to the works of Francis Christensen* who in the early 1960s decided to quit focusing on formal theories and to look at how writing was done by professional writers.

Christensen had four principles for sentences. Continue reading

Interesting post on writing and keeping your audience’s suspension of disbelief

“We’ve all experienced that moment where you’re deeply immersed in a good story, only to have something disrupt that immersion. . . . And suddenly, where a moment before you were almost part of the story, now you’ve been thrown out of it and are a person looking at the pages of a book in which something doesn’t add up. It’s the author’s responsibility to avoid such disruption.

“The Laser Weapon Myth”, by J. L. Doty, on the Jim’s Blog section of, article dated April 9, 2009, last viewed August 17, 2o13

Just a quick post, been very busy recently, we’ve been harvesting for almost two weeks now with a one day break about a week back, so we’re all getting a bit tired.

J. L. Doty’s piece is a little bit about writing. And a LOT about lasers.

But he keeps up a good pace for an article that is often very technical, and there’s a lot of interesting tidbits along the way, like “It’s a sad weapon that can be defeated by holding up a piece of paper of the right color.” And there’s also an interesting anecdote about having his cotton shirt burnt by a infrared laser, but his polyester tie was much more resilient.

But really, what I liked most about it was his explaining why it’s an author’s job to keep the reader interested — and then demonstrating just that by making a very interesting article out of something that easily could have been sleep-inducing.

Link originally found through OregonMuse’s Sunday morning book thread for August 11, 2013, on Ace of Spades

Phil’s Fonts — A nice site

Site: Phil’s Fonts,

I know the right alphabet and the right formatting can do wonders for a piece of written text.

I know what I like when I see it.

But I’m still learning how to create that myself.

Adding in the web browser dimension just makes it more complicated. Even if you like what you see on your screen, how will it render on the user’s screen? And yes, there are some newer ways to create more ways for users to see fonts, but I’m wrapping my head around how those work too.

Plus still learning about how different types of typesets work together (or don’t work together, as the case may be).

If you want to learn about fonts and typesets, the book The Non-Designer’s Design & Type Books by Robin Williams is fantastic.

And Ms. Williams’ book is where I found a recommendation for Phil’s Fonts, which is a very nice and useful site with many thousands of fonts. You can search them by name, type, and foundry, and it will tell you the different formats each font is available in, as well as letting you try out sample text with a font.

The only thing I’d say to be careful of is some of the end-user license agreements. Those vary by font foundry, and some can be VERY specific about what formats you can use the font in, or how many times, or on how many machines.

On the plus side, Phil’s Fonts has a couple of fonts available for free download each month, and also a really nice free newsletter that showcases different fonts each month so you can see how some of the many fonts look in different settings.

Living life — personally, I think it’s a lot more fun than being passive

“So you can kill a man and take a machete like a champ. A concrete block can do that. But you can’t kick one out of the back of a moving truck and call that a character arc.”

– Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, The Escapist (website), Zero Punctuation (regular feature), “Tomb Raider”, March 20 2013 (site last accessed for this post on March 20 2013). Links at the end of this post.

It is difficult to come up with a short pithy saying about living life that hasn’t already been overused.
Continue reading

Quote, July 17 2012 — A lost standard

“I learned to write reports that made a clear argument for whether a deal should be approved or not. Don’t hedge, don’t waste anyone’s time. Clarify your argument and substantiate it.

. . .

The logic needed to be perfect, too, laid out as concisely as possible so as not to waste the time of anybody reading it and also to uphold legal scrutiny in the unlikely but still possible scenario that the Fed was sued over one of these decisions.”

-Mike Mayo, Exile on Wall Street: One Analyst’s Fight to Save the Big Banks from Themselves, Chapter 1: “God’s Work” at the Fed

This is my 2nd post (and last for the time being) which quotes Exile on Wall Street. Not only was it an account and critique of Wall Street, large banks and the United States financial sector in the 1990s through the early 2010s, it was also a memoir of the standards Mayo had been taught to hold himself to.

I wish more writers — financial, managerial, journalists, or otherwise — were willing to put as much effort into what they write as what Mayo describes. And he was putting that effort into reports that likely would be filed and never looked at again, and he knew that, but he still pushed himself to do that good of a job.