Word Wise

Word Wise column is written by Marcia Riefer Johnston. Word Wise explores ways to use language effectively in the professional world and gives tips on how to become a better communicator.

Word Wise: Parallelism Gives Your Writing a Left Edge

Parallelism. The word itself sports a pair of rails, conjuring images of things perfectly aligned. Rows of corn. Ribs of corduroy. Rings of latitude. When you write and speak, you align words. You do this naturally. You dash off to the store saying, “I’m going to get pistachios, tuna, and champagne.” You don’t think, I’m aligning a series of nouns. Continue reading ...

Word Wise: Wonky Words in the World

Wonky words. You can find them anywhere: on billboards, on beer bottles, on bus-stop signs. I’m talking about words that make you go hmmm. I’m talking about the kind of writing that makes word nerds groan. Why stop at groaning? Let’s have some fun with these egregiosities. I propose writing captions for them. Continue reading ...

Word Wise: The Presumption Trap

We writers—whether we’re building an argument or documenting a procedure or creating a lookup table—must give up the fantasy of easy acceptance if we want to avoid the Presumption Trap. We must suspend the illusion of like-mindedness, of oneness with our readers. We must detach ourselves and acknowledge that readers see what we write in their own ways. We can presume only one thing about readers: that we can't presume anything. Continue reading ...