Adam Wren

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The Best Blog on Writing That You’ve Probably Never Read Before

in Writing / 3 Comments

You write. And you probably read a lot of blogs about writing.

You read Nieman Story Board’s “Why’s This So Good?” and Acuff and Godin and Goins and Hyatt and Traub and probably even Brain Pickings, too, when you need some writerly inspiration.

But there’s a blog that I’m going to share with you that’s simply one of the best. And you’re probably not reading it.

In fact, I’m a little nervous about sharing this with you, for fear that it’ll give you a leg up on me (I jest, of course).

It’s not published by some upstart in the publishing world, some web wunderkind.

It’s published by The New York Times. The Times.

But according to Feedly, only about 947 people read it on a regular basis—many of them Times writers, I imagine (something like 3k read Goins’ excellent blog on Feedly, for comparison’s sake).

It’s After Deadline, and it’s written by Philip E. Corbett, the paper’s associate managing editor for standards, and author of the Time’s style manual. In other words, he’s kind of a big deal.

This tersely written blog serves up concise, no-nonsense, in-house advice to Times writers and reporters, which on any given day ranges from spotting overused phrases and words in the paper, to calling out inappropriate uses of the subjunctive verb mood.

Posts about how to make it as a writer are a dime a dozen online these days. Posts about curating an idea closet or building your platform or deciding on the focus of your blog could, if printed out, paper over the Great Wall of China. But posts about inaccurate use of the subjunctive mood? Those are harder to find.

The advice is always brilliant. Think about it: It’s written by the guy whose job it is to tear apart the work of some of the world’s most practiced wordsmiths.

And tear apart Corbett does. Here’s a look at some of his recent advice and criticism:

  • “At one time, [the phrase] “deep-pocketed” may have seemed like a fresh and clever alternative to “wealthy.” That was probably quite a while ago.”
  • “We stumble regularly over who and whom. And as I’ve noted before, our most common problem seems to be using the objective-case “whom” when “who” is needed.”
  • “The preferred version of this expression is “cut and dried,” not “cut and dry.” (Also, “remonstrance” means objection or protest; presumably we meant something like “regrets” or “apologies.”)”

But Corbett praises, too. And that’s just as helpful. A regular installment called “Bright Passages” highlights exactly that: bits of sparkling prose that adorn the publication’s pages, whether in print or in pixel, including gems such as this one:

In the hands of Mr. Daniels — who directed “Precious Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” and “Shadowboxer” — Mr. Dexter’s complex tale pulsates with wayward desire and confused motivation. Not a few of the characters are driven to distraction by the swampy Florida heat and their own lust, and the movie itself seems to share their state of sweaty agitation. It is by turns lurid, humid, florid, languid and stupid, but it is pretty much all id all the time.

If words—and using them in a compelling way—matter to you, then Corbett’s blog is a must read.

Bonus tip: Corbett links to a similar blog by The Washington Post of 150 cliches. Also a good read.

Question: Do you have any hidden-gem writing blogs you read? Post a link to them in the comment section.

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