Tuesday, November 18, 2008
On this day:

How to write like Toni Morrison

You, too, can write like a Nobel prize winning novelist. Peter Wood writes:
Gone are the days when students yearned to command the stylistic muscle of Addison, the authority of Johnson, the fullness of Gibbon -- or the wry voice of Twain. But never mind. We have Morrison.

Of course, some of our readers were no doubt set in their ways before Morrison’s Beloved (1988) came along to open up new possibilities of English expression. You are asking yourself, “Is it too late for me? Is there any hope that I can catch that special cadence, that artful style that will, you know, make me sound all wise ‘n stuff?”

It is not too late. As a public service, we offer a primer on how to write the Morrison way. We will be using Morrison’s brand-new novel, A Mercy, as our primary text.
Now, jumping ahead to the good stuff:
Remember the rules: (1) Misuse common phrases, (2) Embrace inconsistency, (3) Omit words to create more forceful expression, (4) Mix up parts of speech, and (5) Chop in self-conscious micro-sentences. ...

These simple rules can be applied to almost anything you might care to write. Until you are fluent in Morrisonian, I recommend that you practice by translating your regular writing into this more compelling style. Consider for example the ordinary office memo:
Just to remind you, I will be out of the office Tuesday to meet with our supplier, Acme Explosives. Please finish your work on the 2Q budget and let the account rep know that Mr. Coyote’s order will be shipped Thursday.
The reminding can’t wait the hurry of it. I explain. I know you know of Tuesday, I and Acme Explosives is soon together meet. You can please work, perhaps, the budget’s second quarter, and knowledge the account rep of Mr. Coyote’s Thursday shipment.
A must-read for all English majors. I can't wait for the sequel: "How to woo your boos like Maya Angelou."