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We all know far too well how to speak and write everyday English, but few of us know how to speak and write elegant English. And as there are occasions for everyday English, so there are occasions for elegant English — for English that is expressed with music as well as meaning, with style as well as substance. So prevalent, however, is everyday English that the person who speaks correctly and uses words deliberately is often thought less well of than the person who speaks solecistically and uses slang unreservedly. Today, fluency is in disfavor.


The Dictionary of Concise Writing The Dictionary of Concise Writing
by Robert Hartwell Fiske | Vocabula Communications Company

"I would unhesitatingly recommend Robert Fiske's Dictionary of Concise Writing to my students. This is just the sort of book by which they, along with anyone else who uses the English language, can immeasurably profit. What's more, the book's opening chapters are a delight to read." — Professor Betty J Ruth, Boston University

"I keep three books on my desk next to my monitor: a dictionary, the AP Stylebook, and Robert Fiske's The Dictionary of Concise Writing. I use it frequently." — Gary B Larson, Garbl's Writing Resources Bookshelf

"The Dictionary of Concise Writing is a great book." — Professor Charles Lave, University of California

"Your book The Dictionary of Concise Writing is worth its weight in gold. ... Your book has been invaluable to me in ridding sentences of useless words." — William G. Penner, Russian-to-English translator

THIS IS A REFERENCE BOOK that every writer should own. Robert Fiske's approach to his subject is often amusing, but always with an eye for practical solutions. "I do wish, as any writer would, that this were a work of creation instead of compilation," Fiske writes. "Still, whether you refer to or read through the book, it will help you write and speak more clearly."
    The Dictionary of Concise Writing consists of two parts. In the first part, Fiske suggests how to identify and correct wordiness. His chapters, "The Perfectibility of Words" and "The Imperfectibility of People" should be required reading in business, industry, and government, as well as among many publishers and authors.
    The second part of the book is a compilation of several thousand wordy phrases followed by concise alternative expressions and real-world examples.
    "Using the English language respectfully helps us maintain a sense of ourselves and our values," Fiske insists. "To do otherwise, to disregard the ways of our words, is to forsake our humanity and, perhaps, even forfeit our future."
    Here are a few entries from The Dictionary of Concise Writing:

 

(a; the) -ance (-ence) of -ing. With such asset and liability opportunities, the avoidance of large credit losses was a practical management consideration in ensuring attractive profitability. With such asset and liability opportunities, avoiding large credit losses was a practical management consideration in ensuring attractive profitability. • In the performance of their routines, they are acting as extensions of your position. In performing their routines, they are acting as extensions of your position. • A recent variation on providing version protection has been liquidation of the product on site by issuance of a credit to the retailer. A recent variation on providing version protection has been liquidation of the product on site by issuing a credit to the retailer.

despite the fact that although; but; even though; still; though; yet. Despite the fact that all the charts are on paper rather than on-line, the bank reports that departments competed to improve their performance. Although all the charts are on paper rather than on-line, the bank reports that departments competed to improve their performance.

(an; the) important ... for (in; of; to) important for (to). Because decision making is an important element of a manager's job, we need to discover anything that can improve the quality of decision making. Because decision making is important to a manager's job, we need to discover anything that can improve the quality of decision making. • Their willingness to commit capital was an important factor for success. Their willingness to commit capital was important for success. • Certainly, overall physical health is an important component in any society. Certainly, overall physical health is important to any society.

is comprised of comprises; consists of; contains; includes. The marketing infrastructure is comprised of several elements that change as a country develops its industrial and service sectors. The marketing infrastructure comprises several elements that change as a country develops its industrial and service sectors.

on the ... side among; in; -(al)ly; delete. How would you assess the progress that she has made on the artistic side? How would you assess the artistic progress that she has made? • There will be some job losses on the manufacturing side, but some employees will be transferred. There will be some job losses in manufacturing, but some employees will be transferred. • The file we would receive is on the large side — 10,424 lines long. The file we would receive is large — 10,424 lines long.

regardless of whether ... (or) despite whether; no matter whether; whether ... or (not). Men's masculinity, looks, and concern about their appearance were rated the same regardless of whether lunch was a salad and coffee or a five-course extravaganza. Men's masculinity, looks, and concern about their appearance were rated the same whether lunch was a salad and coffee or a five-course extravaganza. • Regardless of whether the reason is internal or external, it has an important bearing on the market-presence alternatives investigated. Whether the reason is internal or external, it has an important bearing on the market-presence alternatives investigated.

relatively ... compared (contrasted) to (with) compared (contrasted) to (with); -(i)er than (less than; more than). Shrinkage remains relatively low compared to mass retailing standards. Shrinkage remains low compared to mass retailing standards. • They tend to have a relatively high loss and PDL, and are relatively expensive compared to mechanical switches. They tend to have a relatively high loss and PDL, and are more expensive than mechanical switches.

where ... is concerned about; as for; as to; concerning; for; in; of; on; over; regarding; respecting; to; toward; with; delete. Bank customers are often less venturesome where their money is concerned. Bank customers are often less venturesome with their money. Keep in mind that bigger isn't necessarily better where information is concerned. Regarding information, keep in mind that bigger isn't necessarily better. It's beginning to show signs of weakness where demand is concerned, but that's true everywhere. It's beginning to show signs of weakness in demand, but that's true everywhere. Most investigators use one of three primary methods where sketching is concerned. Most investigators use one of three primary methods of sketching.

The Dictionary of Concise Writing is available now at Editio-books.com, Peanutpress.com, E-dition.net, and Novelon.com. Also look for it at the following sites:

Barnesandnoble.comHardshell.comLibrius.comPowells.comPreviewbooks.comRocket-library.comTreelesspress.comVersabook.com

The Dimwit's Dictionary - cover by peanutpress.comThe Dimwit's Dictionary or The Thesaurus of Worn-Out Words and Phrases
by Robert Hartwell Fiske | Vocabula Communications Company

"We found a great deal to enjoy in Fiske's entries." — Graywolf Press

"It's a creative, worthy project." — Ecco Press

"[The Dimwit's Dictionary] looks to be a valuable contribution to language reference publishing" — Oxford University Press

ANOTHER INDISPENSIBLE WORK by Robert Fiske — a compilation of thousands of dimwitticisms (clichés, colloquialisms, idioms, and the like) that people speak and write excessively. Written in a style reminiscent of H. L. Mencken and Ambrose Bierce, The Dimwit's Dictionary (or The Thesaurus of Worn-Out Words and Phrases) will annoy some people and amuse others.
    Along with the many individual entries — as well as sections on egregious English, everyday English, and elegant English — The Dimwit’s Dictionary discusses the following categories of dimwitticisms:

  • Foreign phrases
  • Grammatical gimmicks
  • Ineffectual phrases
  • Inescapable pairs
  • Infantile phrases
  • Moribund metaphors
  • Overworked words
  • Plebeian sentiments
  • Popular prescriptions
  • Quack equations
  • Suspect superlatives
  • Torpid terms
  • Withered words
  • Wretched redundancies

    "Certainly, it is the least effective speakers and writers who use the most dimwitticisms," declares Fiske. "A person’s ability to express himself well — interestingly and compellingly — is inversely proportional to the number of dimwitticisms he uses. Writing or speech that is free of dimwitticisms is more likely to be memorable than mediocre. A person who expresses himself with genuineness instead of in jargon, with feeling instead of in formulas is capable as few have been, as few are, and as few will be; this is a person to heed."
    Here are a few entries from The Dimwit's Dictionary:

 

(anything for) a laugh A plebeian sentiment (SEE). These expressions are used by people who tally their giggles and count their guffaws, people who value numbers and sums more than they do words and concepts, people who consider laughter a commodity and life a comedy. • I need a laugh. • Sue and I want to do these silly things to you for a laugh. • I'm always looking for a laugh. SEE ALSO avid reader.

a living hell A moribund metaphor (SEE). chthonian; chthonic; hellish; impossible; infernal; insufferable; insupportable; intolerable; painful; plutonic; sulfurous; unbearable; uncomfortable; unendurable; unpleasant; stygian; tartarean. The force and colorfulness of this metaphor is no longer evident. An uncommonly used word — such as chthonic, insupportable, plutonic, sulfurous, stygian, or tartarean — is often more potent and captivating than a commonly used metaphor. SEE ALSO hell on earth.

fashion statement A plebeian sentiment (SEE). Making a fashion statement is the concern of adolescents and addle-brained adults who have yet to fashion for themselves a sense of identity. Their habiliments interest them more than does their humanity. People so intent on being fashionable make only misstatements. They but blither.

humongous An infantile phrase (SEE). big; brobdingnagian; colossal; elephantine; enormous; gargantuan; giant; gigantic; grand; great; huge; immense; large; mammoth; massive; monstrous; prodigious; stupendous; titanic; tremendous; vast. This is a word for buffoons. Any businessperson or politician who uses humongous, when a word like huge or monstrous will do, imperils his professionalism. • My appetite was humongous. USE enormous. • We were up against a humongous insurance company. USE colossal. • My feeling is that there is a humongous gap between justice for the rich and the poor and working class. USE huge. • The players should recognize the exception for what it is: a humongous bargaining chip. USE titanic.

it just happened An infantile phrase (SEE). As an explanation for how circumstances or incidents unfold, none is more puerile. And though we might excuse children such a sentiment, it is rarely they who express it. It just happened is a phrase used by those too slothful or too fearful to know what has happened. • It wasn't something I planned; it just happened. • What can I say? it just happened. SEE ALSO because (that's why); whatever happens happens.

negative feelings A torpid term (SEE). This expression tells us how little we listen to how we feel. In our quest for speed and efficiency, we have forfeited our feelings. The niceties of emotion — anger, animosity, anxiety, depression, despair, displeasure, disquiet, distrust, fear, frustration, fury, gloom, grief, guilt, hatred, hopelessness, hostility, ill will, insecurity, jealousy, malice, melancholy, rage, resentment, sadness, shame, sorrow, stress, and so on — have been sacrificed to a pointless proficiency. • It was reported that IAM headquarters failed to renew a $1 million bond that matured in June, due to their negative feelings toward El Al's actions. REPLACE WITH displeasure.Negative feelings can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that accelerate the heart rate, shut down the immune system, and encourage blood clotting. REPLACE WITH Resentment or anger. SEE ALSO in a bad mood; positive feelings.

popular prescriptions Powerless to repeat an author's epigram, unfit to recite a poet's verse, more than many of us are utterly, thoroughly, completely able to echo a society's slogans and clichés: absence makes the heart grow fonder; actions speak louder than words; a picture is worth a thousand words; beauty is in the eye of the beholder; better late than never; do as I say, not as I do; forgive and forget; hope for the best but expect the worst; it takes two; keep (your) nose to the grindstone; live and learn; misery loves company; money isn't everything; neither a borrower nor a lender be; take it one day (step) at a time; the best things in life are free; the meek shall inherit the earth; the sooner the better; time flies when you're having fun; two wrongs don't make a right; you can't be all things to all people; you can't have everything. Popular prescriptions are the platitudes and proverbs by which people live their lives. It is these dicta that determine who they are and how they act. Popular prescriptions define their intellectual and moral makeup. Dull-witted speakers and writers depend on prescriptions like these to guide them through life. For this poor populace, life is, we may surmise, laid out. From the popular or proper course, there is scant deviation. A stray thought is, for them, a gray thought. Popular prescriptions endure not for their sincerity but for their simplicity. We embrace them because they make all they profess to explain and all they profess to prescribe seem plain and uncomplicated. Inexorably, we become as simple as they — we people, we platitudes. SEE ALSO plebeian sentiments; quack equations.

there are no words to describe (express) There are many more words than people seem to think, and far more is expressible with them than people seem to imagine. Those who depend on dimwitticisms to convey thought and feeling are more apt to believe there are no words to describe ..., for these people are, necessarily, most frustrated by the limits of language. Dimwitticisms do permit us to describe our most universal feelings, our most banal thoughts, but they prevent us from describing more individual feelings, more brilliant thoughts. These are reserved for a language largely unknown to everyday speakers and writers. SEE ALSO words cannot describe (express).

The Dimwit's Dictionary is available now at Peanutpress.com and Novelon.com. Also look for it at the following sites:

Editio-books.comBarnesandnoble.comE-dition.netHardshell.comLibrius.comPowells.comPreviewbooks.comRocket-library.comTreelesspress.comVersabook.com



Plays   .Back to Top

Subject to Approval

Subject to Approval has, primarily, to do with the revelation of Nathan’s personality and state of mind. One of the play’s nine characters, Nathan is subject to approval because he fears rejection. By the end of the play, Nathan has been, in fact, rejected, but not for the reason he most fears. Nathan’s rejection neither comes as a surprise to us nor, we may believe, is wholly undeserved. What is important is not that Nathan is rejected but that the people who reject him are, in actuality, rejecting those aspects of themselves that they most fear and that they see or imagine they see in Nathan.

Speaking of Silence

The plot is but scant. Agnes and Otto — octogenaries, and man and wife — though they live in the same house, have not, we soon realize, seen, much less spoken to, each other in many, many months. Agnes, believing she is soon to die, writes Otto a note asking him to visit her. She does not want to be alone when she dies. She wants his company and whatever comfort he may be able to give her. But comfort Otto seems unable to offer.

On Death and Demons

This quartet of young adults have evolved only to learn how to best torment one another. Self-absorbed though they are, there is compassion, or the promise of it, hidden beneath their behavior. As in Subject to Approval, here, too, we meet Nathan — an older, though perhaps not much wiser, person.

Plays copyright 1973, 1999 by Robert Hartwell Fiske and Vocabula Communications Company. All rights, including production rights, are reserved. If you are interested in producing any of the plays, or in having a hardcopy version, please contact the author, Robert Hartwell Fiske, at info@vocabula.com.

Robert Fiske's plays are available now at Novelon.com. See Subject to Approval, Speaking of Silence, and On Death and Demons. Also look for the plays at the following sites:

Barnesandnoble.comE-dition.netPeanutpress.comPowells.comRocket-library.comTreelesspress.com


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