Category Archives: writing

Words that glitter and splash

I was to have been presenting on this at the ACES conference in Salt Lake City this year, but, for pandemic reasons, that was cancelled. So the nice people of ACES asked me if I would be interesting in contributing an article to their website on the topic, with a limit of 3000 words. I was happy to do so… and managed to keep it just under the limit! I’m presenting it here as well. This is a longer read than my usual, but on the other hand it’s much shorter than my master’s thesis. Continue reading

The stocking-stuffer every writer needs

Last Christmas, I gave you my 12 Gifts for Writers, first as serialized blog posts and then as a PDF ebook (it’s also available as an audiobook if you sponsor me on Patreon). This year, I’ve made a print version of it for all of you who like to hold real paper things in your own hands. And I’ve made a few tiny revisions in it (nothing big, but still…).

It’s 44 glorious pages in trade paperback, and all for the low price of 50¢ per gift – in other words, $6 per book (plus shipping and handling). (You want free gifts? Get the ebook.) Buy it now for the writer in your life. In fact, since everyone’s a writer, buy lots of copies so you can give one to everyone you know who wants to write things that people will buy.

Order it from Lulu.com.

About the serial comma

People have opinions about the serial comma (also called the Oxford comma). Sometimes very strong opinions. So I sat down with my lunch, some Cheerios, and a Martini to tell you the truth.

How to write gleefully

This article was first published on The Editors’ Weekly, the blog of Editors Canada.

There are times when you want to make your prose more lively – if not flagrantly flippant then at least glancingly gleeful. Your words could land with a thump or splash or flit by with a twirl, but they must be sprightly. You want to write like a child. Well, no, not like a child – children aren’t very good writers; their sense of sentence structure is a bit squishy and scrawny – but like a child would write if a child had the skill of an adult. You want to be extra expressive. Continue reading

Novel medical treatments

To go with my presentation “Translating medicalese into everyday English,” here’s the article that I wrote for The Editors’ Weekly, the blog of Editors Canada.

People with serious health problems are often subject to novel treatments. But that shouldn’t mean being treated like they’re in a novel. Continue reading

Translating medicalese into everyday English

I’ve spent nearly 20 years of my life helping people communicate healthcare information clearly and effectively to ordinary readers (among other things – I’m not a one-trick pony!). This year at the Editors Canada conference I gave a one-hour presentation sharing some of the important things I’ve learned.

Here’s the handout: harbeck.ca/James/Harbeck_Medicalese_Handout.pdf

And here’s the article I wrote for the Editors Canada blog to go with it: Novel medical treatments

If you work for a company that communicates healthcare information to ordinary people, I can come do a seminar for you with exercises – get in touch with me via jamesharbeck.com/contact/.

Here’s the presentation – all 56 minutes and 23 seconds of it:

When to Use Bad English

Here’s my presentation at the 2019 ACES conference in Providence on when and how to use “bad” English (not just swearwords but nonstandard grammar and other things some people look down on).

12 Gifts for Writers ebook

As promised, I have made an ebook (in PDF) of 12 Gifts for Writers. You can download it for free, pass it around to your friends, and – I hope – gain something from it. Just click on the link:

12 Gifts for Writers (PDF, 4.2 MB)

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12 Gifts for Writers audiobook

I’ve recorded my 12 Gifts for Writers as an audiobook, in separate chapters and as one big 64-minute binge-listen. It’s available now to everyone who sponsors me on Patreon at the $2-a-month level or higher, even for just one month! I’m making chapter 11 (“Everyone’s a writer”) free for everyone… just as a teaser. Here it is.

12. You already have a voice.

Here, read this:

…Parking the car (smooth sleek shiny grey) in the heated, lit underground lot, though at least a good five-ten blocks away from my destination (I’d have to be lacking in intelligence to be parking it any closer: there are certain rules must abide by in these things), and out once again – though unprotected this time – into the night air (cold & misty) for a little bit of a walk: certainly conspicuous in this, as yer not likes to be finding much of too many anybody out on the streets this time of night (especially in this part of town) without a damn good reason: and if the Men in Pink happen to glance you, you will most certainly be inquired as to why wherefore where when what who you are doing out this time of night, which being the accurate nature of your business, and so on and so forth ad infinitum nauseum et cetera. Goes without saying this being my aim to avoid (perhaps one reason for choosing the darker shades in a suit for wear this eve?).

That bale of braided turds, my friends, is the start of a short story by a writer who’s trying to find his voice. I wrote it when I was 18. Continue reading