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This place matters

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This post has nothing to do with jelly beans

I'm reading In the Fullness of Life, a biography of Sr. Dorothy Kazel, an Ursuline sister from Cleveland who was killed in El Salvador in 1980. To hear more about that great woman, you must come hear my sermon at church on Sunday - or simply wait until Sunday afternoon for me to post said sermon here.
But for now, I'm thinking of another sister - the author of the book. Sr. Cynthia Glavac was one of my college English professors. She used to write on my papers about what I'd need to know when I was a professional writer, never if. Which meant a lot because she was easily one of the most hard-nosed professors I've ever had. Even for a nun, which is very hard-nosed indeed. She introduced me to William Zinsser's On Writing Well, a book on non-fiction writing just as hard-nosed as she was, and just as influential on my writing.
Zinsser talks a great deal about the need to remove clutter from writing, words like currently, personal, and experiencing, which are almost never necessary. "This road is currently under construction." What purpose does "currently" serve in that sentence? To specify that the road won't always  be under construction? Unless you're in Ohio, you would have to assume that to be true. "He's a personal friend." As opposed to an impersonal one? "Your computer is experiencing technical difficulties" doesn't make your computer any less broken. 
At any rate, it's odd to read a book written by one's mentor. I mean, it's a bit like looking at your own genetic code. Well it would be, if genetic code resembled anything to me but extremely fancy tinker toys. On top of which, her pet peeves seem to have become my pet peeves, meaning her work contains none of my pet peeves. Which makes it the first book I've read in ages that I'm not attacking with a mental red pen. Which isn't to say she's a better author than any of the others I've read lately, or that I am; it's only to say that I won't be finding any instances of currently that need obliterated from her writing.
It's sort of like in sci fi when one character meets a clone of herself and tries to fight herself and it always comes out to a draw. Only I am not a nun. I am most decidedly not a nun.

1 comment:

Olga said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a wonderful comment. This post is very profound.

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