The Duke Ellington Guide to Copy That Swings

The Duke Ellington Guide to Copy That Swings

Reader Comments (30)

  1. Ha, writing that swings, yessir!

    If there’s one thing I hate reading, it’s writing that sounds like someone is breakdancing. Stutter, stilted, stuck. There’s no flow, there’s no rhythm there’s certainly nothing that makes me want to get up and dance.

    I see this far too much in people who want to tell through their writing. Show it instead. Don’t instruct me or inform me. Give me a story that sweeps me up in the music.

    This is great, Sonia, I’ll be thinking about the analogy all day 🙂

  2. Your post inspired me to dig out my favorite how-to book: “Zen in the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury.

    He’s a writer with swing-galore. His stories, the fact and the fiction, have cadence. Or, as Bob Marley would say: “Dey got riddim.”

    Bradbury tells about his life – how he got started writing, how he wrote no matter what and how we can feed our own muse. And he does it with swing. With a beat. With rhythm. With unexpected twists and turns.

    One and two and. One and two and.
    One drop. One drop.

    One at a time, everyone has a story to tell. Every story has its own beat. Every storyteller can add swing. Rhythm. Bradbury tells you how. “Zen in the Art of Writing.”

    Thanks for the post! /s/ Lynn Roberts

  3. I’ll never forget the creative writing professor who told his class to always read their work out loud, both as a way to see if it “sung” (his preferred word for writing that “swung”) and as a method of proofreading. There is some great advice in this post!

  4. It’s also about writing something your comfortable with. If you don’t know your topic intimately, how can you be fluid? It’s certainly the secret of best selling authors – getting you to turn to the next page.

  5. The “swing” in writing is the illusive “coolness factor” that is immediately identifiable by readers…Even if your audience resides smack dab in the middle of Squaresville, they like to believe they are cool and appreciate being addressed as relatively aware, conscious and hip to the latest jive…

    How do you capture coolness? Start by using relevant, clever metaphors, sharp, snappy headers and crisp, compelling sentences. Better yet, give your copy some rhythm — use repetition wisely and snap your fingers when you read it aloud.

    No matter how cool or square you think you’re copy is, reading it aloud will illuminate it’s true vibrations…

  6. YES!!! Jane Austen, but also try Anthony Trollope. I’ve been reading his novels of the same era this year and he SWINGS! I own all of the Bronte Sisters’ as well. Charlotte is my style. Jack London is lyrical and elegant too. I have a crush on Mark Twain.

  7. Ah, Judy, a reader after my own heart! Trollope is tasty. Did you know that when he finished one novel, he blotted the page and in the next few minutes started the next one? (His namesake/perhaps descendent? Joanna Trollope writes novels that I like very much.)

    Mark Twain is very, very crushworthy. Brainy, passionate, compassionate, wicked sense of humor. Good thing he’s dead or I’d wreck my marriage over him.

  8. I guess I’m going to have to give Trollope another try–and yes, Joanna Trollope is one of his descendents. As for MT–there’s a long line for having a crush on him.

    Years ago when I first started writing, I had an odd experience with an editor. It was an academic pub, where they actually went over changes with the author. At one point, this editor had revised a sentence. The whacked words certainly didn’t add to the meaning, so I defended them by saying, “It’s a rhythmic thing.” Dead silence.

    I hadn’t realized until then that a lot of people don’t hear words when they read or write. It explains a lot of writing out there…

  9. Reading writing out loud is a very valuable tool my mom taught me. I always nodded it off, and read it to myself silently, because I thought it was stupid. Then when she would make me read my paper out loud before she would help me… I caught numerous mistakes. Simple tools are often the best!

  10. Me, too, @PPC, writing the post and now coming back to visit the comments has Duke Ellington going through my head. Not such a terrible thing.

  11. I think you’re spot on – If only George Lucas followed your advice with writing dialogue – we’d have 3 awesome Star Wars Prequels…

  12. I must say your emails are very hard to read the centering formatting makes it a struggle to pick out the main ideas.

    Can you come up with a better format that telegraphs asap the main ideas and let’s me click thru to learn more?

  13. It was likely either Julia Cameron or Natalie Goldberg (my two writing heroes) who said when you ask feedback on your writing:

    ~ only listen to where people say there’s a problem.

    ~ don’t listen to what they say the problem is (they probably aren’t experienced enough as writers to know – unless they are).

    If several people bring up the same section, you have an issue.

    Natalie Goldberg says it is often where her mind wandered as she was writing…

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