6 Popular Internet Words That I Have Grown to Dislike

Categories: Internet, Writing

Photo by greeblie

The English language is a constantly evolving one, and that keeps things interesting.Words are fascinating in that they can elicit a strong response from some people. I know a few people who can't stand the word "moist," for instance. Some words have a lifespan of sorts, initially starting as a useful description of a specific thing, with the definition then changing over time. A few of these words and phrases feel like they should be retired at some point, having lost all real meaning, or because they should be replaced to allow for changes that have occurred. Here are a few that I think need to be kicked to the curb, or recreated in some other form.

6. Hipster

Hipster is a relatively old word, having been used for decades, defined by Webster as "a person who is unusually aware of and interested in new and unconventional patterns (as in jazz or fashion)," and that seems to be a perfectly good meaning for the word. My friends have used the term since at least the '80s, to describe folks we considered edgy or chasing various cutting edge musical or cultural trends.

Now it seems to have been chosen as the term for a specific, self consciously weird recent subculture with specific dress codes and interests. I even end up using the term, despite hating its modern use, so people will know what I'm talking about when I'm describing some young guy with a lumberjack beard, a funny old T-shirt, skinny jeans, drinking swill beer. I object to those people getting the claim to the word "hipster". Let's just call them something like "clownbeards" instead.

5. Troll

No, not the bigger scarier version of a goblin, some monster from fairy tales and fantasy novels, but the more vexing version. Creeps on the Internet who sow discord by posting inflammatory material in online groups intended to provoke others into pointless arguing, or by jumping into online conversations with abusive attacks. Most terms with Internet origins mutate over time, and troll seems to be a perfect example of that, but lately it seems to get used a lot by people in a way that doesn't work. Basically a lot of folks will call a person a troll simply because they don't agree with his or her opinion on something.
Almost anyone who's spent a lot of time online in forums or on social networking sites will have encountered the classic Internet troll, but a person doesn't achieve troll status just by disagreeing with someone or posting material that someone out there might take issue with.

More »

Newspaper Writers Whipping Each Other in the Street? Just Another Day for the Media in Lincoln's Time

Categories: Writing


"He who moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions." - Abraham Lincoln, August 21, 1858

Many journalists today may think they are dedicated to the profession and pursuit of their craft, but any would be hard pressed to top the stick to-it-tiveness of Elijah Lovejoy.

The unabashedly Abolitionist publisher twice had his entire newspaper operation and offices destroyed and sacked by angry mobs. When he moved his business across the river to another state with purportedly more liberal leanings in 1837, another mob formed. They then set the offices on fire, shoved the printing press out the window into a river, and then killed Lovejoy with a shotgun blast to the chest.

The culture of journalism and the wild ride news of the times - and the presidency of Abraham Lincoln - is the subject of Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer's exhaustive history Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion (768 pp., $37.50, Simon & Schuster).

More »

Licensed to Lie: New Book Sheds Light on Prosecutor Misconduct in Enron and Other Cases

Categories: Writing

Courtesy Brown Books
So what's the punishment for lying WITHOUT a license, anyway?
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the landmark case Brady v. Maryland,ruling that prosecutors had to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense. In a perfect criminal justice system, all prosecutors would want to win fairly and wouldn't need the highest court in the land to explain that withholding exculpatory material is a gross miscarriage of justice.

But if you ever wanted to read about how imperfect the system can be -- in a simultaneously compelling and maddening way -- then prosecutor-turned-appellate lawyer Sidney Powell's new book on prosecutorial shennanigans at the federal level, Licensed to Lie is a good place to start.

More »

Top 5 Marketing Mistakes Indie Authors Make (And How to Do Better)

Categories: Writing

Some indie authors sell thousands of books. Most don't. Here are five marketing mistakes we see indie authors make that land them in that "most don't" category, and a few suggestions on how to do better.

5. Write a lousy book

Fail: It's hard to sell a bad product. Especially when there are lots and lots and lots of good products around. Lots of indie authors have a bad case of "I-can-do-that-itis." You read a book and think, "I can do better than that." True, you may be able to write better than someone else, but being better than someone else doesn't mean you're good enough to warrant an audience's time and money.

Fix: Don't confuse talent with skill. Get some training. Sure, there are people who are naturally gifted with words, but I have never, ever met anyone who was naturally gifted at grammar. And very few of us are naturally gifted when it comes to spelling or vocabulary. Take classes, read books, watch webinars, join peer groups, attend conventions. Learn your craft; hone your skills. Do you need an MFA in creative writing to make it as an author? Not at all, but plenty of published writers found they got better at their craft once they had one. Did they get more talented? No, they got more trained.

More »

5 Reasons People Need to Stop Complaining About List Articles

Categories: Writing

In list form, because pfffffffft.

Lately it seems my newsfeed on Facebook is full of a charmingly hipsterish attitude regarding list articles. The words "hack" and "not real journalism" seem to come up a lot, but I'm a perfectly professional writer who is more than capable of laughing off such knocks against a writing style I happen to enjoy, as witnessed in the screencap above.

Setting aside my self-esteem issues for a second, there is really no point in hating on list articles as a whole, nor do they represent the dumbing down of journalism any more than Cosmopolitan or NaturalNews.com do. Which brings me to my first point...

More »

5 Harsh Truths That Will Help You Be a Better Writer

Categories: Writing

Right now I've got a ton of friends on Facebook currently plugging away for National Novel Writing Month, the annual contest where people are encouraged to pen 60,000 original words of written work. Though I don't join in myself due to increased obligations at my day gig during November, it always warms my heart to see so many people taking up the art of creating with words.

However, writing is probably the most self-deluded art out there. I have never found a single person who didn't think they could write a book if they just sat down and put some time in it. Stephen King always used to have a great quip when people told him they always wanted to be a writer. "Really?" he'd say. "I always wanted to be a brain surgeon."

Today, I'm here to pop that bubble. Not because I want to dishearten aspiring writers, but because I want what you write to actually be good.

More »

Fostering Female Success at NYCC's "Comix Chix" Panel

Chuck Cook Photography
The GeekNation Comix Chix panelists: Back Row: Joan Hilty, Heidi MacDonald, Nicole Wakelin, Meghan White and host/moderator Kate Kotler. Front Row: Sarah Miller, Molly McIsaac, Bonnie Burton and Jill Pantozzi

People who have never been to a pop culture convention probably think that it's all fun and games, but what happens when you put nine successful and creative women in one room? Discussion ensues on women-centric topics including sexual harassment, creativity, self-confidence, business networking and how young women can break into the industry.

The Comix Chix panel delved into these issues and more. The panelists were Bonnie Burton (editor, author and show host) Jill Pantozzi (associate editor of The Mary Sue), Joan Hilty (fiction/non-fiction editor), Kate Kotler (host of the Comix Chix podcast), Meghan White (Comix Chix Co-Editor/Contributor), Molly McIsaac (co-star of SyFy's "Fangasm" reality show), Sarah Miller (illustrator and tattoo artist), Nicole Wakelin (writer for the GeekMom web site) and Heidi McDonald (editor-in-chief of comicsbeat.com).

More »

Writing for Us Is the Most Awesome Thing In the World

Categories: Writing

Jessica Fitzgerald
Me, signing copies of my book, hundreds of which I've sold from exposure on here
Earlier this week my beloved boss Margaret Downing put out a call to you plucky young art commentators to come and do some freelance work here at the Houston Press. Like all her work, it was concise, well-written and informative. Just what you'd expect from a seasoned newspaper editor and writer.

Now let's hear from the psychotic lunatic division! That's me, by the way.

Folks, listen to me when I tell you that this is an opportunity to change your freakin' life for the infinitely better. Writing is literally the best thing in the world you can do. Stuck in a rut? It's time to unstuck yourself so hard that you catapult up into the sky and land on the old lady's roof next door... the roof of awesomeness!

First off, you may think you've got no talent and no place to start. That may be true. I was a horrible writer when I was ten years old, and only marginally better than when I started freelancing here in 2008. You can click on my byline up there and it will take you back through my archives. Don't, though; it's crap back in 2008. The point is you've got to start somewhere.

It takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. I got paid to practice that right here because there are shows that need reviews, artists that need to be interviewed, and video game portrayals of Hitler that must be ranked against each other. The world cries out for those things, and they are what the makes the readers go clickety click.

More »

UH Creative Writing Students & Artists Unveil Their Tier One Graphc Novel Tonight

University of Houston student Zach Martin had been struggling with a literary story for years about a theater family unraveling in the middle of putting on a play. "I could never get the story to work purely as a written piece," he says. So he decided to adapt it to a new genre - that of graphic novel.

Tonight, from 6 to 8 at Alabama Song, 2521 Oakdale Street, several student writers will be celebrating the release of the first edition of Cougar Comics' Tier One, an anthology that's the product of professor Mat Johnson's graphic novel workshop.

Writers could illustrate their own work, or be matched with professional artists as part of this course of study, a joint effort by the university's Creative Writing Program and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

Ted Closson participated in the class twice as a graduate student. "The workshops are an opportunity to make comics work. You write. If you're an artist you may also draw. If you're quick, it can be an opportunity to craft as many as two to three short works or a short comic and the beginnings of something longer. And the workshop is valuable whether you approach the class with a writing or an artistic focus. Mat works to show writers in the class how to think visually and to help artists understand the nature and pacing of a narrative. Even if you already have something of a background working with comics he has an inside perspective on the industry that is really priceless for those trying to see inside a publishing process."

More »

Review: Phillip Lopate at Brazos Bookstore

Categories: Books, Writing

Photo by Joseph Capparella
Phillip Lopate is not a nice guy. At least, that's what he tells himself while he is writing. Lopate, a well-known essayist, teacher, and versatile scribe in general, came to Brazos Bookstore on Friday to read from his two new books, a collection of essays called A Portrait Inside My Head and a sort of how-to manual for writers called To Show and to Tell.

Lopate offered plenty of wisdom to the audience from his selection from the latter on "The Ethics of Writing about Others." He emphasized that writers have to be willing to offend when they write about those close to them. "If you plan to write about friendship, make a lot of friends because you're bound to lose a few," Lopate said. According to Lopate, a writer must learn to accept the sense of guilt from pain inflicted upon others through creative nonfiction.

More »