“Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks.”

The Daily Post

If you write for an audience — be it millions of strangers or your mom — you inevitably think about how your words appear to others. Very often, this self-consciousness results in overstuffed prose and too-clever storytelling. Here to remind us of the virtue of simplicity in writing is Raymond Carver, a master of narrative and linguistic economy:

“I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chi-chi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer…

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Natural Photo Frames: Using Lines and Borders Around Us

The Daily Post

The world has many natural frames, waiting for you to use.

— Laura Cook

Last week, photographer Laura Cook shared her insights on visual storytelling and creating single images that tell rich stories. In one of her tips, she suggests: frame your stories. From doors to windows, consider backdrops that add interesting visual lines, shapes, and frames within your images.

I’ve compiled some interpretations of natural frames, using some of my favorite snapshots from my travels.

Architecture

From traditional doorways to uniquely shaped openings, and massive columns to grand buildings, you’ll find frames — geometric and rounded — everywhere you go, especially as you wander the streets of cities.

Ask your subject to stand in front of a door. Or, open the door and place the person you’re photographing in the middle, or leaning against one side, or sitting on the ground.

Think about the space that’s created in between. Consider…

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Five Ways to End Your Post

The Daily Post

Many of you devote a lot of time and attention to your opening sentences — and rightfully so. Considering how important it is to hook your readers from the get-go, you want to get that part right.

In writing just as in music, though, our lingering impression of the piece we’ve just consumed depends just as much — if not more so — on the finale. Yet so often, by the time we reach the end of our post, we’re too tired, too unfocused, or too eager to hit the Publish button to care too much about how we bid farewell to our audience.

If that sounds like you, it might be time to rethink how you approach your post endings. Here are five ideas to make the tail end of your post just as engaging as its first note.

Throw a teaser

Why not use the very end of one…

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Declutter Your Prose: Three More Phrases to Avoid

The Daily Post

In the spring, we noted some examples of phrases that might be distracting or unnecessary in your prose. Since many of you found these suggestions helpful, here’s another round of phrases to avoid:

1. In today’s blog…

Interested in more blog vs. post discussions? Read Slate’s take, Meg Pickard’s note on terminology, and Kristen Havens’ semantics lesson.

blog is your site, posts and pages and all. What you probably meant to write is: “In today’s post…” Or: “In today’s blog post…” Posts make up the content you create on a regular basis, while your blog is your complete online home, your site, on which you publish your posts.

That said, think back to other introductory phrases we’ve talked about: “In this post, I will explain…” or “Today, I will write about…”

This phrase, too, is unnecessary:

In today’s blog, I’d like to share some of the best…

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Three Ideas for Serial Posts

The Daily Post

Interested in more ideas on serializing? Check out some of Ben‘s postsfrom our archives.

Serial posts are one way to encourage your audience to return to your blog and make your site a part of their reading habit. Today, we’ll look at three ways you can serialize and have a bit of fun doing it no matter whether you’re writing or publishing photographs.

Old school cliffhanger

Back in the late 60s, every other episode of that awesome campy series, Batman, ended with the caped crusader and his sidekick Robin stuck in a trap and headed for sure demise. In the following episode, Batman would finagle a bat-tool of some sort out of his utility belt and save the dynamic duo from disaster. Batman is an example of a classic cliffhanger.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, consider sharing your post in multiple parts, spread over a…

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“Nope” intensifies, diversifies grammatically

beautiful

Sentence first

Remember the transformation of fail and win 5–6 years ago? Fleeting online slang phrases like bucket of fail and made of win may sound dated now, but terms like epic fail/win and FTW (“for the win”) and the words’ use as tags and hashtags remain popular. Fail and win have firmly, if informally, extended their grammatical domains, having been converted from verb to noun, interjection, and other categories.

A word undergoing comparable change is nope. Its metamorphosis over the last few years has in some ways been more impressive, but it seems less remarked on than fail and win – maybe because of its more limited distribution. For instance, this cartoon on Imgur (pronunciation note here), which shows Spider-Man shooting spiders from his hands, drew comments that use nope as a verb, adjective, and noun – mass and count – as well as duplicating, lengthening, and…

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