Filter and Weasel Words

I learned new terms today: fil­ter words and weasel words. In short:

  • Fil­ter get in the way of prose and dis­tance the read­er from the action. They make it easy for the writer to tell the read­er what’s going on instead of show­ing them. “The dog seemed agi­tat­ed wait­ing for her own­er,” instead of “The dog paced in front of the bay win­dows wait­ing for her own­er.” “The pret­ty girl looked unin­ter­est­ed in the guy ask­ing for her num­ber,” instead of “The pret­ty girl ignored the guy ask­ing for her num­ber.”
  • Weasel words leave text feel­ing ambigu­ous. “He might be the hero’s broth­er.” “The body may have been stolen.” “The dog could have eat­en the roast.” These sen­tences don’t help tell the sto­ry because the weasel words (in bold) ren­der the text mean­ing­less. “He might be unre­lat­ed to the hero.” “The body may be right where we left it.” “The dog could have ignored the roast and slept.”

Remov­ing these cleans up the prose and makes it more inter­est­ing. A post on Scri­bophile sug­gest­ed writ­ing a macro in Word to detect these words and flag them but, since I don’t use Word, that doesn’t help me. Instead I imple­ment­ed the same func­tion­al­i­ty in sh.

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Doing Diversity Right

Let’s talk about one of my absolute favorite shows: BoJack Horse­man. If you haven’t watched it pull it up on Net­flix and watch it. All of it. Seri­ous­ly, this post is going to be filled with spoil­ers. I’ll wait.

I bring up BoJack Horse­man because it’s one of the shin­ing exam­ples when it comes to diver­si­ty. Now that you’ve watched all thir­ty-six episodes, you’re aware that the show has a diverse cast of char­ac­ters. Some of the main char­ac­ters are ani­mals (Todd and Diane being the only main char­ac­ters who aren’t ani­mals) but we also have gay char­ac­ters (Karen and Tanisha’s wed­ding in sea­son 3), Viet­namese (Diane), black (Cor­duroy), and even an asex­u­al (Todd).

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Version Control for Fun and Profit

Keep­ing track of old ver­sions of your work is one of those things you don’t appre­ci­ate until you have it. Most peo­ple keep old ver­sions with a mish­mash of file names (novel.doc, novel-backup.doc, novel-backup2.doc, novel-backup-september-2015.doc, …) or using a ser­vice like Google Dri­ve or Drop­box. These solu­tions work but to say they’re lack­ing is an under­state­ment. Enter git.

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Special Characters

Sec­tion 11.12 of the The Chica­go Man­u­al of Style’s six­teenth edi­tion rec­om­mends includ­ing a list of spe­cial char­ac­ters at the end of any man­u­script (a spe­cial char­ac­ter gen­er­al­ly being any­thing not found on a stan­dard key­board). Because I’m lazy I want some­thing to do the work for me so I don’t have to track what char­ac­ters I’m using through revi­sions. Let’s make LaTeX track the spe­cial char­ac­ters we use.

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Naming Characters (and Places, Groups, Gods…)

I’m awful with names. Actu­al­ly that under­sells how bad I am. I’m the kind of per­son who likes things to be pre­cise and cor­rect from the begin­ning (engi­neer­ing hat) so I don’t even like hav­ing place­hold­ers and call­ing my char­ac­ters Bob, Janet, and Tony. I’ve tried, real­ly, but I keep fid­get­ing and will spend hours try­ing to come up with the per­fect name. Plus even if I some­how move on find/replace can only do so much. If I screw up and talk about how Bbo and Tony are try­ing to one-up each oth­er to take Janet on a date we all know what’s going to hap­pen.

The solu­tion: place­hold­ers. Yeah, even though I hate them they’re still the best option. Let’s look at a prac­ti­cal exam­ple.

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