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Do you want to improve your writing by adding tension, curiosity and extra meaning?
Then try anti-adjectives and anti-adverbs!
You can learn a lot from Writing expert Roy Peter Clark AND singer-songwriter Paul Weller.
I’m enjoying a vacation with time to listen to the Writing Tools podcasts of Roy Peter Clark – and listening to the wonderful songwriting and lyrics of Paul Weller (from The Jam, then The Style Council, then solo).
The talents of both Roy and Paul have been jamming together inside my head this vacation – and I’ll share with you some of the lessons they have taught me on how I can improve my writing.
In one of his podcasts, Roy Peter Clark talks about choosing adverbs that add meaning and avoiding adverbs that already have the meaning in the verb.
For example: She simled happily.
Usually a smile IS the result of happiness so the happily doesn’t add much.
However, as Roy comments, She smiled sadly adds meaning – (and for me) a certain curiosity!
Why the contrast between smiling and sadly?
Why does she feel she has to smile if she is sad?
What is forcing her to smile – even though it is with sadness?
I use the term – anti-adverb
The adverb goes against the usual meaning of the verb and creates a tension and curiosity – why is the smile a sad one?
I’m a massive fan of The Jam and Weller – and in my younger days I played in bands. We were in Australia – but we tried to get that UK vibe!
These days, I’m a writing coach and trainer. I still enjoy my old Jam music – and my parka! The parka’s pockets still have ticket stubs for Paul Weller and The Who concerts!
This vacation, I’ve been enjoying listening to and “studying” the lyrics of Paul Weller – especially his gritty song That’s Entertainment.
I wrote about the power of the descriptive lyrics in a previous post – link at the end of this post.
Now, with Roy’s “anti-adverb” advice in my head, I noticed how Weller often uses the anti-adjective – where the adjective cuts across the usual meaning of the noun – and confounds expectation.
For example: what do you think of when you read perfume?
How does it smell?
In Weller’s gritty working-class world – the perfume is stale perfume. Not so pleasant and romantic!
What about the word affairs?
What images does that word bring to mind for you?
In Weller’s world – the anti-adjective creates a very different image – slashed-seat affairs.
I “see” cuts and rips in the “nice layer” of the seats – exposing the ugliness. The discomfort. The pain and frustration causing someone to want to damage the seats in cabs or buses. Destructive behaviour. Destructive affair?
Maybe that’s just the meaning I add to it! That’s the power of well chosen combinations of words!
My point is: the anti-adjective cuts against our normal expectation and adds tension and grittiness.
Also, when Weller sings those lyrics “slashed-seat affairs” he really delivers them in a cutting, slashing style with his voice and his guitar stabs!
Strong writing helps strong delivery – in speeches AND in singing!
If YOU have favourite lyrics (Paul Weller OR other writers) – please add them in the comments section below.
Here are links to the full lyrics and a video of the song.
Here are links to other Paul Weller inspired posts.
Also, here are links to more writing tips that can make your writing more “real” and engaging – and even entertaining!
I’m getting 2014 off to a strong start with my blogging too.
If you’d like to improve your writing: Here are some quick tips.
Here’s a link to the full lyrics:http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jam/thatsentertainment.html
And here’s a link to a video of the song:
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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.