The Art in the Heart of Memoir

News alert: Enrollment is underway for the Italy, in Other Words Memoir Writing and Cultural Retreat - Lake Como, October 1—7, 2019. Visit KathrynAbajian.comfor enrollment details. There are still three spots left, so hurry every chance you get

Nerd Alert. I still read grammar books for pleasure. They fascinate me, similar to another idle reading habit—studying cookbooks and imagining delectable desserts.

The habit of exploring both the mechanics of muffins and the mores metaphor sort of seeps in to the unconscious, like osmosis. And in both cases, tips and techniques can make the difference between flimsy or firm results. And it’s a good diversion for writers to focus on the “how”—form, style, punctuation, grammar and diction as a diversion when they get bogged down in story, content, the subject, exposition.

Here’s my latest read


I like Benjamin Dreyer’s attitude about language use—lots of humor, self-deprecation, never precious about rules. And he’s open about his preferences in light of hard clad “guidelines.” Part of understanding language is learning the nuances, such as when to follow rules and when to make the rules work for your needs. There are rules for that as well.  So today’s topic is the use of exclamation points!!! Basically, the rule is don’t. I used to tell my first year students they were allowed one exclamation point per 100 pages in each eight five page essay.


Dreyer’s advice is similar:


Unless it’s an email or, of course, a text, follow his latter rule. A recent New Yorker cartoon puts some things in their places:


We all know the dog is right-brained to the cat’s left, but still….! If you’re addicted, there’s an app solution for that: