Monday, April 07, 2008

weekly writing coach: colon-oscopy

Your coach blinked several times in recent weeks, seeing double colons in the same title. No, we can't blame it on dizziness or drink: The culprit-writers were adding, we surmise, extra emphasis to their titles by using not one but two sets of colons. First, we saw announcements of author talks for the new cookbook Sneaky Chef: How to Cheat on Your Man (in the Kitchen!): Hiding Healthy Foods in Hearty Meals Any Guy Will Love, a title with more than its share of punctuation even without the two colons. (We note this second volume follows one similarly titled, but sans the second colon.) And a hat tip to Lee Aase, whose blog noted the double colons in this conference session title: Getting Personal:Telling your Story in Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn and More.

If this is a trend, we want out of it. Instead of overusing the strident colon--the one punctuation mark used within a sentence that has the full-stop power of a period--rethink that sentence. If you want a super-confident title, write one without relying on the colon to add bravado. In the examples above, you might rewrite the cookbook title as The Sneaky Chef Cheats on Her Man: Hiding Healthy Foods in Hearty Meals, and the session title easily could be recast as Getting Personal With Your Story in Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn and More. When it comes to your own work, try other options for emphasis: single colons, used with care; active verbs; and tighter, more thoughtful writing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Denise. In the human body it's good to have two colons: a large colon and small colon. But in a sentence it should be a one-colon limit.

This was a session title that must have been the work of a committee.