The Saturday Miscellany: How to write a 'how to'; American spelling; Tom Rob Smith's bookshelf; journalists on stamps


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The Independent Culture

How to: Write a 'how to'

By Oscar Quine

The 'How To' guide is obviously a highly-distinguished artform. With that in mind, here's how to educate the people in absolutely anything, courtesy of Claire Ruston of the 'For Dummies' series...

"Focus on what the reader needs to know to get the job done. Don't give them 50 ways to do something, give them the best way. Choose the easiest, most appropriate method and maybe include one alternative."

"Remember that most readers don't read how-to guides in a linear way; many will turn straight to the section they need for the task at hand. Keep your sections and chapters modular so that readers can get in and out."

"Write with your five best friends (or your granny) in mind; be conversational and personable. Use everyday, casual language and avoid jargon as much as possible."

Rotating column: Bloody 'L'

By Mark Forsyth

Of all America's actions on the world stage, perhaps the most peculiar is to spell instalment, installment. American spelling tends to simplify; indeed their great dictionary writer, Noah Webster, tried to get them to write soop, bred, wimmin and tuf. But it never caught on.

Webster managed to get them to drop the L in travel[l]er and jewel[l]er. But he didn't drop it in other words, like propeller or instilled. He consequently made Americans very confused about the Ls. And thus, I suppose, the overcompensation of installment.

On the same principle, if Hillary Clinton should give Ed Miliband one of her Ls, the special relationship would be much improved.

Follow Mark Forsyth, author of 'The Etymologicon', on Twitter @Inkyfool

Dear Ellen

By Ellen E Jones

Q. I am leaving my company, do I have to pretend to care about my former colleagues?

A. Moonwalking out the front door, while flipping a double V-sign and screaming "Later, losers!" might seem like the classy option. But given the general lack of job security these days, you'd be wiser not to burn any bridges.


Micro extract: Wolf whistle

"Wolves will persist in trying to solve a difficult task through cunning using different solutions, whereas the dog will typically give up earlier and try to recruit the help of its master."

From 'The domesticated brain: A pelican introduction' by Bruce hood (£7.99, out May)

Four play: Journalists on stamps

1. Martha Gellhorn*

2. Richard dimbleby

3. Nellie Bly

4. Edward Murrow

*died today in 1998