The Saturday Miscellany: How to write well; a defence of Comic Sans; Sam Riviere's bookshelf


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How to: Write well

By Oscar Quine

Got something to say? Rebecca Gowers, who has revised her great-grandfather Ernest Gowers' guide to English usage, 'Plain Words', gives these tips on getting your point across effectively...

"Use no more words than are needed to express your meaning: if you use more, you may become unclear and tire your reader. In particular, try to stop superfluous adjectives and adverbs creeping in. Check your sentences to see if you can improve them by cutting anything."

"Use familiar rather than obscure words if the familiar ones will express your meaning equally well: they will be more widely understood. Avoid jargon unless you know your reader is a specialist."

"Try to keep your writing concrete and precise. For example, do not say 'It requires to be capable of operationalisation', if you mean 'It needs to work'."

Rotating column: Comic Sans, a defence

By Kevin Bayliss

Comic Sans is widely mocked as the Mickey Mouse tie of typography.

This week it was given a facelift by its maker, the self-described 'Font Philanthropist', Craig Rozynski, as part of a three-year project to see if the world's most disliked font could be saved. Rozynski then gave away the font to the world's designers to make of it what they will.

It's admirable, but maybe unnecessary. Comic Sans may have been lampooned on T-shirts, mugs and blogs, but it actually has multifarious uses.

Friendly and unchallenging, it's a perfect font for helping people who struggle with reading – a fact endorsed by the British Dyslexia Association. A 2010 Princeton study also found it made it easier to retain information than other fonts. To which one can only conclude:


Kevin Bayliss is art director of this magazine

Instant Ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. My mother, who is not in any way a healthcare professional, keeps placing people she knows on the autistic spectrum. How do I tell her this is wildly inappropriate?

A. This behaviour can only be corrected with what trained psychologists refer to as a 'Reversy Percy'. Book her in for a diagnosis about her compulsive behaviour.


Micro extract: False impressions

"[Field Marshall] Haig was surprisingly popular with his men (and soldiers tend not to like 'butcher' generals), and after the war he led the huge operation to raise money for wounded ex-servicemen by selling poppies. Many historians now defend Haig's tactics..."

From 'First World War for dummies' (£15.99, Wiley)

Four play: Baronesses in Thatcher's* Government

1. Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes

2. Baroness Young

3. Baroness Chalker

4. Baroness Trumpington

* formed her first government today in 1979

All good things

By Charlotte Philby


Bombers away

The off-white and grey Scuba Bomber Jacket (above) is part of a bold new collection from Yorkshire-born designer Julia D'Albert. The pink silk lining is particularly swish. £329,


Snap happy

The first two publications from British photographer Robin Maddock will feature in Martin Parr's forthcoming 'The Photobook: A History, Volume III'. Good time, then, to bag Maddock's latest title, 'III'. £40,


Bud wiser

In celebration of its 15th anniversary, luxury beauty brand Chantecaille has launched – for this month only – Rose de Mai cream (above), made from rare roses grown in France which bloom for just three weeks each May. £175,