On language

Two years ago, my friend Michelle Spring tempted me to work with her on a book about the craft of writing.  The pairing was unexpectedly effective, since we have such different methods, and with the addition of a number of superb guest essays, has made a book I am tremendously proud of.  Take a look at the book, here.

For the most part, language, like plot or typeface, should be invisible. It should blend so seamlessly with the other elements that the reader is no more aware of it than the viewer is of the brush strokes in a Constable… None the less, there may be times when you don’t want your language to be invisible. If in your story, the language is part of the point, and especially if the story is told in the first person by a narrator with a distinctive voice, the vocabulary, grammar and rhythm used will stand out more sharply. My character Mary Russell, for example, speaks in a voice dripping with Latinate words and archaic structures. I use a thesaurus to write Miss Russell, producing language that would jar in one of my police procedurals or standalones, but which is necessary for the memoirs of a proud, eighty-plus academic.

To buy a copy, visit Amazon.uk, Amazon.com, or IndieBound.


  1. The Bold Flying Officer on December 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Ah, yes – language. Anachronisms can be the very devil. The latest trend being catching Julian ffellows – writer of “Dowton Abbey” – out … watch the Christmas Special sometime. On another occasion, I did catch one when proof-reading the draft of a novel written by a colleague of my son’s – an officer in Her Majesty’a Aerial Huzzars (aka The Royal Air Force). Set during the big WW2, one of the characters made reference to HER Majesty’s Air Force – I won the proverbial beer for pointing out that KING Georgve VI was on the throne at the time!

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