Category Archives: Writing Tool

“I got served the ellipsis!” (A note on email etiquette)

A financial reporter is a funny state of being. I am certainly no financial expert (I majored in English and Asian film studies, and I imagine if I had majored in economics, I would opt for other better-paying finance-y jobs), yet my job requires me to speak to many experts in my field, including investment bankers, debt brokers and traders. In fact, talking to the right person(s) is often what makes stellar news stories. But what if the right person(s) doesn’t want to talk to you?

Well, now enters the personality. Sure, I am professional, courteous, but I also want to connect with my sources on a personal level. It is after all a conversation. And it needs to go both directions, hence the extra seasoning with questions like “How was your [vacation/weekend/day]” or “What are you doing this [weekend]”, as well as throwing in a little about myself and various doings.

But what to do when I was given… the ELLIPSIS?

Ellipsis sorta, kinda drives me crazy. As minions can… (image credit: Universal Studio/Web)

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Paradox: Yes, I did not

Paradox is a literary device that surprises/delights the reader or makes the reader think over an idea in an innovative way by putting two seemingly self-contradictory ideas together.

Here’s a real-life paradox, replayed. I was walking home one night when I overheard a conversation between a boy and a girl. This is likely their first date, you know, those awkward I-am-getting-to-know-you questions and overly enthusiastic responses.

“Are you a working journalist?” the girl asked.
“No, I am a master student studying 20th century American literature,” he replied.
“That’s awesome!” she exclaimed.

Translation: “Hi, I am a master student studying 20th century American literature and I have no job prospect whatsoever!” I doubt the awesomeness.

I slowed my pace. Walking roughly two steps to the right and three steps ahead of them. I was careful not to be in their immediate peripheral vision but also close enough so I could continue my eavesdropping.

The boy attempted to explain to the girl his area of study, which consists primarily of short stories. He asked, “Do you know of a famous short story that came out last year called ‘Redeployment’? Have you read it?”

She cried:

Yes I did not read it!

First date…(image credit: Web/

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“What’s in a name” — Oh boy, don’t you know?

Ask what’s in a name, and I’d say plenty.

When introducing myself, I’m either “It’s Sherry like the alcohol,” or “It’s Sherry, like the Frank Valli and the Four Seasons song.” The former usually gets a delayed I-get-it chuckle, and the latter works wonderfully with the slightly more senior folks.

And Roy Peter Clark, author of Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, advises writers to “pay attention to names.”

Names can be fun. Take popular characters in fiction, such as Rip Van Winkle and Ichabod Crane. Or savor Strawberry Bonbons, Glacier Mints, Pear Drops, Lemon Drops, Sherbet Suckers and Liquorice Bootlaces in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, well-crafted names enliven the imagination.

The best literary name of all, is perhaps Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita:

What’s in a name? Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (image credit:

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