Category Archive: Writing

Mar 22 2012

On insults-7: Some final thoughts

Yes, this series actually is coming to an end! But not before I add some final thoughts. Insults usually have no basis in fact. In fact, the more spectacular insults may have absolutely no contact with even reality. They are meant to inflame passions by ascribing qualities to the other person that, looked at dispassionately, …

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Mar 19 2012

On insults-4: The responsibilities of a blog author

In my private discussions with other bloggers about the issue of whether one should ban offensive commenters, the point was made that even if I could live with such comments, other readers may find them so offensive that they leave and never return because they think that by allowing them, the host is condoning such …

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Mar 16 2012

On insults-3: Insults and blog banning policies

I participated in an interesting discussion recently with some other bloggers about what to do with commenters who seem to be either trolling to create mischief or being outright abusive and insulting to either the blog host or to other commenters or anyone else. Should such people be banned?

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Mar 15 2012

On insults-2: Heated language on the internet

Once in a while, a furious debate flares up about the proper tone that people should use in exchanges with one another on the internet. This occurs within the skeptic community as well, the most prominent division being between the groups now referred to as accommodationists and the new atheists. The most common charge laid …

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Mar 01 2012

The deplorable practice of quote-mining

J&M criticism

Scholarly articles tend to follow pretty much a four-step formula. The author identifies the problem being investigated, explains why it is of interest, and why it is important to find a solution. The previous solutions to the problem are discussed and reasons are given (in the form of evidence and arguments) as to why those …

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Feb 14 2012

The evolution of language

In a comment to a previous post Jared A suggested that I would benefit, especially in my posts on religion and atheism, from using words more precisely in order to make my points clearer. In particular, he said that the word ‘myths’ usually refer to sacred narratives, while ‘scriptures’ refer to sacred writings. The beliefs …

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Feb 13 2012

The list of clichés and annoying phrases grows…

Some time ago I listed some phrases that had become such clichés that whenever I heard them, the annoyance they produced was sufficient to distract me from what the speaker was saying. Readers then added their own peeves. Here is the current list of the phrases I hate and

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Feb 13 2011

Belated anniversary commemoration

What with one thing and another, I forgot to mark the sixth anniversary of this blog, which began on January 26, 2005. I never imagined that it would continue for this long. I estimate that I have written close to two million words. For most of the time, the blog consisted of an op-ed length …

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Jan 15 2011


As someone who reads and writes a lot, I have got attuned to the rhythm of words. When someone uses a cliché, it is as jarring to me as a sudden wrong note in a piece of music. I personally try to avoid clichés as much as possible and in trying to be alert to …

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Jan 08 2011

Pointless dedication

Take a look at this passage below and see if you notice anything unusual about it. Upon this basis I am going to show you how a bunch of bright young folks did find a champion; a man with boys and girls of his own; a man of so dominating and happy individuality that Youth …

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