Language Trends and Writing Rules in Post Postmodernism

daniel adlerWriting is changing because language is changing.

Adverbs for example, are falling by the wayside. Get home safe! Not safely. The latter is so formal it’s practically an order.

Ending a sentence with a preposition is not only kosher, it actually sounds better much of the time. This is what we’re talking about. This is not that about which we are talking.

I recently read an article in Slate, which is good and worth reading because it champions writing however you naturally write, especially when your style mirrors your content. But ultimately, the flowery upper-class wannabe-English Henry James style gave way to the simplicity and Americanness of Hemingway’s. As any good artist knows, there is beauty in simplicity. And as any of my readers know, I love Hemingway and think he is the greatest American writer of the 20th century.

His rules: Make sentences strong and forceful. Write short sentences and paragraphs. Be positive. Instead of writing, “It wasn’t so bad,” try, “It was fine.” Eliminate as much as possible.

I’m a big fan of the second person. It’s much more intimate and appropriate to our post postmodern era than saying “one.” But I’m getting rid of it where possible. It’s often implied.

The word “which” signals a non-restrictive clause. But “that” has gained popularity, since most of the time when we qualify, it’s restrictive. Plus it’s easier to forget entirely about restrictive clauses in colloquial speech. Just go with “that.” And even beyond that and which, if you have a friend that does something, it’s just as acceptable as a friend who does something else.

Spot any other language trends worth noting?

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.


  1. Interesting man. I’m in editorial so it’s up my alley. I am a stickler for that and which being in editorial. I cringe when I see non-essential phrases without which, but I think that is embedded in me from AP style and whatnot. Just going with “that” only works for me in terms of essential phrases and it directly connects. That’s why I like this post — it brings up a great point regarding the “that” trend.

    I want to get your opinion on something else as noted above. I’m privy to — to show pauses in writing, and perhaps it’s conversational at best. “This is Daniel blog — it started in 1987 and talks about literature, tips and provides links.” It’s just a preferred style and, of course, I could of split the sentence.


  2. Yeah, I’ve been digging the em dash, always have, but even more so since I learned the distinction between em and en last week. I think it can make writing much more personal, although it can be overused and disruptive. Writer’s discretion, I suppose.

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