Writing the Future Perfect
For the past two weeks, I’ve been working from the new Western office of thePRguy in Chandler, Arizona. We have family nearby and it’s been a real treat spending time with them. Last evening, I was given bedtime storytelling privileges with my nine year-old niece, Emily. She selected a book about Pablo Picasso, from a series about individual artists. That was my first surprise. About three pages in, she interrupted me with, “That’s a simile.” (I don’t know about you but I struggled until, well, yesterday to nail the difference between a simile and a metaphor.) So I asked her, “What’s onomatopoeia?” She shot back with, “That’s a word that imitates a sound, like buzz or snap or meow.” A moment later she chirped, “That phrase used alliteration.” She then shared the mnemonic device she uses to remember her figures of speech. You could have knocked me over with a feather. (I bet Emily knows that’s an idiom.) And that’s not a hyperbole. I thought that the craft of writing was on its last legs. There’s plenty of evidence for that point of view in the daily barrage of emails, websites, ads, blogs, and TV shows — even in state slogans. (You’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania. Seriously?) And I can’t tell you how many emails I receive from PR students seeking my “career advise.” As much as I dreaded it at the time, I am forever grateful that the good sisters taught me the fine art of diagramming a sentence and drilled me on tense, person, word classes and poetry meters. The 12 years I spent studying Latin gave me precious tools, too. I’ve used these tools to build a career. For years I’ve been concerned about the receding heir line (pun intended) for the next generation of people who will wield the words that will inform, entertain, motivate and inspire us. Emily has given me hope that there’s a Future Perfect ahead.