By now, many of you know that we lost a great lover of language (and an expert on its quirks) on Sunday. William Safire wrote the “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine from 1979 until earlier this month. Safire was also a speechwriter for President Nixon.
From 1973 until 2005, Safire wrote “his twice-weekly ‘Essay’ for the Op-Ed page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus.” In 1978, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.
Throughout his career, Safire gave many wonderful tips for writers and readers.
From “How to Read a Column” in 2005: “Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled ‘analysis’) without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word ‘respected’ in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read ‘According to the disrespected (whomever).’”
And of course, there were Safire’s “rules for writers”: The passive voice should never be used; Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!; Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors; Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague…
Many of us will greatly miss Safire’s astute and often hilarious Sunday language columns. Most recently, he wrote about the phrase “bending the curve” (as in Obama’s remarks: “it’s important for us to bend the cost curve”).
Any readers remember a favorite “On Language” column?