What has Shakespeare done for English?

It’s Shakespeare week. It’s well known that the Bard coined many phrases that we still use today. Did you know that these well used phrases were all penned by Shakespeare?

  • All that glitters isn’t gold
  • Be all and end all
  • Brevity is the soul of wit (a key one for some writers me thinks – Nick)
  • Eat out of house and home
  • Fair play
  • Heart of gold
  • It’s Greek to me
  • One fell swoop
  • The course of true love never did run smooth

For decades, schoolchildren have been forced to study Shakespeare without much of an emphasis on what he has actually achieved for the English language today. Reading plays, while important, is just one way to understand his impact. Perhaps, this Shakespeare week, we can all explore the richness of language the Bard has left us with.

What richness of language we will leave in our writing.

The secret to longevity

“What is the secret to your longevity?” I asked the author who had come to sign books at the local, independent bookshop this week. She has been around a while and has quite many books out. Incidentally, we should all be making a far greater effort to buy local. It is these shops that are the heart of local high streets and wider communities. They greet us by name as we walk in and know what we want to buy organically, not because of some computer-generated algorithm. We might think that buying online, especially in this Covid-19 panic season, is safer, but I would much rather spend my money in a local shop than over the web. Plus, this bookshop, gets books to me faster than a well-known online book retailer!

So, what was the secret of her longevity? How does she keep writing books? The secret is, she tells me in a slightly conspiratorial fashion, is about inclusivity.

“The secret is to make people feel they are not alone.” She elaborates, “Just because they’ve broken up or had a baby, they are still part of the human race.”

Whilst she was talking about her female protagonists, it is quite clear that this is a principle we should all be aiming for in our writing, whatever the genre. If it is not connecting to the audience, what are we going it for?

I recently edited a piece of writing that contained many masculine pronouns, unnecessarily so. The writer, albeit not a native speaker of English, had automatically assumed that those working and buying in a certain sector would be male. It is an easy trap to fall into. All the books and TV series I had growing up featured gender stereotyped roles and attitudes and that wasn’t that long ago.

Editing can make sure that you don’t fall into the same trap. Editors can spot the bias remarks. (that is quite a biased statement but as I am an editor, surely, I can make that one?) Writing should, as the author who signed my book knows, be as inclusive as possible and make everyone feel part of the human race.