Lessons from The Cartoon Bureau

Cody Walker, in The New Yorker’s Cartoon Bureau:

"Inexperienced writers sometimes imagine that good writing comes from good ideas. But that’s not right: good writing comes from good sentences. It comes from caring about sentence construction: the rhythm of the clauses, the placement of the predicate. And working on captions—fiddling with punctuation and modifiers—reinforces this lesson wonderfully. Any sentence that aspires to artfulness—that is, any sentence that you might want to read out loud or share with a friend—makes a kind of gesture (and, in this way, distinguishes itself from the dead-on-arrival sentences often found in textbooks and, I’m sorry to say, student essays). The sentence may raise its (figurative) arms; it may shrug; it may snarl. Whatever the case, it captures an attitude—and it does so efficiently and memorably. Just as good captions do."

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