Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I Love Books

I’m going to be very busy for the next couple of weeks, so I will take a break from the blog until September. This week, though, I’m fulfilling a promise I made in a post a while back. A couple of decades ago I started keeping a list of all the “serious” books I had read cover to cover. In my line of work, I do a fair amount of reading, but most of this list is the result of my habit of reading at least three books at a time at home. It takes longer to get through a single volume, but the variety is nice. I’ve pruned a few titles from the original list, but this is still complete enough to give you a feel for the sorts of books I’m interested in.
If you find this list a bit daunting, I would ask you to keep in mind that I am a slow reader, I suffer from a severe sports addiction, I have a wife and four children, I play basketball three mornings a week and watch Jeopardy every evening, I try to keep my yard looking nice, and at one time not long ago I had four church callings (none of them overwhelming). So don’t give up hope. If, on the other hand, you find this list rather meager, then please remember that I am a slow reader, I suffer from . . . Let’s just say I’m dedicated to reading and to learning at my own slow pace.
With a few notable exceptions, I would recommend any of these books to a curious reader. An asterisk indicates a book I would highly recommend. I obviously don’t agree with the premises presented in all of these books, but they have all broadened my horizons and given me a chance to think about a variety of topics. Anyway, without further explanation, here’s the growing list:

Adams and Jefferson: A Revolutionary Dialogue, by Merrill D. Peterson
Adam Smith’s Mistake: How a Moral Philosopher Invented Economics and Ended Morality, by Kenneth Lux
Affluenza, by James de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor
*Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, by David C. Korten
*The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation, by Armand L. Mauss
Approaching Zion, by Hugh Nibley
The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, by Kevin Phillips
Beyond Death’s Door, by Brent L. Top
Bleachers, by John Grisham
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen W. Hawking
Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, by John G. Turner
Brigham Young: Sovereign in America, by David Vaughn Mason
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
*Children of the Promise (5 volumes), by Dean Hughes
The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students, by Allan Bloom
*Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier
Colonel Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons, 1846–1883, ed. David J. Whittaker
Coming from the Light, by Sarah Hinze
The Coming Plague, by Laurie Garrett
Cosmic Questions, by Richard Morris
Culture of Complaint, by Robert Hughes
D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, by Stephen E. Ambrose
*David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright
Dialogues with Myself, by Eugene England
A Different God? Mitt Romney, the Religious Right, and the Mormon Question, by Craig L. Foster
The Disuniting of America, by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
*The Divine Right of Capital: Dethroning the Corporate Aristocracy, by Marjorie Kelly
The Dogs of Babel, by Carolyn Parkhurst
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, by Lynne Truss
*The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken
Educating Zion, edited by John W. Welch and Don E. Norton
The End of Bureaucracy and the Rise of the Intelligent Organization, by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot
Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer
The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
Free to Choose, by Milton and Rose Friedman
The Fundamentals of Ethics, by Russ Shafer-Landau
*Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick
The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, by Brant A. Gardner
“God Has Made Us a Kingdom”: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons, by Vickie Cleverley Speek
The God Who Weeps, by Terryl and Fiona Givens
*Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith
Having Authority: The Origins and Development of Priesthood during the Ministry of Joseph Smith, by Gregory A. Prince
Hearing the Voice of the Lord, by Gerald N. Lund
Hearts of the Children (5 volumes), series by Dean Hughes
A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Gandhi, by Keshavan Nair
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
*Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, by Boyd J. Petersen
The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration, by Tad R. Callister
In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death, by Samuel Morris Brown
The J. Golden Kimball Stories, by Eric A. Eliason
J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years, by D. Michael Quinn
Joseph Smith, by Robert V. Remini
*Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard L. Bushman
The L Word: An Unapologetic, Thoroughly Biased, Long-Overdue Explication and Defense of Liberalism, by David P. Barash
Leadership and the New Science, by Margaret J. Wheatley
Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, by Edward L. Kimball
Lehi in the Desert, by Hugh Nibley
The Life Before, by Brent L. Top
Life before Life, by Richard Eyre
The Life Beyond, by Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie
The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith, by Frederick G. Williams
*Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, by Robert M. Pirsig
*The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
Managing by the Numbers: Absentee Owners and the Decline of American Industry, by Christopher Meek, Warner Woodworth, and W. Gibb Dyer
Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy, by Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr., and Glen M. Leonard
Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism, by Grant Underwood
Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn from the Latter-day Saints, by Stephen H. Webb
Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery
*The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, by D. Michael Quinn
*The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, by D. Michael Quinn
Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890–1930, by Thomas G. Alexander
*The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith, by Matthew Bowman
Mormon Polygamy: A History, by Richard S. Van Wagoner
*The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got to Be That Way, by Bill Bryson
Mountain Meadows Massacre: The Andrew Jenson and David H. Morris Collections, edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Ronald W. Walker
My Mormonism: A Primer for Non-Mormons and Mormons, Alike, by David V. Mason
Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless, by Hugh Nibley
*One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, by William Greider
*Organizational Values in America, by William G. Scott and David K. Hart
Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, by Patricia Ward Biederman and Warren Bennis
*A Painted House, by John Grisham
Papers on the Ethics of Administration, edited by N. Dale Wright
Parliament of Whores, by P.J. O’Rourke
Peace Breaks Out, by John Knowles
*People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture, by Terryl L. Givens
Polar Star, by Martin Cruz Smith
Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized By People Who Think You’re Stupid,
      by Joe Klein
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories/Once upon a More Enlightened Time, by James Finn Garner
The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria
*Power from On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, by Gregory A. Prince
The Radicalism of the American Revolution, by Gordon S. Wood
Red Rum Punch, by Ceylon Barclay
Reengineering Management: The Mandate for New Leadership, by James Champy
The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, by Christopher Lasch
A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
Rose, by Martin Cruz Smith
The Scholar of Moab, by Steven L. Peck
Secrets of the Street: The Dark Side of Making Money, by Gene G. Marcial
*Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country, by William Greider
*A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport, by Armand L. Mauss
*Shoeless Joe, by W. P. Kinsella
A Short History of Financial Euphoria, by John Kenneth Galbraith
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson
A Short Stay in Hell, by Steven L. Peck
The Silmarillion, by J. R. R. Tolkien
Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, by Richard S. Van Wagoner
Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered, by E. F. Schumacher
Standing for Something, by Gordon B. Hinckley
Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest, by Peter Block
*Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Trouble with Money, by William Greider
*The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics, by Christopher Lasch
*This Is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology, by Charles R. Harrell
Trust: The Social Virtues & the Creation of Prosperity, by Francis Fukuyama
Turning Freud Upside Down: Gospel Perspectives on Psychotherapy’s Fundamental Problems, ed. Aaron P. Jackson, Lane Fischer, and Doris R. Dant
Tyranny of the Bottom Line: Why Corporations Make Good People Do Bad Things, by Ralph Estes
*Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
*Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide, by Grant Hardy
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth, by J. R. R. Tolkien
The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths, and the Construction of Heresy, by Terryl L. Givens
*Way Below the Angels: The Pretty Clearly Troubled but Not Even Close to Tragic Confessions of a Real Live Mormon Missionary, by Craig Harline
*Wayward Saints: The Social and Religious Protests of the Godbeites against Brigham Young, by Ronald W. Walker
We Are All Self-Employed: The New Social Contract for Working in a Changed World, by Cliff Hakim
*Why I Stay, ed. by Robert Rees
*When Corporations Rule the World, by David C. Korten
Why Leaders Can’t Lead: The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues, by Warren Bennis
Wish You Well, by David Baldacci
Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English, by Patricia T. O’Connor
Working Alone, by Murray Felsher
Working Toward Zion: Principles of the United Order for the Modern World, by James W. Lucas and Warner P. Woodworth
*The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers, by Robert L. Heilbroner
The Worlds of Joseph Smith: A Bicentennial Conference at the Library of Congress, ed. John W. Welch
Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity, by Terryl L. Givens
*Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, by Robert M. Pirsig

The four books I am currently reading that will soon earn a spot on this list are:

From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon, by Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat
Revelation, Resistance, and Mormon Polygamy: The Introduction and Implementation of the Principle, 1830–1853, by Merina Smith
*Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction, by Steven L. Peck
What’s on the Other Side: What the Gospel Teaches Us about the Spirit World, by Brent L. Top

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three Levels of Thinking

Perhaps you have heard the saying, “There are two kinds of people—those who divide people into two kinds and those who don’t.” I guess I’m one of those who don’t, at least this week. I’ve been thinking lately that there are really three types of people, and this division results from looking at the way people think.
Most people think at the personal level. They think about themselves, their friends and family, their daily activities, their goals and plans, their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their aches and pains, their responsibilities and frivolities. And this is about the extent of their thinking.
A much smaller group of people, on the other hand, are able to think organizationally. They see larger connections between people and broader ethical considerations that arise from interactions within organizations. They want to know what makes organizations tick, what sorts of organizational cultures, rules, and structures lead to the most productive outcomes. Often these people gravitate toward management, but not always. Some managers are totally clueless about how to structure the relationships between people in order to achieve positive results.
A very, very few people, on the other other hand, are able to think systemically. These people try to comprehend complex interactions in society that involve far more factors than are at play within organizations. In fact, systems generally revolve around the interactions of multiple organizations. There are a variety of systems that govern our lives—political, economic, legal, theological, governmental, and commercial, to name a handful. Of course all of the great worldly philosophers belong to this group—people like Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Joseph Schumpeter, and Thorstein Veblen.
One of the most fascinating systemic thinkers in recent years has been Robert Pirsig, author of the profoundly important Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and its eventual sequel, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, which appeared seventeen years after Zen. I recall reading Pirsig’s first book as an assignment for an MBA class I took from Omar Kader. It went right over my head without pausing to leave an impression. Several years later, I reread Zen while I was researching issues I addressed in my own book Economic Insanity: How Growth-Driven Capitalism Is Devouring the American Dream. If you look at my copy of Zen today, there are pencil notes in the margins everywhere. I decided it was the most brilliant book I had ever read. Something obviously changed in me during the intervening years, since the book hadn’t changed at all.
I suppose I need to read both books again, since my memory is too cluttered up to remember enough details of either tome. Maybe when I retire. For now, though, let me share a couple of Pirsig’s more memorable observations that relate to systemic thinking. After describing a motorcycle as a set of interrelated structures and functions, Pirsig writes,
These structures are normally interrelated in patterns and paths so complex and so enormous no one person can understand more than a small part of them in his lifetime. The overall name of these interrelated structures . . . is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system.
To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as “the system” is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no “mean guy” who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it is meaningless.
But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.1
Have you ever wondered why nothing much changes in Washington, DC, regardless of which party is in control? The answer probably has something to do with the fact that very few politicians are systemic thinkers. It is possible, though, to impair a system without understanding it. A good example is Reaganomics, which is still producing undesirable consequences more than three decades after its unfortunate implementation.
I have serious concerns about one of our two major political parties. The GOP seems to be trying to invent a new system of government, but it is a system based upon a dangerously skewed view of reality and a set of principles that may be ideologically pure but are so detached from logic that they simply cannot produce a system that works as it needs to. It’s like designing a motorcycle, to borrow Pirsig’s metaphor, that has no brakes and an engine that’s missing a piston or two.
Well, back to Pirsig. He follows up these ideas in Zen with an different but compelling metaphor in Lila. Speaking of his own alter ego, young Phædrus, he writes:
What was he running from? He didn’t know then. It seemed like he’d been running all his life.
It used to fill his dreams, night after night. When he was little it was a giant octopus that he’d seen in a cartoon movie. . . . Later it was a huge, shadowy, faceless giant who was coming to kill him. He would wake up afraid and then slowly realize that the giant wasn’t real. . . .
. . . These manhole covers always fascinated him. Many intersections seemed to have nearly a dozen of them, some new and rough, others worn smooth and shiny from so many tires rolling over them. . . .
He’d seen drawings of how the manholes led down to staggeringly complex underground networks of systems that made this whole island happen: electric power networks, telephone networks, water pipe networks, gas line networks, sewage networks, subway tunnels, TV cables, and who knows how many special-purpose networks he had never even heard of, like the nerves and arteries and muscle fibers of a giant organism.
The Giant of his dreams.
It was spooky how it all worked with an intelligence of its own that was way beyond the intelligence of any person. He would never know how to fix one of these systems of wire and tubes down below the ground that ran it all. Yet there was someone who did. And there was a system for finding that person if he was needed, and a system for finding that system that would find him. The cohesive force that held all these systems together: that was the Giant.
When he was young Phædrus used to think about cows and pigs and chickens and how they never knew that the nice farmer who provided food and shelter was doing so only so that he could sell them to be killed and eaten. They would “oink” or “cluck,” and he would come with food, so they probably thought he was some sort of servant.
He also used to wonder if there was a higher farmer that did the same thing to people, a different kind of organism that they saw every day and thought of as beneficial, providing food and shelter and protection from enemies, but an organism that secretly was raising them and using their accumulated energy for its own independent purposes. Later he saw there was: this Giant. People look upon the social patterns of the Giant in the same way cows and horses look upon a farmer; different from themselves, incomprehensible, but benevolent and appealing. Yet the social pattern of the city devours their lives for its own purposes just as surely as farmers devour the flesh of farm animals. A higher organism feeding upon a lower one and accomplishing more by doing so than the lower organism can accomplish alone. . . .
If “man” invented societies and cities, why are all societies and cities so repressive of “man”? Why would “man” want to invent internally contradictory standards and arbitrary social institutions for the purpose of giving himself a bad time? This “man” who goes around inventing societies to repress himself seems real as long as you deal with him in the abstract, but he evaporates as you get more specific. . . .
The Giant began to materialize out of Phædrus’s Dynamic dreams when he was in college. A professor of chemistry had mentioned at his fraternity that a large chemical firm as offering excellent jobs for graduates of the school and almost every member of the fraternity thought it was wonderful news . . .
So here was this Giant, this nameless, faceless system reaching for him, ready to devour him and digest him. It would use his energy to grow stronger and stronger throughout his life while he grew older and weaker until, when he was no longer of much use, it would excrete him and find another younger person full of energy to take his place and do the same thing all over again.2
Now that kind of puts you in your place, doesn’t it? We sometimes think we know it all, but can we even control the system we have allowed to form in our midst. I don’t claim we created it. Far from it. We allowed it to create itself, and now it is in control.
I once read that there is no person on earth who possesses all the knowledge necessary to produce a simple number 2 pencil. This sounds absurd until you start to think about it. Personally, I have no clue how to produce any part of the pencil except perhaps a hexagonal shaft of wood, and even there I would probably produce something crude and unusable. So, if no one on earth has the knowledge to produce a pencil, it isn’t a stretch at all to assume that no one on earth has all the knowledge necessary to create a just, harmonious, creative, prosperous, and safe society. Economic and governmental systems are so much more complex than a pencil. And yet we have scores of people spouting platitudes about the economy and making bizarre claims about government who have never come close to thinking systemically. This is a frightening prospect. Even more frightening is the fact that most American voters are even more uninformed and less inclined to try to understand the larger picture than these two-bit power-seekers.
The Founders of this country and the Framers of the Constitution were some of the best minds this world has ever seen. Some really fine systemic thinkers among them. But even so, they had no way of anticipating some of the aspects of modern society that we have to deal with—such as medical technology, the Internet, automatic weapons, mind-altering chemicals, financial derivatives, and sex-change operations. I hate to say this, but as wonderful as the Constitution is, it is in some regards woefully outdated. It needs to be either rewritten or amended significantly to deal with issues in modern society that Madison and his pals could never have foreseen.
But where in our superficial society do we have systemic thinkers who are up to the task? Perhaps there are a few. I could name a handful. But we are so divided by blind ideology and so sedated by shallow bromides that we don’t have the attention span necessary to listen to and understand their reasoning. Most Americans don’t read a book in a year. Our minds are not trained to think and analyze and arrive at reasonable conclusions. We fall instead for bluster and get upset by anyone who attempts to rearrange our prejudices.
The question that arises for me from Pirsig’s long ruminations on systems is whether humankind, a lower organism, can control the higher system and bend it to serve human needs. My answer would be, not unless more of us become concerned enough to learn how to think systemically, or at least to listen carefully to those already know how.
1. Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (New York: Bantam, 1975), 87–88.
2. Robert M. Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (New York: Bantam, 1992), 247–51.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Roger’s 13 Very Useful Rules for the Editing of Things Which Are in Need of Editing and to Create the Case in Which Readability Is Very Much Enhanced

As I indicated in my introductory post back in January, I am an editor by profession and a writer by preference. My day job involves fixing other people’s writing. Having a good ear for language helps a great deal, but I also picked up a few tricks of the trade along the way. Some time ago, I pulled together thirteen of these trade secrets to share with other editors. Just on the off chance that some of you out there in the World Wide Web are aspiring writers or bloggers and yet are oblivious to the conventions of “good writing,” let me share these thirteen pieces of scribal wisdom with the hope that they may, in some minuscule (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) way, improve the quality of all the unedited stuff that gets posted in the blogosphere. And who knows? Maybe this post will pay other dividends (saving me some time and effort) if any of you submit an article to BYU Studies.

So, here goes:

1. Remove “there is” and “there are” wherever possible.

Wrong: There is a tendency among baseball players to spit.
Right: Baseball players tend to spit and exhibit other disgusting habits.

2. Change “which” to “that” wherever possible.

Wrong: He sold me a car which didn’t run.
Right: He sold me a car that didn’t run, and I sued him.

3. Don’t use “thing,” ever—unless referring to an ugly Volkswagen model from the ’70s.

Imprecise: The Thing was the ugliest thing on the road.
Precise: The Thing was the ugliest vehicle on the road, even uglier than the El Camino.

4. Eliminate “of” wherever possible. Of course, sometimes this isn’t possible.

Sort of wrong: One of the by-products of the job was to have the flesh of my hands peel off from the moisture and the heat of the cans.
Better: One by-product of the job was that the cans’ heat and moisture would peel the flesh off my hands.

5. Never use “very.” As one expert suggested, if you think you need to use “very,” replace it with “damn,” then cross out “damn.”

Wrong: That was a very fine vocal solo you performed, Luciano.
Better: That was a damn fine vocal solo you performed, Luciano.
Better yet: That was a damn fine vocal solo you performed, Luciano.
Best: Wish I could sing like that, L. P.

6. Get rid of that “that” every chance that you get.

Nope: The third horizon that I hope is not lost is that of service.
Yup: The third horizon I hope is not lost is service.

7. Active voice is generally to be preferred over passive voice.

Wrong: The ball was struck by Casey with such force that the cover was ripped off.
Right: Casey struck the ball with such force that we had to go to Walmart and buy a new one.

8. Parallelism, shmarallelism!

Slightly askew: We would have to walk eight kilometers after having participated in a baseball practice or training for a track meet.
Parallel: We would have to walk eight kilometers uphill both ways after participating in a baseball practice or training for a track meet.

9. No sentence is too short. Prune mercilessly.

Wordy: Recently, a mother was interested in doing something about the time television was taking away from the elementary-school-age children in her neighborhood.
Low-cal version: Recently, a mother desired to reduce the time television was taking from her neighborhood=s elementary-school-age children. (21.3 percent less filling.)

10. Replace boring, nebulous verbs and their equally boring and nebulous objects with interesting, precise verbs and objects.

Nebulous: Even quality television programs can take too much of our time from other worthwhile activities.
Precise: Even quality television programs can divert us from eating chocolate and playing Scrabble.

11. Watch out for modifiers that don’t modify the intended word or that modify more than they should.

Our favorite example: As was Nephi, I was born in a good family with parents who were practicing Catholics.
Edited sentence: As was the Pope, I was born in a good family with parents who were practicing Catholics.

12. Dont use “case.”

Wrong: It has rarely been the case that I am wrong.
Right: I am rarely wrong, and don’t forget it.

13. Never create a list that ends with an unlucky number.

*  *  *

Bonus tip: Despite what AP style and British convention indicate, always use the serial comma. Using it never causes confusion. Leaving it out often does. My favorite example came from the Chicago Manual of Style’s website, but unfortunately they removed it:

Her heroes were her parents, the pope and Mother Teresa.