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Welcome to my website: If you're looking for info on the history of the alphabet, please click on "The alphabet" in the blue band, above.

This short page—which please feel free to skip—is about me. I'm a journalist and author who covers cultural topics; I've written many articles and two nonfiction books for general readers.

The books' contents are detailed on pages reachable via the blue links just at right, here. One book is a reference work about the ancient Greeks. The other book, Language Visible (Broadway Books, 2003), is on a subject that preoccupies me: the history and workings of the alphabet.

Under several titles, this book is published in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and (in translations) China, France, South Korea, and Serbia. It has been well received, in the U.K. particularly. Click on the "Language Visible" blue link at right to learn more about the alphabet book.

Otherwise, major interests of mine include: 1) world languages and writing systems and 2) our multifaceted inheritance from the ancient Greco-Roman world. My goal as a writer is to explain cultural-historical subjects like these to a wide readership.

Mostly as a freelancer, I've written for about 25 mainstream magazines or newspapers, including the New York Times Magazine, New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Elle, Allure, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Details, First for Women, School Library Journal, the Montreal Gazette, and the Ottawa Citizen (Ontario). My topics have included current books and movies, education, and family issues.

An American citizen, I live in Ottawa, Ontario, with my wife, Joan. We have two adult daughters. Previously we lived in New Jersey and (earlier) Manhattan. We relocated north in summer 2000 in a lifestyle move. Currently I teach English courses at the University of Ottawa and a journalism course at Carleton University in Ottawa. Also currently I am on the board of the New Edinburgh Community Alliance, an Ottawa neighborhood association, and am on the executive committee of the Ottawa branch of the Oxford University Society, an alumni group.

I grew up in Summit, New Jersey. A sixth-grade English teacher inspired me with a foolish wish to be a writer, and I never outgrew it. Around age 14, I became intrigued by ancient Greece and Rome and their vital legacy in modern languages and Western outlook. I studied Greek and Latin at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania (B.A. Latin Literature), and at Balliol College of Oxford University (M.A. Literae Humaniores). While I don’t teach the subject for a living, Greco-Roman studies remain a fascination for me.

Statement of purpose: In 25 years of writing for publication, I’ve learned to value clear, concise, "friendly" prose. The highest calling of a nonfiction writer is to open up a topic in a responsible way for general readers. This skill requires both prose style and mental organization. Writers should try to know everything about their chosen topic, but they shouldn’t regurgitate everything and they shouldn’t show off expertise at readers’ expense. Good writing tackles the main ideas for the reader, moving briskly and using summary and analysis. Bad writing tends to pile-on info without shaping it.

As a reader, I despise writing that leaves readers behind (for example, through overuse of technical jargon) or that is unclear in train of thought. In my own books and journalism, I strive to deliver a message quickly and to give only such facts and details as will elucidate, not bury, the message. In my prose, I try for a clear, concise style that could reach almost anyone; my rough gauge while writing is to ask, "Could a motivated 16 year old understand these words?"

site updated May 2011