Becoming a better writer with Professor Cohen and Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I once had a college professor, Ralph Cohen, who was extremely fond of Shakespeare. Professor Cohen was such a fan of Bill the Bard, he and former student Jim Warren founded a traveling theater troupe, Shenandoah Shakespeare Express (now known as the American Shakespeare Center). The good professor and others at ASC were also instrumental in constructing the world’s only known re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater in Staunton, Virginia. (So if you ever want to watch plays staged in the same way that Elizabethans did, I highly recommend you visit them here.)

Both Professor Cohen and Shakespeare contributed to my development as a writer. Professor Cohen provided me and my fellow students with “Professor Cohen’s 39 Picky Rules of Writing.” Thanks to him, I lost the word “very” from my professional vocabulary (see Rule #32) and never intentionally dangled any participles or misplaced any modifiers (see Rule #18). Whether you’re a student seeking a better grade on a paper or a working professional learning how to communicate more effectively, these rules will help you. Try them out.

Shakespeare is also responsible for helping me to become the writer I am today by influencing how I create characters. Although his use of Elizabethan English requires some pondering and research, Shakespeare was a master at characters and their development. Who among us hasn’t known a button-pusher like Iago in Othello or a pompous, wordy official like Polonius in Hamlet? Even though Shakespeare no longer graces us with his presence, his characters and quotes from his plays and sonnets still relate to our lives. You have to respect that longevity.



Filed under Writing

2 responses to “Becoming a better writer with Professor Cohen and Shakespeare

  1. I bookmarked “Professor Cohen’s 39 Picky Rules of Writing”; it is a must read for anyone wanting to be a serious writer.

    I’m also a big fan of E.B. White’s “Elements of Style,” and Stephen King’s “On Writing.” You have to dig through a lot of memoir in King’s book, but I have found the lessons to be invaluable.


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