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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

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Blogging in English

I wonder if garden bloggers write their text in Word before posting. On the other hand, do they type in flawless English directly to their blogs?

All of my entries must be posted first to Word, where I re write for several days until my brain tells me “this is the best you can do”. One of the reasons for the extra work is the fact that I spent my adult career communicating with immigrant employees who spoke doctored English. Prior to that experience, I worked for several employers who had imperfectly learned English as their third or fourth language. It was necessary to adopt their syntax to my speech in order to communicate effectively with them. What my ears heard and my brain absorbed for 40 years, was English distorted by the syntax and vocabulary of Italy, France, Poland, Egypt, China, Viet Nam, Iran and Haiti.

I understood even then how my command of the English language was being affected by work. During that period, I tried hard to hold on to perfect speech. At first, I read voraciously until a combination of work and parental responsibilities made that an unrealistic expectation. Then, when my daughters began writing stories for homework, I became their de-facto editor. I drew their attention to the sequence of their sentences to ensure that what they wrote was understandable, that it was in logical order, and that it rang true. When they grew older, I would teach them about the natural flow of words and ideas. The role as editor ended when the girls became teenagers. Both the topics and the subjects of their stories were no longer appropriate reading for a parent.

When I retired from industry and began writing a gardening blog, the doctored English of my work experiences kept reverberating in my head; it became and remains an obstacle to writing easily. Another reason why this creative exercise is so difficult is the fact that I live in Montréal, a multilingual city: two and a half million people speak French, another four hundred thousand are English speaking, and seven hundred thousand people claim other languages as their mother tongue. Most of the population speaks or understands at least two languages. A significant portion can handle three. The multilingual atmosphere has influenced the vocabulary and syntax of all who live here. Consequently, our only English newspaper is written at a grade five level so that the widest audience possible is able to understand it.

Speaking and listening to perfect English is a rare experience. I rely on NPR radio, and television programs such as Masterpiece Theater and Charlie Rose to keep my ear attuned. I seek out well-crafted newspaper articles in other cities I visit and when I read gardening blogs, I pounce upon those that are written in beautiful prose. If you are a garden blogger, planning to post pictures of emerging snowdrops, how about a few lines of emerging prose, instead?

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Reader Comments (4)


A most thoughtful post. I tend to rattle off my posts using Windows Live Writer, let them simmer for a day, and the return and begin the process of eking out a coherant, flowing stream of consciousness. In the beginning it was the glorified, wham, bam, thank you mam and then a day leader I'd be reading along and happen upon a vocabulary inspired train wreck. There are days when writers block sends me fleeing from the computer, but like all I am sure, on other days the words flow like a stream of molten gold.

I am not sure if you are familiar with Edith Hope, [of Edith Hope's Garden Journal] but here is a most erudite writer who has a wonderful garden blog that relies on the magical powers of the written word. Her posts are magnificent in expressing the true powers of the written word. Please seek her out. I wholeheartedly agree that a post filled with prose has a more powerful effect on the reader, than one filled with photographs, and hard as it may be to believe, I am working towards a photoless posting in the next month or so..... an experiment of sorts.

Your posts are always a joy to read, and it was most kind to share this bit of autobiography with us. Enjoy your day!

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeza

Allan, This is a very interesting subject. My sense of garden bloggers is that they tend to divide into word people and image people (with image people in the majority). I think the image people start with photos and then use text to link the images together and tell a story about them. I count myself among the word people; I almost always begin by writing text and then look for the right images to illustrate it. I usually begin with an outline or a collection of ideas that I want to include in a post, or even a few phrases that have been stringing themselves together in my head; then I write a complete draft of the post (sometimes in one sitting, sometimes in two). I always need at least two rounds of revision -- one for major revisions and one for polishing. For polishing, I always read the post aloud so that I can hear how the words flow. Like Teza, I use Windows Live Writer for drafting. -Jean

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I don't think it's really that important that your writing is 100% perfect english. I just think being 100% authentic is the key to a good readership. Cheers~

February 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFountain Hills Landscaping

you are being done a great job of writing with due care. All of us should care while writing some thing

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterglasshouse

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