Grammar Watch #1 #WhenISeeAObamaSticker I Cringe

In case you’ve missed it, #WhenISeeAObamaSticker is now trending on twitter. This angers me, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it’s a bad hashtag – onerous and far too long. Secondly, the use of ‘a’ instead of ‘an’ before Obama is a terrible grammatical mistake that greatly devalues the weight of the anti-Obama arguments attached to the tweets. Thirdly, millions of morons across the world have used and retweeted the offending hashtag, spreading bad grammar even further through cyberspace.

It hurts my eyes. If you’re going to create a hashtag, get it right, please.

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Stars in My Eyes

A retrospective look at some of my journalistic work…

I always wanted to write for a living. When I told my secondary school English teacher this towards the end of my A-Levels, she pointed me towards a degree in journalism. Soon after, I followed her suggested career route, joining the Journalism class of 2001 at Dublin City University. I’ve never really looked back. Until now.

Post-graduation in 2005, I spent a hectic year living in Dublin juggling three jobs; something had to pay the bills while I searched for that much-lauded and increasingly elusive paid writing job. My search eventually ended in spring 2006, when I was offered a job with a large independent magazine publishing company in Belfast. I upped sticks and moved to a city I’d only visited once – a risky move at the time. Seven years on, I’m still here.

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GO April 2011 – one of the later issues I wrote for and edited

I was taken on for the launch of the company’s new launch title, GO Belfast (now GO Magazine) – a lifestyle and entertainment magazine for men and women. The title’s launch was a reaction to a new Belfast that was emerging at that time; a thriving, contemporary city with a blossoming social and creative scene.

I quickly rose up the ranks from an editorial assistant to reporter, deputy editor and then editor. All in all I spent five and a half years with the title, prior to moving into PR in July 2011.

My writing for GO was varied; I wrote on everything from fashion and food to music, arts, culture, film, current affairs and more. I also had the pleasure [and displeasure at times] of interviewing countless celebrities and stars; getting a relished glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous.

As a retrospective exercise, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back through the archives and revisit a small selection of my old articles and interviews, published during my time at GO, particularly those that are still viewable online. So, here goes:

Blondie’s Back – interview with Blondie’s Debbie Harry & Clem Burke

GO Belfast magazine, May 2010

Blondie's BackUndoubtedly one of my biggest musical crushes, Debbie Harry is a living legend. I am a massive Blondie fan, so when I heard they were coming to Belfast for a show, I made it my mission to secure an interview with Ms Harry. It was a slightly strange interview, to say the least. My questions were relayed first by email to her publicist, who then read them to Debbie via video link before transcribing them and sending them back to me. It was a strange set-up, however, I’m still glad to say that I was able to interview a true music icon. Read the full story here.

Arthur’s Day article, GO Belfast, November 2010

Arthur's Day 2010One of the perks of the job was getting to go to great events and one such event was Arthur’s Day in 2010. A very clever marketing construct by drinks company, Diageo for its flagship brand, Guinness, this was the second annual Arthur’s Day celebration and I got to spend it in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. I joined media from across Ireland and further afield to interview stars including Snow Patrol, Manic Street Preachers, The Script, Kelis, Westlife, Tim Robbins & Eliza Doolittle on the red carpet. Some Guinness was also consumed. Read the full story here.

Keith Lemon interview, GO Belfast, November 2010

Keith Lemon interview As a seemingly simple Q&A, this isn’t exactly a work of art writing wise. I’ve included it here however, as it was possibly one of the most bizarre interviews of my career. Fictitious TV personality and Celebrity Juice star, Keith Lemon (brainchild of comedian/actor, Leigh Francis) stayed in character for the entire interview; serenading me over the phone at the beginning and proving impossible to keep on track throughout the rest of it. I’ve kept the recording of the interview for safe keeping too – when you listen to it, the interview is peppered with uncontrollable spurts of involuntary laughter on my part. I’ll save you that particular horror. You can however, read the full interview here.

Neil Hannon interviewNeil Hannon (Divine Comedy) interview

GO Magazine, April 2011

An interview with one of my musical heroes – The Divine Comedy frontman, Neil Hannon. A true lyricist, I’ve always admired his beautiful and distinct way with words. Perhaps one of the most captivating interviewees, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to, his love and passion for his work was inspiring. Read the full story here.

On the Front Line

On The Front Line, GO Magazine, June 2011

A profile piece on two of Northern Ireland’s leading war correspondents, Bill Neely and John Irvine, featuring interviews with both journalists – two men I greatly admired.

Read the full story here.

Grammar Watch

Eats-shoots-and-leaves-book-coverNo one’s perfect. I say that as a disclaimer – there’s no doubt that within this blog and in past examples of my writing, you will find mistakes – we’re all human. However, there is no excuse for flagrant misuse of grammar and punctuation, particularly if you’re a business.

When I was studying Journalism at Dublin City University, one of our lecturers insisted that we all read Eat, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss at the beginning of our first year. It was sound advice.

The book’s very title is a lesson in the importance of punctuation – how the placement of punctuation can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Is the Panda a hungry, gun-wielding psychopath, or simply a vegetarian with a penchant for shoots and leaves? Depending on where you place the comma, it’s entirely up to you.

To this day, when I see a stray apostrophe, comma or semicolon, I feel like taking one of the trusty Panda Says No stickers from the back of the book and slapping it over the glaring mistake in front of me.

the-panda-says-noInstead of doing that, I am adding this Grammar Watch feature to this blog. The Panda Says No and so does this writer. It’s time to name and shame.

Please feel free to comment and share your own examples – it’s the only way they’ll learn.

Bedtime Reading

To give myself a little kick-start, I’m revisiting one of the best self-help books I’ve read about writing* – Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.’ This time round, I’m going to read it from cover to cover – the man clearly knows what he’s talking about.

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* The best book I’ve read on writing aside from Eats, Shoots & Leaves – we’ll come back to that – I’m obsessed.

A Eulogy: For Dad

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In memory of my father, Laurence Doyle, who died aged 56, 30th April 2013. R.I.P

They called you Lucky Larry; really we were the lucky ones.

You taught us to dream big and live large; you taught us to laugh, to love, to smile and to enjoy life to the full.

We learnt from you that life is for living.

We learnt from you to banter with the best of them.

We learnt from you to never give up, however bad the odds.

You were the life and soul of the party. You lived in the here and now, never fearing or worrying about tomorrow.

Forrest Gump said ‘Life was Like a Box of Chocolates’ but for you, life mimicked a different dessert. Like your favourite trifle, life was filled to the brim with contrasting yet complementary layers.

You were a father, husband, brother, uncle & friend. You were a plumber, a publican, a dancer, a joker, a sport fanatic, music fan & wind-up merchant – you were so many things to so many people.

You were taken from us too early but in time, I hope we will all begin to understand that our loss was heaven’s gain.

When the sun shines, when music fills the air, when we laugh and when new memories are made, we’ll know that you will be smiling down on us, watching with pride as the party carries on, in your honour.

The Beginning…

With writing, the hardest part is always the beginning. A blank piece of paper, whether physical or virtual, can be cripplingly intimidating. For every writer, putting those first words down is a crucial step. For me, the launch of this blog signals that step.

From my About page, you’ll see that I’m well-versed with writing. It’s what I do, day in, day out. But I want to try something different.

As my next post will show, I’ve recently experienced a major life event, which is significant to the launch of this blog. The death of my father has had a massive impact on my life, in so many ways. In time, as I truly come to terms with this loss, I’m sure I will find ways to articulate the now seemingly indescribable feeling of losing one of the most important people in my life. Who knows, perhaps writing will help.

Dad was ever the proud parent when it came to my writing; he kept clippings from the paper with my byline and boasted to his friends about my interviews with celebrities and sports stars. Back then I was embarrassed but now it’s a memory I hold dear.

I made a New Year’s Resolution to get back to writing and attended an excellent two day workshop by Northern Irish author, Colin Bateman in Bangor in January. As an avid reader, dad instantly got excited, thinking I would one day pen a novel. Since then, life, with its unexpected twists and turns, has gotten in the way and I’ve made little time to write outside of everyday work tasks. In light of recent events however, I’ve found truth in the hackneyed saying ‘Life is too short’ and feel a renewed impetus to get back to it – to make time to do something I love so much. I know my dad would like that. So, here goes…