About

Thanks for stopping by.

My name is David Nickell, aka “hyphenman.”

If you’re a writer, someone who’s actually playing the game and not just watching it from the sidelines, I hope you’ll find plenty to savor here. Every feature is meant to either inform or entertain you – and sometimes both. You may end up questioning what you read. I certainly hope so.

I’ve been a professional questioner most of my life. That means I got paid for doing something I would’ve done anyway.

My background is journalism. I’ve worked for big newspapers and little ones, for reputable ones and shameful ones. I learned something at all of them.

For more than 20 years, I was an award-winning reporter on daily newspapers from California to Florida and at a few points in between. I was a general assignment reporter, humor columnist, business writer, police reporter, feature writer, and investigative journalist.

For 14 years after that, I was a copyeditor on the internationally acclaimed Miami Herald. During that time, I edited well over 10,000 stories, repairing and improving the prose of both beginning reporters and seasoned pros.

What I know from firsthand experience are the inseparable disciplines of both writing and editing. I’ve sat in the writer’s seat and had my words edited. But I’ve also switched places and sat in the editor’s chair and fiddled with another writer’s words. I know the joy and ecstasy of my language made better and crisper by an astute and careful editor as well as the sorrow and anger of seeing my words butchered and destroyed by a bad and thoughtless editor.

That is how I acquired a lifetime repository of knowledge that I want to share with you.

In addition to my journalism background, I’ve also taken creative writing courses stretching back to my college days and continuing forward to a seminar of only a few years ago. I’ve also dabbled in both playwrighting and screenwriting, taking a college course in the former and attending seminars in the latter. (Among the teachers of the seminars, held in a classroom on Hollywood Boulevard, was Ernest Lehman, who wrote the script for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.)

More importantly, I’ve learned by doing. I started a first novel not long ago and have received invaluable feedback from some of the best and brightest minds in the nation, including top editors from the Miami Herald and an assortment of scholars in different fields.

I have also advised both struggling writers and accomplished authors.

The source of what I know about writing is the same source that turned Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Dreiser, Edna Ferber, John Hersey, and John Updike, among many others, into great writers long before their first novel ever appeared in print. They honed their craft, the same as I have, through journalism – and by working with editors.

But I have one advantage over them: I not only was a reporter but also a copyeditor on one of the most prestigious newspapers in America. In its illustrious history, the Miami Herald has won 20 Pulitzer Prizes and produced a steady and continuous stream of acclaimed authors, including bestselling novelists Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, and Edna Buchanan.

Consider, too, that some of the leading experts on grammar and usage, authorities whose advice is taken as gospel in reference to good writing, come from the ranks of journalism.

E.B. White, the first to revise William Strunk’s The Elements of Style and thereby earn a shared byline with his former professor, was a staff writer for The New Yorker and a columnist for Harper’s Magazine. Theodore M. Bernstein, who wrote The Careful Writer, was an editor at the New York Times. And William Zinsser, author of the widely quoted On Writing Well, was a feature writer, drama editor, and film critic at the New York Herald Tribune.

Regardless of what I know and where I learned it, I never forget that I am a writer as much as an editor, a student as much as a teacher.

If you wish to know more, I encourage you to do a Google search on my name. Many of my articles – including my very best pieces – are not represented, unfortunately, on the Internet. But you will find an evaluation of my work by the executive editor of the Miami Herald if you combine the search terms of  “David Nickell” and “Miami Herald.”

So question me and what I say; question yourself and what you write. Questioning will keep you thinking. That’s what I’m here to promote.

We’re in this boat together.

For more on what I intend to accomplish, see my Mission page.