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Practice

Text: Resilient, Cheap, Flexible, Discreet

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Over at Kottke.org, Tim Carmody dissects why everyone who says video will overtake all media platforms are wrong: Text is surprisingly resilient. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s discreet. Human brains process it absurdly well considering there’s nothing really built-in for it. Plenty of people can deal with text better than they can spoken language, whether as a…

Writing Simple & Direct

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I first came across the historian Jacques Barzun (1907 – 2012) because he wrote an introduction to a collection of essays by John Jay Chapman. (I can no longer remember what New York Public Library rabbit hole I fell down to find Chapman, but I used a passage of his for an epigraph in More Than…

Draft as Prototype

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The word gets used a lot in design circles, and when working with clients active in design world, I find myself starting to say “draft” — then stopping to mumble some hybrid nonsense as I remember that “prototype” means more to them. But the two terms communicate the same basic idea. Hang on, the person presenting…

Aside

“I’m credited with being a director, a producer, cinematographer, and co-writer, but I think the thing that I do is try to figure out what’s in and what’s out. There’s a moment in the Milos Forman film Amadeus where the Emperor critiques Mozart by saying there are ‘too many notes.’ As you write whatever you’re writing, you struggle with more raw material than you have space or time, or more importantly an audience has interest in. And so you will then do what I do every day of my life which is cut and edit and figure out how to have that complexity survive in the service of very challenging narratives, but not have too many notes.”

From this Fast Company interview with Ken Burns: “How to Conquer Your Massive Creative Project the Ken Burns Way”

Last Words on Bad Editing

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…for the time being. A bad editor will have ambitions for the work that do not match the writer’s, but won’t actually bother to tell the writer this. The writer remains unaware there’s a shadow agenda at work and that all edits are being made in service of it, and the end result is a…

What Bad Editing Feels Like

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Say you tell someone that you’re having a really hard time with {FILL IN THE BLANK} and they nod blankly and stare off to the left as if you’ve merely relayed directions to the nearest gas station, or worse, admitted to having done something truly embarrassing. Bad editing feels similar; it feels like delivering heartfelt…

What Bad Editing Sounds Like

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It sounds like a college classroom debate, or a cross examination from opposing counsel. There will be questioning, but mainly questioning that leads you further and further away from what you really wanted to say. Basically, debate-style parrying does not help most people elaborate on their deepest intuitions. An editor who pokes and prods like…

Questions We’ll Ask, III

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Or: How Information Architecture, Content Strategy, and (Nonfiction) Manuscript Editing Employ Pretty Much the Same Skill Set: 1. Is this information in the best possible place? 1a. If not, why not? Was it delivered too soon? Introduced too late? Would it be distracting / irrelevant / discordant regardless of where it was placed? 1b. Say…

Questions We’ll Ask, II

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Your audience: What are they like? Why are they reading you? Are you trying to solve a problem they have, or is your only desire to entertain? Anything you’d like them to do after having read you? How might they resist? i.e. Some people will not love what you’re doing / trying to say. Would…