Mod 3 – Writing Interactive Media, Professor Susan Tamulevich
Just as sound requires space, paint requires a surface for it to become music and art, writing requires an audience. Whether you are carving letters into blocks of stone or posting thoughts electronically to social media, the act of writing is communicating an idea, sending a message outward from within. In his book “On Writing Well” William Zinsser describes a paradox between craft and expression. We write TO others, but we write FOR ourselves.
Becoming a good writer means you have mastered grammar, spelling, sentence structure, flow, usage and can guide a reader through ideas. A good writer is courteous and kind to their audience, their writing is presented to the reader like a good meal is prepared and served. Good writing is clear, effective and can even be persuasive. However, when it comes to choosing the cuisine….the subject and the intent of the writing. The domain is completely for our own edification and enjoyment. The combination of the two is your voice. The unique and special outcome of words that can only you could produce.
The Right Mix
There is a balance between the “to” and the “for”. Poetry and prose often rely more heavily on the “for” as they naturally encourage the individuality of the author. In contrast, advertising, journalism and technical writing have developed standards of objectivity where the “to” portion of the outcome influences the outcome more prominently. Yes, as readers, we are surrounded by different “types” of writing, but we demand they are all crafted well.
It takes courage to write. Many do not write, few can put it into words, even less write well. Just as it is often difficult to express ourselves. I believe some do not write because it is too revealing. The same reason we have curtains on our windows and wear clothes. It also takes courage to let it all hang out. Who wants to reveal their naked truth only to be judged, gawked at or even ridiculed? Like everything else, our egos can get in the way, we may overthink it. Do we know what we want to say? According to Josh Bernoff of the Harvard Business Review “Fuzzy writing allows fuzzy thinking. Clear writing uses well-organized, active-voice sentences to explain what is happening, what ought to happen, and what people need to do. Conversely, inexact and passive language reflects gaps in thinking.”. Perhaps the fear is that if we started writing, we might reveal how little we actually know about anything.
You Be You
Either way, take solace in the fact that technology is changing the way people read anyway. Even if you were to strip down naked and run through the middle of town screaming with the eloquence of Shakespeare, most people would be too busy staring down at their phones to notice. Some may look up in time to capture some video and your efforts may start trending on twitter. Who knows? Some might really like it. Technology is changing the way we consume writing. The Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, is weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, which made long and complex works of prose commonplace. Modern media critics warn that it is diminishing our comprehension skills, our memory and our ability to perform deeper connections and analysis. So when you strut online, full of sound and fury, nevermind the scanning audience…you can’t see them past the bright lights anyway. Keep the bullet points pithy and the titles big. Just remember, when they finally catch you with the butterfly net, take you to get some medicine and “rest”, you did it for yourself.
Resources & References
Ryan, N. (2019). Timeless Writing Advice From William Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/better-marketing/10-must-read-lessons-on-writing-from-literary-critic-william-zinsser-35f7a281250c
“How Users Read on the Web.” Nielsen Norman Group, 22 Oct. 2019, www.nngroup.com/articles/how-users-read-on-the-web.
Bad Writing Is Destroying Your Company’s Productivity. (2016, September 06). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-writing-is-destroying-your-companys-productivity
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction. Harper Perennial, 2012, www.amazon.com/Writing-Well-30th-Anniversary-Nonfiction-ebook/dp/B0090RVGW0.
Vaynerchuk, Gary. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. HarperBusiness, 2013, www.amazon.com/Jab-Right-Hook-Story-Social-ebook/dp/B00BATNNZY.
William, Strunk, Jr. and Strunk William, Jr. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. ESBooks, 2019, www.amazon.com/Elements-Style-Fourth-William-Strunk-ebook/dp/B07NPN5HTP.
Barr, Chris and The Senior Editors Of Yahoo!. The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing and Creating Content for the Web. Griffin, 2010, www.amazon.com/Yahoo-Style-Guide-Ultimate-Sourcebook/dp/0230749607.
“Being a Better Online Reader.” New Yorker, 19 June 2017, www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/being-a-better-online-reader.
Pinker, Steven. “The Source of Bad Writing.” Essay, WSJ, 25 Sept. 2014, www.wsj.com/articles/the-cause-of-bad-writing-1411660188.
Content structure – Content Guide. (2019, June 03). Retrieved from https://guides.service.gov.au/content-guide/content-structure
Dag, O. (2015, September 23). George Orwell: Politics and the English Language. Retrieved from http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit
Is the Internet Making Writing Better? (2019, July 26). The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/is-the-internet-making-writing-better
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