Get Shorty

August 26, 2013 § 11 Comments

clark_howtowriteshort1In a review of Roy Peter Clark’s How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times, Washington Post editor Carlos Lozada admits to editing with social media in mind, even imagining which sentences are tweetable. Now that’s brevity:

…. When I’m editing an essay or opinion piece, I try to make sure the final version includes some memorable lines that I imagine getting posted, shared, tweeted and retweeted. I’ll even slice a smart but lengthy passage for that purpose. “Trust me,” I advise the author, “you’ll get more readers this way.”

Yes, anticipating the social-media response has become part of the editing craft. And it makes me feel dirty. I feel as if I’m betraying generations of wordsmiths who guided each sentence and paragraph to its proper length and voice, based on exacting standards, character limits be damned. …

So thank you, Roy Peter Clark, for easing my guilt and absolving me of my sins. In  How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times,  the veteran writing guru not only praises Twitter’s 140-character limit as a tool for “intelligent cutting” but dismantles the staid lament that writing in the Twitter era has grown shallow, fleeting, anti-literary.

Clark is vice president of the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, and his books, workshops and speeches have trained new scribes since the 1970s.

“In the digital age, short writing is king,” Clark says, without even trace levels of nostalgia. “We need more good short writing — the kind that makes us stop, read, and think — in an accelerating world.”

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