Writing for Busy Readers

More words add nuance but clutters central message. Which is your preference: the details or the point?

It isn’t always one or the other, but if you’re writing for busy readers and broader audiences, you ought focus on the point. That’s among the themes from a new book by Jessica Lasky-Fink and Todd Rogers called “Writing for Busy Readers: Communicate More Effectively in the Real World.” Add it to a helpful collection of writing about writing that I enjoy.

They have a nice simplified chart here on a site of resources. Below I share my notes for future reference.

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The Rise of English

English is one in a long line of global lingua francas. If it’s the last, we’ll lose an important bit of culture, and reinforce elements of inequality.

That’s what Rosemary Salomone argues in her 2021 book The Rise of English: Global Politics and the Power of Language.

In 2010, British Nicholas Ostler author argued that English will be the last lingua franca, due to the values-lock of technology today. Salomone’s book is an exhaustive review of how English came to its vaulted position today – beating French, replacing Latin and joining others like Arabic, Italian and Greek that played versions of the global language of commerce of the past.

I enjoyed the book, though dense, and recommend it for language and history nerds. Below find my notes for future reference.

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What a feud between YouTuber Coffeezilla and influencer Logan Paul says about journalism

This started as a video, thread and post.

Two communities I follow that don’t overlap much: (1) Those who are following the battle between YouTuber Coffeezilla and big-time influencer Logan Paul, and (2) those who focus on journalistic process and integrity.

I’m here to tell you these conversations are one and the same.

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3 ways journalists can use AI writing ethically

This was originally a video, post and thread elsewhere.

ChatGPT is especially scary to journalists because AI writing feels a lot like cheating. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are three ways I’ve experimented with AI writing that don’t break any journalism codes:

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Divided We Fall

Americans choose party affiliation over national identity at our own peril.

That negative polarization keeps us from uniting and using one of our country’s best designs: federalism, which could allow for disparate state-by-state experiments. So argued David French, the conservative political commentator in his fall 2020 book Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation.

French, a pro life conservative Christian lawyer and Iraq War veteran, has wedged himself in a debate about the future of the Republican Party, and so American life. “We are in a cold civil war,” he writes.

One cause? Tolerance: conservatives hate it and liberals misunderstand it, he writes. Or as he says Scott Alexander argues: Tolerance is misused by liberals to mean liking marginalized groups, but tolerance means tolerating something so tolerance is about tolerating out groups, not opinions you already agree with. French, who formerly lived in Center City Philadelphia while leading a free speech nonprofit, has annoyed many corners of American public life, but I appreciated his book and perspective. It’s worth reading. Below I share my notes from the book for future reference.

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Three types of “Journalism Thinking” coming from outside news organizations

This was originally published as a tweet thread.

I’ve spent 15 years obsessed with the bleeding edge of journalism, marketing and online community building, and I finally have a grand unifying theory for what is happening — and where this is going.

If you’re interested in how we learn and connect together, hear me out ?

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The Journalist the Murderer

Journalism can only be done adversarially — or immorally.

So argues the 1990 book The Journalist the Murderer by Janet Malcolm, which was first a serialization the year before in New Yorker. The nonfiction book is today considered a seminal work in journalism ethics, and related fields. Though frequently referenced in other works I’ve read, I only now finished the short book.

Malcolm focuses on the relationship between a journalist named Joe McGinniss and a man named Jeffrey MacDonald, who was accused of murdering his wife and children. McGinniss wrote a 1983 bestselling book about the case, which then became a popular movie, but was later criticized for his handling of the relationship with MacDonald, resulting in a high-profile libel case. In short, McGinniss was accused of portraying himself as sympathetic to MacDonald but always planning a damning book. Malcolm takes this narrow example to draw wider conclusions, including the nature of truth and how it is represented in journalism.

Below find my notes for future reference.

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Spaces between words weren’t common until the 7th century

From the Economist:

A book seems such a simple structure that it feels less invented than self-evident, the innovations behind it hard to see. Yet every chapter in its progress was slow, bound on either side by centuries of sluggishness. Turnable pages didn’t really arrive until the first century bc; the book form didn’t take off properly until the fourth century ad. The separating of words with spaces didn’t get going until the seventh—verylateforsomethingsouseful. Finally things accelerated: first came the index, in the 13th century, then Gutenberg, then, in 1470, the first printed page number. You can still see it in a book in the Bodleian Library.

Notes on Malcolm Gladwell’s 2000 classic ‘Tipping Point’

Nothing more needs to be said on influential journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s first breakout book Tipping Point, which published 15 years ago. Like a lot of popular books, it has been aggressively criticized and dismissed.

Even if his theme is challenged, there are small points that are interesting. Though I read this several years ago, I just reread it and took down a few notes for my own future perusal. I’m sharing them here

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