Archive for January, 2010

How to Write With Style – Kurt Vonnegut

January 13th, 2010

I recently stumbled on an old and brief article written by one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut.  Ever since I read Welcome to the Monkey House (1968), I’ve counted him among the most enjoyable authors to read.  He is also quite insightful, such as a statement that has stuck with me about smoking from the into of Monkey House:

The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.

Anyways, earlier today I found a piece called How to Write with Style, which I eagerly sped through.  Certainly worth the five minutes it takes to read.  The version I found was published in 1980 and starts with this advice:

Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of style.  These revelations tell us as readers what sort of person it is with whom we are spending time. Does the writer sound ignorant or informed, stupid or bright, crooked or honest, humorless or playful — ? And on and on.  Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead — or, worse, they will stop reading you.

Here are the headers for the piece that give an even shorter overview of his advice:

1. Find a subject you care about
2. Do not ramble
3. Keep it simple
4. Have guts to cut
5. Sound like yourself
6. Say what you mean
7. Pity the readers

Full article (PDF link)

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Air Droplets in Water Glass

January 12th, 2010

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Why Traditional Journalism isn’t Dead

January 11th, 2010

From a Washington Post article this morning:

The Project for Excellence in Journalism examined 53 outlets that regularly cover Baltimore over the course of one week last July. In looking at six major news stories, the group found that 83 percent of them — in print, television, radio, blogs and Web sites — were essentially repetitive. “Much of the ‘news’ people receive contains no original reporting,” the study says. “Fully eight out of 10 stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information.”

Among the remaining stories that advanced the ball, 61 percent came from newspapers — from the Baltimore Sun to specialty publications — followed by 28 percent from local TV stations and 7 percent from radio. Twitter and local Web sites “played only a limited role: mainly an alert system and a way to disseminate stories from other places.”

The full study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism is quite an interesting read as well (and yes, I recognize the irony of posting this to a blog).

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Taft Bridge in Fog and Snow

January 10th, 2010

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Onions

January 9th, 2010

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Octuplet Series – Sam

January 8th, 2010

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Octuplet Series – Daniel

January 7th, 2010

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