Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More on teaching concise writing in the age of Twitter and texting

Further to our post yesterday about writing for a Twitter audience is this essay from 3 Geeks and a Blog called "The Art of Shorter Writing."

Andy Selsberg’s op-ed in The New York Times this weekend got me thinking about the difficulty of professional writing in the age of Twitter. As someone that was taught the standards of a five-paragraph essay, or a 500-word report paper, the modern style of professional writing simply doesn’t fit this mold any longer. Many will blame Twitter for the reduction in the length of communications, but as I think about it, this has been an evolving process for a number of years… most likely starting with the boom in e-mail communications starting in the mid-1990’s.

. . . . .

Unfortunately, many of the people that are reading what we have to write don’t have the time or the interest to read your introduction, explanation of ideas, and conclusion, so they tend to skim through and pick out the highlights of what you’ve written. So, like it or not, your writing is already getting scaled back by the reader, and hopefully they haven’t missed the real highlights that were shrouded in those 15-20 sentences.

You can read the rest here.

(jbl).

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/2011/03/more-on-teaching-the-art-of-concise-writing-in-the-age-of-twitter-and-texting.html

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Comments

You quote a NY Times Op-Ed piece that says, "Unfortunately, many of the people that are reading what we have to write don’t have the time or the interest to read your introduction, explanation of ideas, and conclusion, so they tend to skim through and pick out the highlights of what you’ve written."

My questions are why is this true, and is it good. First, why don't we have time to read things thoroughly? We have time to surf the internet, watch television, and tweet. Have we become lazy readers?
The answer to my second question is obviously that it is bad. When you skim you miss things; you don't see the nuances. Most importantly, you don't remember as much. There is a reason we have introductions and conclusions--comprehensibility.

I wonder if skimming isn't why many students have trouble in law school. You can't skim a case and understand it thoroughly. You have to read it carefully several times.

I always realized that we have to teach our students to read cases, but it now seems that we have to teach our students to read generally.

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Mar 23, 2011 11:12:55 AM

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