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#TBT your own writing

In Writing techniques on August 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm
#TBT Your humble editorial director, right, rocks the Gibson L-6S roughly 35 years ago in somebody's basement.

#TBT Your humble editorial director, right, rocks the Gibson L-6S roughly 35 years ago in somebody’s basement.

Are you familiar with the #TBT meme on social media? It’s shorthand for “Throwback Thursday” and it’s an opportunity to post old pictures of yourself and your friends in an attempt to make you look good and them look bad. At the Half Moon Bay Review, we use the #TBT hashtag as an excuse to post photos from our archives on Instagram. People seem to like it and I think it points out our longevity as a brand.

Well, Poynter writing coach Roy Peter Clark had the good idea of bringing the concept to your own writing. (Stop right there. If you don’t follow Clark’s thoughts online you are really missing out. He’s super. OK, go on.) He suggests going back and rereading a piece of your old writing and looking at it with fresh eyes. What works? What makes you cringe? Do you see evidence of you in your work? If you didn’t know it was yours, could you spot it as your work?

I’m finding that, for the most part, my voice has been intact for as far back as I care to look.

July 19, 1993

Gainesville Times

By Clay Lambert

New Atlanta Braves first baseman Fred McGriff goes by the nickname “Crime Dog,” but on Monday, as flames billowed from the press box at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the team would have gladly traded him for a single firefighter’s Dalmatian. …

The rape GIF problem

In Online media on August 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 2.30.04 PM

The headline was an eye-catcher:

“We have a rape GIF problem and Gawker Media won’t do anything about it.” It appeared on the online general interest website aimed at women that is known as “Jezebel.” Jezebel is a unit of Gawker Media and readers click on the site 200,000 times a day. Like most media websites, it allows comments. And that is turning out to be a problem.

The headline comes atop a very unhappy story, bylined Jezebel Staff, that explains someone was creating anonymous accounts on Gawker’s third-party platform Kinja and then posting violent pornography where the insightful commentary is supposed to go. Over, and over again. From the piece:

This practice is profoundly upsetting to our commenters who have the misfortune of starting their day with some excessively violent images, to casual readers who drop by to skim Jezebel with their morning coffee only to see hard core pornography at the bottom of a post about Michelle Obama, and especially to the staff, who are the only ones capable of removing the comments and are thus, by default, now required to view and interact with violent pornography and gore as part of our jobs.

None of us are paid enough to deal with this on a daily basis.

Hopefully, in the course of your job you haven’t seen anything quite as disgusting as Jezebel describes, but all of us charged with monitoring a website are familiar with the problem of unpleasant trolls. It bums me out every day in fact.

Well, two days after that Jezebel post, Jezebel and Gawker announced something like a fix. It scrubbed the filth from its servers and disabled media uploads on its comment boards. It also re-established the pending comment system. Approved commenters will see their comments immediately, all others go into a pending queue to be uploaded after a peek from editors. The fact that one of the new media giants went back to a previous system only proves that we’re all still working this out. There is no widely accepted standard for comments and how to handle them. …

Catching your own typos

In Editing on August 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm

typo

There is a lot of dispiriting stuff on the Internet, so allow me to promote something that is bound to make you feel better about yourself and the stuff that you write. Hear it is. I mean, “here it is,” darn it.

It’s Nick Stockton’s explanation in Wired of why we are too smart to catch our own typos. That’s right, we’re just too great for our own good.

As Stockton explains much more elegantly than I, the reason we don’t catch our own typos is because we’re engaged in high-level thinking and we consider spelling the actual words and so forth to be mere details in a larger endeavor. We don’t sweat the easy stuff because we’re focused on meaning.

“The reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads,” Stockton writes. And he quotes an academic so you know it’s true.

So what do you do about it?

Well, in my experience, the only thing that really works is to show your work to someone else. And brace yourself for the snarky comments that come from your editor. The more eyes touch a proof, the more likely you will catch embarrassing typos.

Two or three other ideas:

  • When I proof work, I feel better about it when I print it out. I always read stories on the computer for line editing, then I print them for proofing.
  • I run a pen along with each word as I read. It slows me down and makes me feel better about catching mistakes.
  • This story suggests changing the font or color of the words on the screen, the idea being that you want to “defamiliarize” yourself with your own work. Which is an interesting idea.

Good lock out there.

Clay

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