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Writing for the Information Age

Ross-Larson, Bruce
Publisher:  Norton, New York, USA
Year Published:  2002  
Price:  $34.99   ISBN:  0-393-04786-5
Library of Congress Number:  PE1408.R727 2002   Dewey:  808'.042'0285-dc21

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The subtitle of this book is "light, layered, and linked", and that is about it. A lot of this used to be called "chunk writing", a term that came into use during the early web days. Website creators were obsessed with retaining eyeballs, and they wanted all the important writing restricted to one webpage viewed as a screen shot with no scrolling. It was an advance on USA Today's snapshot journalism. Keep the story short and simple (KISS), or later day pyramid writing. Ross-Larson is founder of the American Writing Institute and author of other Norton books (Edit Yourself [don't you wish], Riveting Reports [as if], Effective Writing). Here are 100 or so techniques for engaging readers in the information age, to produce writing that allows them to find quickly and easily what might be of interest. He describes each technique in a nutshell (literally), and provides examples and comments. Each technique is on two pages, left and right hand sides (convenient to photocopy once under fair use), with appropriate cross-references to related material in the book and elsewhere. There are also plenty of screen shots for illustrative examples. Some techniques include attention-sustaining devices (engaging titles, light openings, revealing headlines, bulleted lists, pull quotes), structure (solve a problem, illustrate a concept, tell a story, open a pyramid), paragraphing (short leads, verb forms, asking questions), sentences, words and phrases. He concludes with bibliographic endnotes for sources and credits for the technologies, plus an index.

Some interesting facts: the basic idea is to organize content in progressive form, with easily digested details for the reader to consider and then to provide a link to other topics.

What I don't like about this resource: not for beginners. One still needs grounding in the rules of grammar and parsing.

What I do like about this resource: he practices in this book what he preaches. It is extremely useful for journalists contemplating web writing, emailed newsletters, and CD-ROMs.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 95.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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