Writers are often told to tailor their work to a fifth grade reading level- easy words, short sentences, simple ideas. As written material evolves from physical books and magazines to digital blogs and posts, the content is further revised to fit the screen of your laptop. And now, with the prevalence of smart phones (AKA Attention Deficit Disorder Machines), we’re reduced down even further.
But we had to ask, is it the skill of writing that is changing or the skill of reading? Is a nine page article just too long to finish in one sitting these days? It could be that we are simply suffering from information overload which we seek to manage by condensing everything into bite-size pieces.
Or perhaps the medium is the message. Reading from a phone screen is a completely different experience than reading from a book and comes with its own strengths and limitations. It may be suitable for grabbing snippets of information on the fly but malapropos when attempting to convey grand ideas with deeper meaning.
A few days ago, after much foot dragging, I revived our twitter account @workpetaluma and started posting. Twitter is the epitome of A.D.D. writing. Is it even possible to say something meaningful in just 140 characters? Or is brevity an art with massive potential? We happen to be big fans of haiku around WORK and have taken to writing our signs in this ancient poetic form. The beauty is that it forces you to chose your words carefully and stay on point. To test my theory of the power of the succinct, here are a few quotes that could have been tweeted:
Be the change that you wish to see in the world. 48 characters
That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. 58 characters
And my favorite, by Albert Einstein:
When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second.When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour.That’s relativity 140 characters (once I removed a bit of punctuation)
And so it appears something meaningful can be accomplished with a few well placed words and, if need be, the removal of spaces and periods.
Written and photographed by Natasha Juliana. (Notice how I made the paragraphs short to make it more phone friendly. 😉