Gongol.com Archives: August 2023

Brian Gongol

August 1, 2023

Broadcasting Movies, books, podcasts, newsletters -- they're all too long these days

London Times columnist James Marriott pleads with content creators to find editors to trim their work. And he's right: People are too often driven by a faulty instinct that says "Now that I have your attention, I want to get all of this off my chest". ■ A decent respect for the audience (and for cognitive processing) would find us in a world with the same information and entertainment being peddled, but in serialized, discrete chunks rather than exhaustive epics. Very little needs to be said in one block of 300 pages that couldn't be said in three discrete century-length chunks (or less). The podcast that goes on for 60 minutes probably wouldn't lose much at the hand of a producer who could cut it down to 30 or 45. A blockbuster 3-hour film doesn't have to be that long, and if it does, perhaps it just needs a sequel. ■ Some of the greatest and most memorable works of all time are notable for their brevity. The Gettysburg Address sticks with us even today in no small part because it is short. Economy of words doesn't have to be a mark of laziness; it's more often a sign of respect for the audience. ■ Digital distribution has certainly facilitated the process of producing longer works. It's no longer a matter of how much celluloid you can spool around a reel, but how many bits you can push down a fiber-optic line. ■ But technology hasn't always been a tool for undisciplined creativity: Mark Twain was the first to type a manuscript for publication, but he was also a great artist of the short story. ■ As Ben Sasse once noted, "I think lots of 300-page books could (and should) have been 30-page articles, but neither magazines nor book publishers have much of a market for 30 pages." And in that, he was echoing a sentiment from Theodore Roosevelt: "Many learned people seem to feel that the quality of readableness in a book is one which warrants suspicion. Indeed, not a few learned people seem to feel that the fact that a book is interesting is proof that it is shallow." Roosevelt plainly disagreed. ■ Once a person responsible for delivering a message begins to consider the needs of their own audience, they shouldn't be able to resist the urge to economize on their words. It is far better to leave an audience hungry for the next edition -- another book, column, album, feature, sermon, or episode -- than to leave them exhausted by the end. If a story is worth telling or a point is worth making, it's worth making without deadweight.

Aviation News Linguistic precision matters

The AP has shared a video of an incident in which an airplane ran into trouble along a New Hampshire beach. The AP's tweet on the story says "A small plane towing an advertising banner landed in the ocean", but anyone looking at the video can see that it's not a "landing". An "arrival", for sure. A "ditching", probably. The pilot deserves credit for surviving and not injuring any beachgoers in the process, but the airplane goes nose-over in the water. That's really not "landing".

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