Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Want to land a job writing? It could help to learn some a computer coding language. Plus, picking up the pen, funny prose, and cliché bingo.
Learn to Code:
There was a time when writers needed only two skills beyond writing itself to earn their keep: editing and typing. Those days are over, and increasingly, writers are expected to bring something more to the table. These days—and for the foreseeable future—that something more is often the ability to write code. But if you didn't take that class in college (or, for those non-millennials, if they didn't offer it) fear not. There are several options to learn the basics in a relatively short period. Contently co-founder Shane Snow writes about one of them. And for those writers who went ahead with that double major in political science, he offers this sobering thought, which I would guess is true for most content creators:
“All other things equal, I’d dare say I would hire the person who knows how to code over the person with the 4.0 GPA or master’s degree for just about any position.”
Handwriting vs. typing:
Last week, I highlighted a story about cursive writing
and its cognitive benefits. With this piece trumpeting the positive effects of handwriting notes over typing them, we may be seeing a trend—if not from writers themselves, then certainly from psychologists—urging people to pick up a pen or pencil. A new study by researchers at UCLA says people who hand-write notes retain the information and ideas represented better than those who type them. This seems to apply mostly to college students, but there's a potential lesson here for professional writers, especially journalists. Quotes are not always best when taken verbatim. As Gay Talese would say, they are “polished in your prose.” (Though a few sources in this American Journalism Review article
would disagree.) So if this research is correct, consider putting down the laptop or tape recorder
Writing prose humor:
It’s “a highly logical exercise,” according to Teddy Wayne, writing this piece for The New York Times
blog. Though learning how to write something funny might seem hopeless (you’re funny or you’re not, right?) and unpacking the reasons for why something is funny might sound boring, Wayne’s breakdown of the sub-1,000 word humor piece and its many constructions is a pretty good cheat sheet for understanding why something might make readers laugh. Just remember some of the basic rules: have a strong premise, use an unconventional form, have a strong narrative. Then there are Freud’s joke devices: hyperbole, incongruence, and subversion of taboos.
[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela - choose from 4 cities!]
You can also now play Journalist Guest Speaker Cliché Bingo
, which looks fun. If you, yourself, are a journalist guest speaker, maybe avoid asking the class if they’re on Twitter or making the broad statement, “We tell stories.” They are, and they know.
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.