Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Even in the vast expanses of the Internet, there are limits on how much you should write—especially on particular platforms.
There’s also a trap that “Mad Men” writers work diligently to avoid. Read on…
The ideal online word count:
There was a time when the only word counts that mattered were measured on newsprint in column inches. In 2014, we have tweets and email subject lines and headlines and pixel width and title tags and a bunch of other things measured in clicks and view time.
We also have Web analytics that tell us in near real time how effective each of these things is. In this post for Fast Company, Kevan Lee has compiled some of the best research surrounding the ideal length for several different forms of Web writing (tweets around 100 characters get retweeted most).
It’s unlikely that you can apply these rules directly to what you’re doing day to day. Your blog posts and tweets are a pretty small sample size even if you’re pushing things out every few minutes. There are also the small considerations of subject, readership, and engagement, but it’s still nice to know there is macro-level support behind the practices we employ in our digital communications. So bookmark it, and refer to it often, at least until the next article like this is posted in a few weeks.
The right reasons:
If you’ve been writing for a while, you know that it’s not a career for anyone who just kind of
likes it. You have to love it. Even then you may be driven to do something else. But writing—at least in journalism and literature—is something that is often pursued by those who want to see their name in print.
As Matt Lewis writes for The Daily Caller
, that will never be enough to make a career of it. The ambition that often comes from that selfish motivation, though, can be part of the cocktail that leads to writing success:
But the hope, of course, is that, over time, ambition for personal success turns into something like a love for the game. This sort of transition is not merely good for society (who depends on these people to report and interpret the news), but also a survival instinct for the journalist.
Writing “Mad Men”:
Most writers don’t write television shows, but most writers have, at some point, written promotional or ad copy, so there has to be some small similarity between the “Mad Men” writers and your typical ad copywriter. Right? Except that the “Mad Men” writers have to regularly plumb databases and historical text to make sure they’re avoiding anachronisms in their scripts. You’re probably a great researcher, but you’ve probably never had to do that.
In this interview with two of the show’s writers, they discuss their ways of confronting potential anachronisms. Here’s one, as described by Allison Mann, the show’s head of research:
There are really, really obscure references. … The decision has been made, maybe once, [to use] the idea that maybe the character coins the phrase. I won’t tell you which ones they are …
[RELATED: Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela present advanced writing and editing tips for corporate communicators. Join them in Chicago, Washington D.C., or Denver!]
Can reading be too inspirational?
: When I get in a rut or fail to think of an appropriate angle for a story or blog post, I regularly turn to my favorite writers and blogs—most of whom write about things completely different from my subject—as a way to find inspiration or an idea.
This is not always advisable, according to this piece from Thomas Chatterton William—especially if you start reading epic novels about mythical kings and dragons while writing about a shooting on Long Island. The lesson of the piece seems to be this: Ingest others’ writing in small doses while you’re working on your own.
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.