Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Are tweets, or anything published under your name, intellectual property?
A case involving a New York Times movie critic this past week brings the issue into question, and the journalism world mostly agrees on the answer.
Also, we’ll look at an algorithm that rates writing, tips on transitions, and another rule to remember about email etiquette.
Copyrights and blurbs:
When producers for "Inside Llewyn Davis" used New York Times
film critic A.O. Scott's tweet in an ad
last weekend—in the Times
, without his consent—it got us one step closer to establishing the full canon of precedents necessary to understand all the privacy/legal/intellectual property issues that social media presents.
So, does a tweet qualify as intellectual property that requires licensing in order to be used for commercial purposes? No, according to Reuters blogger Felix Salmon, because it's not all that different from taking review blurbs and using them in movie promos, as movie companies have done for decades:
You’d think that tweets were more easy come, easy go—that people wouldn’t care as much about tweets as intellectual property. But it seems they do—at least, they do when those tweets start appearing in print.
It may, however, be against Twitter's own rules.
An algorithm for storytelling:
Researchers at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University may have created aspiring novelists' worst nightmare. A new algorithm tested there can reveal, with 84 percent accuracy, whether a book will be a critical or financial success.
Aside from the potential to force countless manuscript rewrites, it's worth noting the habits the algorithm found in successful and unsuccessful stories. For example, good writing by the algorithm's standards contained more conjunctions, while bad writing used more verbs and adverbs.
Rather than another roadblock to getting published, this sounds more like the kind of thing writers would pay for to be an objective editor.
Transitions are important:
No matter how good the ideas or the analysis, disjointed writing is never good writing. Smooth transitions are difficult, in both reality and writing, Karen Swallow Prior asserts in The Higher Calling
When a shift occurs—whether in writing or in life—we need to consider how what has passed is connected with what is now present, whether it’s the previous paragraph in a paper, the previous position held with an employer, or the previous role at home.
We're all writers when it comes to email. Given that this is still the most prevalent way professionals communicate, you can bet the etiquette and the strategy behind email will continue to evolve.
Are you ever intentionally sloppy with your grammar or punctuation to prove a point? Could it actually show that you're a better writer, or a more important person? Yes and no, according to this piece from Vivian Giang:
"Call it 'strategic sloppiness.' We’ve known for years that the higher you are on the food chain, the more license you’re allowed to take with the rules of professional communication. It’s why Michael Bloomberg can reply to emails with “tx” instead of spelling out “thanks,” and why many of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s emails to his subordinates consist of only a single question mark, appended to the top of a customer’s email.
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.