Lisa Hawes

Would You Please Please Please Please Please Please Please Stop Talking?

Mrs KravitzSocial media is all about sharing. It offers many channels for those who like to talk about themselves and others, à la Mrs. Kravitz, the archetypal nosy neighbor on “Bewitched.” The person writing can’t see if his or her interlocutor is rolling their eyes or nodding off; meanwhile, the audience can simply ignore the steady stream of posts. Or can they?

Last week the Seattle Police Department (SPD) experimented with its official Twitter feed. (Read one of the many stories, here written by the Seattle Times.) As part of a campaign to make its work more transparent to the community, the SPD tweeted nearly all of its emergency calls during a 12-hour period. Even with the elimination of dispatches pertaining to “sensitive” topics such as domestic violence and child abuse, the message count still reached over 475 by day’s end. While many Twitter followers appreciated this view into a typical day on the force, many others expressed their irritation as the flood of SPD posts clogged the view of their Twitter streams — an average of 40 per hour. That made me think — how much is too much? How many tweets or Facebook posts can you make before your audience cries “Enough already!”? (more…)

Lisa Hawes

A Clear, Well-Edited Style

Hembooks1The only good way to learn about writing is to read good writing," says Chief Justice John Roberts.

This sentence grabbed my attention recently when I heard it quoted by Nina Totenberg in her NPR story on the approach of the Supreme Court justices to their written opinions. As people who live by the pen, good clear prose is of paramount importance to “the Supremes” but, surprisingly, they cite some of the greatest writers of fiction as their models.

Justice Ginsberg named Nabokov as a major influence on her writing style, while Justice Breyer mentioned Proust, Stendhal and Montesquieu. Justice Kennedy’s choices fall closer to mine: Hemingway, Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Dickens and Trollope – OK, well, maybe not Solzhenitsyn.

Like thousands before me, I consistently recommend Hemingway to colleagues interested in improving their writing style.

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