How Twitter Finally Taught Me to be an Editor
I’ve been an editor for 20-plus years. But Twitter—that idiot desktop companion for the work-averse—has become my mid-career editing coach.
This may be due to how I use Twitter, at least some of the time: Less for top-of-brain me-spatter and more for tiny reports or editorials.
Fact is, it’s tough to convey any substance in 140 characters. You have to carefully weigh every word, letter and space. Even punctuation.
Here’s an example. I wanted to share a delicious, fantastically gross item of neighborhood gossip. But it’s not for this blog. So I Tweeted:
House that was site of mass murder 30 years ago–and where following owners’ dead body sat for 4 weeks in Dec–for sale in my ‘hood! Cheap!
Or this (unattractive) detour into moralizing. I Tweeted this after I observed the right-wingnuts’ tasteless glee at Kennedy’s brain tumor news:
The hate for Kennedy online right now is horrific. USAToday comment ref’d Kopeckne family. People can be so small. *That’s* the tragedy.
Okay, the prose is cramped, the comments elliptical. But writing substantial Tweets teaches a key journalism skill: Make every word count.
If I were teaching journalism (the academy shudders), I’d have students edit 500-word stories as Tweets. Not for the result, but the process.
I’ve edited miles of copy in my day. Nonetheless, I find that every time I sit down to write a meaningful Tweet I hone my craft a bit more.
Thinking about all this today, I decided to try a music review. It’s labored, I know. But I had my (brief) say about a song that moved me.
Nominate Tom Waits for Pulitzer: “Road to Peace” is growly, pounding, horrific news report on Mideast bloodwars. Quotes Henry Kissinger (!)
Yes, I may have lost it entirely. I’m writing in 140 word chunks and just nominated a musician for a Pulitzer. Go ahead. Tweet about it.
p.s. Every paragraph in this item is 140 characters or fewer. Whether it’s admirably tight, barely coherent or pointless, I leave to others.