Elements of Style

Dan here! Those of you reading On Desire so far may be annoyed with my quirky and often obtuse writing style. With the delivery of the Macbook Pro two days ago, Kai is in the process of coming online and catching up with his posts. I’d love to find a competent and courageous editor to svelte up our ramblings. In the meantime it is with great humility and not a little trepidation that I attempt to edit my colleague’s writing. This could mean the end of the entire project…

The editing process provides insights about blog protocols and standards that we can all apply. Steeped in usability issues during my days as an interface designer, I try to take a reader friendly approach to writing.

After grappling with Kai’s first page for an hour or two, I retired to the bathtub to re-read the first 15 pages of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. I think I’m finally savvy enough to get the E of S message. Whether I actually apply it’s directives only time will tell. To all On Desire bloggers – make life easy for the reader – apply Elements of Style!

An aside – I think my fondness for code and working with complex software like Final Cut Pro and After Effects has set me up. Language is an artistic encryption. Crafting language is problem solving – how to make an idea clear and concise, how to provide the reader with an efficient workflow. Last night I re-enacted Archimedes by fusing hot water, a geeky past, Elements of Style, and, of course, a bathtub. Eureka! I’m ready to write better.

Here’s my comments for Kai…

I put some serious effort into editing because blog pages are more permanent than posts and therefor more frequently visited. I think it’s worth the effort because our ability to communicate clearly will have a big impact on our ability to 1) share subtle insights 2) attract collaborators and 3) achieve worthy outcomes for the planet.

Some sentences were trying to say too much and some i couldn’t decipher – those are in bold. I’ve attempted to simplify the sentences while keeping the jist. I’ve added a little introductory material so that folks get context. I’ve broken up unrelated ideas into separate sentences.

One question to ask is what are you trying to get across? Why write at all? It’s not just a list of what happened, it’s your humor, philosophy and approach to life that should come through. What you choose to write about says a lot about you. Your pride in your skills reads well, don’t be afraid to give geeky details if there’s a story to tell. Remember the African Queen, not such a great movie except when the details show up – forging a propeller on the beach, leeches in the swamps, homemade torpedos, the character’s development …

Here are some standards we can use through the blog.

Our main characters should be named in full when first introduced – my filmmaker friend Dan Kelly, then say Dan after that. First names are fine for minor characters, but they might still need some intro. You know who your cast is but our readers don’t. Why are they important to the story? Give us some context. Using full names also increases the value of this narrative to the world at large because it can be productively tagged.

We don’t need to put ships names in quotes if we capitalize them –  Torea instead of ‘Torea’, Desire instead of ‘Desire’.

Try and maintain a specific timeline. It’s too much work for the reader to try and figure out your history when the narrative jumps from now to 4 months later, then there’s a flashback to last year, then a few more days pass. Just insert the month and year, (no abbreviations).

After my sex change operation in April of 2006, I enjoyed a few months of acclaim working as a trans stripper. I was reminded of my first exposure to Queen in 1981, and how I dreamed of channeling Freddie Mercury, even though he was still alive then. By the fall of 2006, I felt a little discontented and began investigating how to shift my bio identity beyond human limits, perhaps to a lichen hybrid. I had always liked lichen and often played at being lichen as a wee lad, crouching low on a rock and not moving for hours or even days at a time. It was great to be 6 years old in 1969.

I took out pictures because something buggy was going on. We can put them back once the text is right.

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