You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.
Ideal Education: Truancy; hoboism; a wisecracking, self-educated college dropout; or, at most, a philosophy major.
Personality Type: Introverted, socially awkward genius (for writing-heavy jobs); or, smooth-talking con man (for reporting jobs. There are always rewrite men).
Previous Experience: Rode the rails for a while; wrote a novel down in Mexico, but lost it in a Juarez poker game; small-time drug dealer gone straight; assistant librarian.
Next Job: Bartender.
“My mother having decided that Tonbridge was out of the question for her sensitive Christopher, some swift work had to be done to reposition me in the struggle—the whole aim and object of the five years at Mount House—to make me into a proper public-school boy.”
— Christopher Hitchens, Hitch 22
Language Log dissects this difficult piece of prose.
Shamefully, the most-read story I wrote in 2002 when I was on staff a campus/regional alt-daily was about punctuation; specifically, what are now, aggravatingly, called emoticons. This was before everyone had phones with full keyboards and when, because HTML wasn’t used en masse, “/sarcasm” meant nothing.
These simple smiles and frowns were not enough for e-mail and instant messenger users, however, and :-& became “tongue tied” and :-Q “head smoking a cigarette.” Even notions as ridiculous as :-[ meaning “vampire” are accepted in the circles of friendly e-mail and messaging.
Now, punctuation is an afterthought, if thought of at all. So:
I propose a so-called sarcasm mark as a form of punctuation for bloggers and online commenters that would indicate the preceding prose it is to be read at a second level. I figure this would just be easier for everyone involved. It could be picture of a computer on fire, for example, or a cartoon of a grinning whale.
The problem, though, with similar efforts – the proposed Irony Mark, the
underused dirty-sounding Interrobang – is that different operating systems and browsers have different font libraries. There are dozens of popular character encodings just for English. Chaos!!!1!
So maybe users should interpret the sarcasm mark in the form of the medium: If you’re reading something on a computer, be safe and assume it’s dripping with sarcasm.
The word that most accurately describes what executives at most large professional services organizations think of social media is “cute.” It’s worthwhile to think about but rarely taken seriously.
Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) and is said to have called it his best work.
Here’s mine off hand: She jumped into the cold water.
What’s yours? Here are some others.
My story, from the Washington Post Style Invitational a year or so ago:
The first defenestration was an accident.
This time, I lost her forever.
Love you, she whispered, walking away.
Mine: Then I wished I understood, myself.
[Meta: He ponders the placement of commas.]