…The diagram which is to affect thro’ the Eyes what we fail to convey to the public through their word-proof ears.— Florence Nightingale
One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.— Henry Miller
Leadership is the big skill of getting groups of people to complete the right work.— Clark Aldrich
At SXSW I had the pleasure of sitting in on Andy Barr’s and Sarada Peri’s 37 Practical Tips to Help Your Write & Speak Better. Much of these focused on simplicity of grammar and content, and reminded me of the writer’s vow of chastity my husband conceived back in 2007. Since then, my first drafts attempt to follow the below rules as much as possible. Only then do I go back and add anything more, trying to restrain myself to choices that add clarity.
So here it is.
Just as Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg wrote the film maker’s vow of chastity (also know as Dogme 95), so Bart has proposed a writer’s vow of chastity.
A draft of the rules as of August 4, 2007:
The writer’s vow of chastity
The writer will use no modifiers.
- No adverbs.
- No adjectives.
The writer should act as a behaviorist.
- No words describing emotion.
- The writer will not make the reader directly privy to a character’s thoughts (no interior dialogue or interior monologue).
The writer may break these rules only when it is unavoidable.
The above may be summarized as, “Not doing the reader’s work for them*.”
*The summary references advice from C.S. Lewis to his students:
Don’t say it was “delightful;” make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do the job for me.”
Barr and Peri also provided a page with the 37 tips, on which I took copious notes. Here it is—enjoy!
…Don’t say it was “delightful;” make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please will you do the job for me.”.— C.S. Lewis
Simulations are powerful when students need to be engaged more than they are. Clearly, this is an area in which distributed classrooms have suffered, as death by PowerPoint has not just been refined in many programs but almost weaponized to military specifications.— Clark Aldrich
For a little over two years, I left work and went to a particular bus stop on Elliott & Western in Seattle. So I spent a little time every day looking at this building, near the base of a hill leading up to the Queen Anne Hill area.
One day, for whatever reason, I turned around and looked behind me. Due to an accident of unusual angles (hills, buildings, streets), suddenly I could see everything the building was hiding from me, including the Space Needle!
The beauty of turning around is that it changes your perspective. Sometimes it even shows you the forest for the trees—or in this case, the neighborhood for the buildings.
So how do you turn around, metaphorically speaking? Here are some straightforward and a couple less obvious methods:
- Try the other person’s perspective on for size. You may not end up agreeing with it, but you’ll understand it better, and this process frequently provides insight into design challenges. You UX people are used to this one.
- Are you looking from the outside in, or UI first? Try flipping it. Do the mental exercise of imagining your web application from the back end out – network to content buckets to databases to identifying the right content to surfacing, navigating, and consuming it. Getting a better understanding of the building blocks will let you do more with your Lego.
- Set yourself challenges that push you beyond your normal boundaries to see the point of view inside someone else’s. For example, find a song you like in all the music genres you can think of.
- Like sitting alone? Join a group. Like groups? Try taking some time away from them.
- Reverse the flow. (No, not that flow.) Does your taxonomy go from broad to specific? Why not try specific to broad? Or, put everything on the same level and make it flat. The meaningful concepts will float to the top.