Saturday, April 12, 2008

My TLS editor on writing - an editor's email to an author

Ben Wittes and I were on a panel on Thursday at the meetings of the American Society of International Law, called writing for the mass media.  Advice to law professors on how to place things in the mass media; I'm a bit of a fraud on that, as I don't really write that much for mass venues.  Ben, on the other hand, is a real journalist.  However, I did read to the audience the following email, received from my TLS editor in the midst of editing something years ago.  I keep a copy up on my wall, although I can't really say I am good about following it.  It's very good advice:

Ken, you really think this is short?  May I enjoin you further on the virtues of concision.  There are too many long quotes from the book, for a start.  And I fear you risk partaking of the book's clearly leisurely pace and alleviatedly theoretical tone.  Unalleviatedly theoretical!  You!  Que pasa?

Maybe you haven't quite come down from your sojourn in the jungle of tenure-grabbing, publish-or-perish academic vanity publishing.  This is journalism, albeit the higher journalism. People don't have too much time.

The piece reads airlessly for the first half.  Look, there's nothing here that can't be said in half - no, a third - the space.

(Email to Ken, June 2001.)

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