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Bill Bennett


Content is barbarism and other quotes

Content is barbarism

The term “content” is a barbarism that bit by bit devalues what journalists do.

Jay Rosen, Chair of Journalism at New York University
Taken from Look, you’re right, okay? But you’re also wrong

Murder your darlings

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press: Murder your darlings.”

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

This quote, or a version of it, has been attributed to many writers Quiller-Couch was the original source. It’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of him, so this Wikipedia page will help.

The point here is that often when you think you’ve written something brilliant, you probably haven’t. It’s something older journalists would knock out of juniors during training. These days the young ones don’t have time for fancy writing.

Using a word like Murder is a great way of making the message memorable.

Another way of putting the same idea is: Don’t try to be clever. Keep your writing as simple as possible.

One either meets or one works

Bob Sutton dug up this brilliant quote from Peter Drucker.

Like Sutton, I think some meetings are essential, but both Sutton and Drucker are right: they are too often a substitute for real work.

Bob Sutton: Peter Drucker: “One Either Meets or One Works”.

Harold Evans’ ‘inescapable reciprocity’

Harold Evans, former editor of The Times was writing specifically about newspapers, but the basic idea applies equally online:

Content and design go hand in hand:
Newspaper design cannot begin to exist without news and attitudes to it; without something to express to a defined audience.

And newspaper news cannot effectively be communicated visually without newspaper design.

The problem is to communicate, within the same physical context, not one message but a series of disconnected messages, of infinitely varying significance, and to do this with speed, ease and economy in a recognisably consistent style.

Harold Evans, Newspaper Design