From Slate: Twenty-five years ago this summer, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America premiered in the tiny Eureka Theatre in San Francisco’s Mission District. Within two years it had won the Pulitzer Prize and begun a New York run that would dominate the Tony Awards two years in a row, revitalize the nonmusical play on Broadway, and change the way gay lives were represented in pop culture. Both parts of Angels, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika, put gay men at the center of American politics, history, and mythology at a time when they were marginalized by the culture at large and dying in waves. It launched the careers of remarkable actors and directors, not to mention the fiercely ambitious firebrand from Louisiana who wrote it—and rewrote it, and rewrote it, and rewrote it again. Its 2003 HBO adaptation was itself a masterpiece that won more Emmys than Roots. But the play also financially wiped out the theater that premiered it; it endured casting and production tumult at every stage of development, from Los Angeles to London to Broadway; its ambitious, sprawling two-part structure tested the endurance of players, technicians, and audiences. Slate talked to more than 50 actors, directors, playwrights, and critics to tell the story of Angels’ turbulent ascension into the pantheon of great American storytelling—and to discuss the legacy of a play that feels, in an era in which gay Americans have the right to marry but still in many ways live under siege, as crucial as ever.
From NY Times: The venerable Académie Française is in the throes of a rather significant exercise. Guardian of the French language since 1635, the academy in recent times has gained a reputation as being out of touch — and so, when it issued recommendations in 1990 for the “rectification” of about 2,400 words, they did not stick. Week-end should become weekend, said the academy to anyone who would listen. Oignon (onion) would be better off as ognon. Paraître (to appear) had no need for its silent circumflex. But no one was listening, and all of this was quickly forgotten.
Now, though, the academy’s reform has surged back to life. In November, the French government belatedly decided to revive the 1990 proposals, prompting educational publishers to announce new editions of their standard works; from there, the story snowballed into the biggest French language controversy since the advent of “freedom fries.” And though the academy’s tone-deaf spelling changes and hyphen cull have raised hackles, what has become most apparent is that the French really, really love the circumflex.
From Jacob Nielsen: Web writing differs from print writing to emphasize scannability. Some grammar rules are worth breaking if they improve fast comprehension.
From Marketing Profs: The result of this evolution is that too many of our companies sound just like all the others — and our audiences are habituated to the words they’re reading. Stephen Denning, the best-selling author of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling, says “a revolution in marketing thinking” is essential. One of the reasons he sites is the fact that audiences are increasingly skeptical about what they’re reading. Advertising has lost its credibility, and customers use the (uncontrolled-by-us) web to get information and solve problems.
From Fast Company: In The Missing Ink, Philip Hensher argues that handwriting is good for us and one of the defining behaviors that make us human. Here is his guide to help you reclaim the written word.
By George A. Miller. "My problem is that I have been persecuted by an integer. For seven years this number has followed me around, has intruded in my most private data, and has assaulted me from the pages of our most public journals. This number assumes a variety of disguises, being sometimes a little larger and sometimes a little smaller than usual, but never changing so much as to be unrecognizable. The persistence with which this number plagues me is far more than a random accident. There is, to quote a famous senator, a design behind it, some pattern governing its appearances. Either there really is something unusual about the number or else I am suffering from delusions of persecution.
"I shall begin my case history by telling you about some experiments that tested how accurately people can assign numbers to the magnitudes of various aspects of a stimulus. In the traditional language of psychology these would be called experiments in absolute judgment. Historical accident, however, has decreed that they should have another name. We now call them experiments on the capacity of people to transmit information. Since these experiments would not have been done without the appearance of information theory on the psychological scene, and since the results are analyzed in terms of the concepts of information theory, I shall have to preface my discussion with a few remarks about this theory."
The website makes clear through examples, tips and descriptions of feelings exactly how to achieve MailChimp’s tone of voice in all areas, including apps, social media, the main website, the blog and internal communications. The same approach and presentation could be used for printed guidelines, too. Tell team members how to get the tone right, but also show them.
From Smashing: Tone of voice isn’t what we say but how we say it. It’s the language we use, the way we construct sentences, the sound of our words and the personality we communicate. It is to writing what logo, color and typeface are to branding.