Writing for Nonreaders in the Post-Print Era

Ronald E. Yates is an author of award-winning historical fiction and action/adventure novels, including the popular and highly-acclaimed Finding Billy Battles trilogy.

Today, I am reposting a post I wrote while I was the Dean of the College of Media at the University of Illinois. At the time I taught classes in journalism and shared this with my students. It still resonates with me even though I wrote it seven years ago. Please enjoy and feel free to comment.

Recently a professor (I won’t say who) created an outline for a new course called: “Writing for Nonreaders in the Post-Print Era.”

The course carried the following description:

“As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.

“Instant messaging. Tweeting. Blogging. Facebook & Google+ updates. Pinning. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new “Lost Generation” of minimalists who would much rather watch Modern Family on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories.

Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! 

Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls.”

Prerequisites

Students must have completed at least two of the following.:

ENG: 232WR—Advanced Tweeting: The Elements of Droll
LIT: 223—Early-21st-Century Literature: 140 Characters or Less
ENG: 102—Staring Blankly at Handheld Devices While Others Are Talking