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Re-reading – Good or Bad?

August 16, 2010

Cyril Connolly once said: ‘Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be read once.’

It is not surprising our every-day writing is closer to journalism than literature.  A guiding principle is that our reader should not have to re-read our work. If it is not understood on the first pass then the reader has to make sense of our confusion by investing time and effort in re-writing  so that it is understood.

The other message in Connolly’s remark is that the implied pleasure in reading literature is in contrast to the throwaway character of journalism.  Not necessarily. We write to be read once because, as business readers, we read out of necessity not pleasure. But it can be enjoyable as well as  informative. The difference between fiction and non-fiction, we are told, is that fiction gives us an experience, non-fiction gives us information.  But persuasive writing steps beyond this divide and takes us into another, more artful space. (See Readers are people too). As ever, in good business writing, nothing is simply that black and white.

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