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Unusual — but good — writing advice

February 20, 2010 Leave a comment

New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik wrote the introduction to a just-released collection of journalism by old-time New Yorker staff writer St. Clair McKelway called “Reporting at Wit’s End.” In praising McKelway’s work, which appeared from the 1930s to 1960s, Gopnik sums up what writers of journalism can take away from McKelway’s work:

“Find weird data, funny facts, and align them nicely; listen to strange people and give them space to talk; keep a cartoonist’s license but not a caricaturist’s smugness; rely on the force of simple words, but don’t be afraid of big ideas, or of the stuff of history, if you can make it sound like learning casually attained. Above all, keep your voice hovering just above your material, neither below it “subversively” nor alongside it chummily, but above it, a few light and happy inches over the page.”

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