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Me. Woodward Park, Fresno, CA. January 2016.

One of my favorites pics of me.
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Local News and Information Online

I recentely read an online article with local news. Nowhere in the article does it actually name the state and the name of the publication is generic enough it doesn't give clues as to the location. I poked around the site and found a county name somewhere, maybe in the same article, maybe in a different article. I googled the city name and the spelling is unusual such that it might be a unique city name though there are definitely other cities with names that sound the same. If this article were printed in a physical newspaper bought locally, using just the city name would be fine. You would know from context exactly which city was intended. But when an article is posted online, people can potentially trip across it from anywhere in the world. You are no longer talking to just locals and even if the city name is unique, not everyone will automatically know that. Don't assume your audience will go digging for more info like I did to try to figure out exactly where

The Cute and the Dead

I am at long last officially launching The Cute and the Dead . I think it is my fourth comic and its roots go back more than a decade to when I had a corporate job. While I had that job, I brainstormed ideas but didn't really pursue doing the comic at that time in part because I was working full time and couldn't devote the time to it. There have been two prior incarnations of this comic under different names. Then one day a few years ago I blurted out the phrase "the cute and the dead" and really liked it, so I started a new comic under that name and moved the best of bits of a previous comic to it. I have had a lot of positive feedback from people knowledgeable about web comics. I have been told the artwork is adequate -- actually was told some very flattering things about my ability to show perspective and movement, etc -- and was told that each panel has enough action. My understanding is that you need to update a comic at least three days a week to get tr

Know Your Audience

Many years ago, I read an anecdote about an American man working in Asia. He was frustrated with his communication difficulties with the locals which ran deeper than simply a language barrier. One day, he felt like he was finally making progress and a colleague of his commented that they were "Thinking along parallel lines." He enthusiastically agreed and hoped this meant their communication difficulties would soon be a thing of the past. He hoped to soon see a genuine meeting of the minds, but much to his frustration, this did not come to pass. It was soon apparent that nothing had really changed. When he asked his colleague "What about what you said about us thinking along parallel lines?" the reply he got was "Parallel lines never meet." The same words can mean very different things to different people. Context helps inform us what is intended but to some degree how your words get interpreted depends on what is in the mind of the person reading th

What you leave out

I just wrote a piece yesterday about date rape . I debated whether or not to add a footnote saying something like "Yes, I KNOW not all date rape is a case of miscommunication and alcohol-fueled confusion. Some people are just rapists, full stop." I ultimately chose to not do that. The piece includes passages about men intentionally getting women drunk to take advantage of them. The piece includes statements that clearly indicate doing so is rape. No matter how carefully I say it, no piece of writing will ever be immune to bad people intentionally twisting my words so they can try to tell you "I am not really a rapist. I was just confused and didn't understand that her screaming NO 27 times and clawing at my eyes meant I was raping her. I just thought she liked rough sex!" People who do bad things intentionally don't usually fess up the minute they are caught red-handed and go "You got me. I'm just a bad person and I just like hurting people and g

How Journalism Pieces Work

In journalism, your title is supposed to be the briefest possible summary of the main point of the story. Your first paragraph is supposed to be a repeat of that with additional information and then the rest of it should again reinforce the idea but continue to elaborate. The idea behind that is that if all you read is the headline, you should have the most important piece of information in the article. Reading the headline should serve a useful purpose to help keep you informed of the news even if you don't read further. The first paragraph is supposed to encapsulate the story and, again, give you something useful that wasn't in the headline even if you read no further. Journalistic pieces are supposed to be written such that you can stop at any point because they are front-loaded: The most essential information is given first and additional writing beyond that is supposed to elaborate and fill out your understanding of the topic. These days, it's very well understoo

Writing on the Internet

Many years ago, I read an anecdote somewhere about an American working in an Asian country who was extremely frustrated with communication challenges. One day, he felt he was finally getting somewhere and said "I think we are thinking along parallel lines." To his surprise and pleasure, his Asian colleague agreed with that assessment. When it again became apparent at a later date that they remained at an impasse, he referenced that conversation and his colleague said "Parallel lines never meet." The internet is probably the most extremely diverse community that has ever existed and this extreme diversity compounds a lot of problems. Learning to write well for things posted to the internet has proven to be more challenging than I expected. I think the extreme diversity of the audience is a factor there. It makes it very challenging for saying something clearly in a way that will not be very wildly misinterpreted by a great many people and to add to the fun the

Allegedly

Some portion of the freelance writing I have done has been for lawyers. One of the challenging details about legal-related writing is that you need to be very persnickety about some things for legal reasons -- as in there can be serious real world consequences if you don't write very carefully. One of those details that you need to be picky about is that you cannot say "(Person) did X thing." You have to qualify everything and say things like "(Person) was charged with X thing" and "(Person) allegedly did X thing." It has to be strictly factual and if you are an American lawyer, it has to respect American law, such as abiding by the assumption of innocent until proven guilty. And it doesn't matter how offensive you find the crime, if they haven't yet been found guilty in a court of law, you cannot write in a way that implicitly or explicitly suggests they are. Even if they have been convicted, a best practice is to state that they were c