On Fridays, Evan Peterson offers five stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out. It’s the Week in Writing:
Tablets are great for reading, but the gadgets offer little to writers. Their size and technology still doesn't easily connect the way a pen and paper do. Well, one writer thinks Microsoft's new invention might change that.
Also, we'll look at the growth of essay writing services for students, when to use the em-dash, Amazon's new author rank tool, and more.
Is the Surface a tablet for writers?
In the tablet wars, productivity has always taken a back seat to consumption. You might occasionally see a co-worker struggling through email composition, but otherwise, these devices have mostly treated writing as something for laptops. Could the Surface, Microsoft's iPad challenger, change that? A writer for tech website DVICE
considers it. Kevin Hall checks off the list of attempts to mobilize writing (remember the Netbook?) and isn't convinced yet that the surface is the answer. But based on early reviews, he says it could be the device that helps writers “create full-bodied documents without having to jump through a bunch of app hoops.” Read the full post here
The free market of essay writing.
Essay writing services for students are becoming more common, and they are apparently increasingly harder to detect. In The Atlantic
, Richard Gunderman discusses the trend and some of the companies behind essay production. Just about everyone can agree on the ethics of paid essays. But it doesn't appear to be illegal in most states, which has allowed markets to open to students who get a certain quality and turn-around time based on how much they are willing to pay. It's easy to see the incentive for writers. For a good writer, $20 to $80 a page for a college freshman-level essay is pretty easy money. Read the story here
When should you use the em dash?
According to writer and English professor Ben Yagoda, just about whenever you want. Apparently, it's punctuation without rules. If you're regularly typing two hyphens to emphasize a point or express a disjointed thought, you will appreciate Yagoda's endorsement of em-dashes from writers such as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Read the full post here
RELATED: The em dash is the most chivalrous punctuation mark ever
A new way to rank authors.
The most interesting discussion in Amanda Katz's essay for NPR about Amazon's new author ranking is the view that authors have for best-seller lists. For them, it's not a what-to-read. It's economics. If you make the best- seller list, your life and career are vastly different. That doesn't apply to most of us, but how much would a ranking influence how and what we write? More authors may have to consider this since Amazon's new rank counts up to 100 and is updated every hour. Read the essay here
Modeling yourself after other writers.
In this piece for Book Riot
, Greg Zimmerman says there will never be another David Foster Wallace—even though many new writers are often compared with him. There are plenty of reasons for this, but ultimately, Zimmerman writes, “genius is singular and unique.” But what about all the other scribes—the regular people paid to write articles or blog posts who will likely never be called a genius? Do you model yourself after another writer? Or have you met someone whose style closely matches yours? Read the post here
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.