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The Whole Picture

The future of the book is the blurb” - McLuhan


If Marshall McLuhan’s famous book, The Medium is the Massage, were itself a blurb, then it would be easy to find the page where this famous statement appears: “The future of the book is the blurb.” Having no index, though, the book isn’t convenient enough for me to verify my source! A blurb, of course, does not need an index.


a witty hyperbole

McLuhan’s statement was more hyperbole than prediction. Still, it has lasted some forty years because it states the obvious poignantly: As more and more information becomes available, efficient presentation becomes increasingly important. Concision and convenience really matter, but not so much that they should compromise good reading. That’s why the future of the book will always be the blurb.


a simple paradox

Few ideas fit into neat koans. And while efficient writing is not necessarily terse, modern readers tend to dislike wordy writing and extraneous content. Truly effective presentation, therefore, requires knowing the message, the audience, and how to make writing on any topic appeal to a given audience.


words to remember

As McLuhan pointed out in his own way, audience-appropriateness is crucial to the effective presentation of ideas. Often, it requires numbering lists and recasting jargon into plain English. Sometimes, it requires adding a few good pictures. Or an index.

- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.


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