Coming soon to the small screen

iPhoneAre you reading this on a Droid? On an iPhone? Somebody is. Somebody is reading everything on a smartphone.

How does this shift to the small screen affect how we write? What should we do differently?

Nothing. We simply do more of what has always worked.

Sure, we have to adapt page formatting and image sizes and load times for handheld devices. If you’ve ever struggled to read a full-size web page by pinching and pushing it around on a 2×3-inch screen — and if you’ve also experienced the ease of reading the same information when it’s formatted for that screen (thanks to a mobile version of the site or to a reformatting app like Wikipanion) — you know what I mean.

But presentation issues are not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about text. I’m talking about your words, which — sooner or later, like it or not, whatever you’re writing, regardless of your intended medium — might end up displayed in someone’s hand.

Some claim that writers should accommodate small screens by “keeping it short.” But short is the wrong goal. The goal, still, is concise. Tight. Economical. Say it well, and your readers will want to read it all.

Do justice to your content. Include those clarifying details. Develop your arguments. Let paragraphs find their rightful lengths. Don’t stop short just because the screen does.

But do cut every word you can. Be more ruthless than ever. Do the extra edit. Review your words on a smartphone. Then edit again. As screens shrink, every word must work harder to keep its little piece of real estate. Make each one count.

r y cld jst dlt ll th vwls. (Or you could just delete all the vowels.)

P.S. Are you hip to smartphones and tablets and other “external prosthetic devices”?* See my guest post on the larger topic of mobile technology and its effects on the way people (including, notably, marketeers) do just about everything. In that post —  Marketing pros: Time to think small – I describe what I heard and saw at a seminar called “The Art of Pop Tech Marketing: 2011 Mobile Technology.”

*The phrase “external prosthetic device” comes from Amber Case, who was one of the presenters at the seminar. Know any people whose machines have melded with their bodies?

3 thoughts on “Coming soon to the small screen

  1. Pingback: Think small « Word Power

  2. Nice post, Marcia. I’m fanatically attached to both an Android phone and a Kindle. Of course, the Kindle is designed for reading books written as books, but the point is that I’m increasingly using devices for reading and am rarely reading paper. I look forward to seeing how this trend evolves and how we writers/editors evolve with it.

  3. I’m interested in this trend too, Eddie. I don’t use a Kindle device, but I have the free Kindle app (and half a dozen other proprietary reader apps) on both my Droid and my iPod touch, and I love the ability to electronically search eBooks — especially reference books.

    It’s surprising to me how much functionality is still missing from these reader apps. Some of them offer no bookmarking or note-capturing or search tools at all: you can read, and that’s it. The apps that do offer these tools are less than satisfying to use. Lots of room for growth here.

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