November 27, 2006
Liz published this at 2:03 pm
This week Phil and I reached a benchmark. We finished the first edit on the first of four parts of his book. This first section will serve as the prototype for the rest of the book. As the prototype section, we used it to test our ideas for how the book would work. Could the vision we talked about be a reality when we tried it out across a complete section of posts from Phil’s blog?
As we moved through the section, we were to careful keep to these standards.
- The content and structure work together.
- If one isn’t working, don’t force a fit. If the structure works for all but one page, that page doesn’t belong. If many pages don’t fit, the structure needs to be refit.
- Consistency is a value, a benchmark of quality, and a support for readers. It also makes authors look smart.
That’s right. Consistency makes us look more intelligent.
It’s better to be consistently wrong than inconsistently right.
Why Being Consistently Wrong Is better than Inconsistently Right
When we meet someone who thinks and talks like we do, we call that person someone who “gets” it. We think people who think like we think are intelligent . . . and those who donâ€™t, well, theyâ€™re not.
I can adjust when I talk to someone. I can put my “best brain” forward. I can listen actively and organize what I say to meet how someone takes in information. Teachers do that every day.
But how does an author do the same thing? Book readers think in many ways. An author can’t adjust for each reader.
The answer is one word, consistency.
Why is it better to be consistently wrong than inconsistently right?
You can spell the word house as hous, and if you do so consistently, readers will accept it as an alternative spelling. Miss once and they will see the mistake.
How Does Consistency Make Authors Look Smarter?
Consistency is key to a predictable book. When a book is predictable, readers know where you’re going without thinking about it — they “get” how you think. Giving readers consistency in every facet of a book means they can concentrate on what you’re saying. Your message and it’s brilliance can shine right through.
- At the Book Level — A consistent structure offers orderly navigation. Readers know what to expect and what will come next. The experience is predictable and repeatable. Readers can feel safe that they know where the author is going. That can make an author look smarter, because readers feel the author is following a logical, predictable progression.
- At the Detail Level — Many companies have a house style that determines how they phrase terms and spell certain words. Publishers and journalists follow a style manual for the same reasons. A consistent style provides credibility and accuracy. If an author is consistent in matters of detail, he or she establishes trust on matters of accuracy — inconsistency undercuts that bond and makes readers wonder whether the thinking is equally inconsistent and flawed.
Staying consistent lets a reader know how an author works and where he or she is going. Authors can’t adjust for readers, but they can make it easy for readers to follow their thinking. When authors do that, readers feel like the author “gets” it.
We all know that someone who “gets” it is really intelligent. — as intelligent as we are. It proves itself out consistently.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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