Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little
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Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little

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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  143 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Welcome to the age of the incredible shrinking message. Your guide to this new landscape, Christopher Johnson reveals the once-secret knowledge of poets, copywriters, brand namers, political speechwriters, and other professional verbal miniaturists. Each chapter discusses one tool that helps short messages grab attention, communicate instantly, stick in the mind, and roll...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published July 25th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company
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John Damaso
This is the first book I've read entirely on an iPad. Readers might want to mock a 246-page book on "Microstyle," a term which Johnson uses frequently in following his own "verbal branding" advice, for its length, but it is so full of examples drawn from The Onion, Twitter, the history of advertising, political campaigns, pop television, etc. that it offers practical advice on developing your "micro voice." His invented jargon aside, I think Johnson started the book with an interest -- word eco...more
Mo Tipton
The author describes this book well in calling it a "field guide" to microstyle, because it's less of a how-to and more of a "have you ever noticed this fascinating aspect of language?" I found it it be incredibly interesting (and hilarious, at times), and one can certainly apply Johnson's observations to their own writing to fine tune their message. If you're looking for more of an instructional on how to construct clever and witty words and phrases, check out Word Hero.
Jamie
I read this for the purposes of interviewing the author on Radioactive, however I found myriad connections between his thoughts on language and the essays I'm currently reading for my literary theory class in graduate school. I might just be a big ol' nerd, but it's fun to see how technology is quickly affecting the rules of language and literature. Also, a definite read for anyone interested in promoting themselves or their business online. Oh, and despite his admonishment of the grammar police...more
Mike Violano
A promising start. Then the author started slip sliding away on linguistics and the meaning of words, slogans and offered many, many, too many examples. A book on microstyle should practice the art of writing little or at least less. There are wise nuggets here but they are sprinkled among too many pages.
Jennifer
A great book on communication that is as useful as it is entertaining. I'll be thinking about the many illustrations offered for a long time.
Beth
I spent many weeks reading this book. Not because it was difficult, boring, or laborious. Quite the opposite. I chose to read a few chapters at a time, then let Christopher Johnson's ideas and observations sink in and influence my work. Microstyle taught me a great deal, reminded me of truths I have forgotten, and reinforced my own approach to writing with brevity and creative expression.

I guess what I'm saying is that Christopher Johnson made me feel smart. What's not to love?

So now "Microstyle...more
Erika Dreifus
In the six years that I have reviewed books for The Writer magazine, I have written about books that help us write novels and some that assist in penning poetry. I have shared collections of interviews with famous authors and collections of essays by the same. Over the years, I have begun noticing – and bringing to readers’ attention – books that I could not have anticipated at the start: books about email, new media and other quite recent additions to our world. Microstyle: The Art of Writing L...more
Dan
Your content: sliced, diced & cubed
Thinking about language, says Christopher Johnson, is a “strange” activity.

We think we know how to use language to express ourselves but we don’t really understand how language actually works, how words actually end up being expressive and meaningful.

The linguist in Johnson reminds us that when we communicate the words we use don’t directly transmit the meaning. Rather it’s the other way around – the person we’re communicating with uses the words we send a...more
Erica Cresswell
This review refers to the 2011 copy of “Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little” by Christopher Johnson, PhD. It was printed by W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Here's an excerpt from the book jacket: “Once the province of professional wordsmiths, the art of the short message now is not only available to everyone but also increasingly important to our personal and professional lives.” I picked up the book because I wanted to learn how to tweet better.

I found the book incredibly interesting. It was a...more
Elinor
I received this book through First Reads, and I was not disappointed! This will be a book that I plan to reference regularly as I work to be concise and clear in both my professional and personal communication.

This is technically a reference book, but it really is more of an informational and inspirational reference than an instructional guide. If you're prone to wordiness, this book won't give you much in the way of direct advice to help you curtail that habit. But if you're already working on...more
Becky
I was chosen to receive this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. Thank You!

I am giving up. I just can't finish the book at this time. To be fair, I liked parts of what I read. Once I actually got into the chapters, the book improved. However, I am finding that the author is not holding my attention. I will probably give it a try again when I am on a school break.

When I write papers, I tend to go over the word limit. I find myself cutting content repeatedly. I was hoping that this book w...more
Shawn Stone
This is a well-organized book of tips on communicating well in short bursts. It's useful for anyone who wants to get a lot across in short messages. There are ample examples and top tips for artful alliteration, potent poetic pontification and practical, pointed prose. The structure is purposefully formulaic, with each micro-chapter no longer than four pages with a clear declaration at the beginning of each section and then a summary restatement at the end. I could imagine this being something I...more
Bill
This is a book about finding the crunchy hidden meanings of words and phrases and then using them to efficiently deliver a message. Most of the examples are from advertising or headlines, with a few movie and book titles thrown in. Then again, it's not so much a book about how to do that as it is a book about how others have done it. In that sense, it's not very successful. On the other hand, for anyone that loves words and writing and wants to think a little deeper about how words work, it's an...more
Joe
This is the only book I know that offers thoughtful and useful advice to writers working onscreen rather than on the page. Christopher Johnson ground what he has to say about microstyle in research in linguistics and discourse analysis. His advice is sometimes repetitious, and sometimes less than startling, but I like how he offers ideas for thinking about style rather than simply rules to follow. A good book, which I've used in my last two courses on Digital Writing at Duke.
josh
Jan 16, 2012 josh rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grammarians, writers, wordsmiths, etc
Recommended to josh by: shelf @ UAPL
i'll admit that this book isn't what i was expecting it to be. either way, it was still an enjoyable lesson in concise writing, grammar, syntax, characteristics of language. etc. i'm not sure i'll be a noticeably better tweeter or blogger b/c of it - but maybe something will stick and i'll take better notice of some of my writing and pay more careful attention to the way i construct some sentences that i'm looking to add some punch to.
University of Chicago Magazine
Christopher Johnson, AB'87
Author

From our pages (Nov–Dec/11): "Well before Twitter, poets, ad copywriters, and political spinners knew what branding consultant Christopher Johnson discusses here: some of the most important messages are also the shortest. Johnson examines why minimessages hit and miss, discusses the tools that make them memorable, and explores the evolution of mass media into more personal forms of communication."
Elaine Bearden
Ha! Didn't finish reading but I really am intrigued by this book and the author's background. He considers his book a "field guide" as opposed to a proscriptive approach to grammar of the grammar manuals of before. Fascinating. I've heard of microstories, too - don't know if he gets into those specifically or not. He has a Ph.D. in Linguistics and seems to mainly have worked as a verbal branding consultant. Fascinating.
Cynthia K
I won my advance reading copy through Goodreads. I now feel a lot of pressure to write an amazing review demonstrating that I paid attention to the advice of the author. I enjoyed this thoroughly modern style book that used lots of examples to illustrate its points. While the author's background is in business, anyone who needs to write or communicate can learn from his knowledge of linguistics and experience in branding.
Ryan Hathaway
An ironically tangled and rambling alphabet pile.
Trey Shiver
I found this book to be kind of boring. Nothing in it was very enlightening with regard to concision, which is what I was hoping for. It's more about constructing meaningful messages in a 140-character age and, as a result, sort of gets into writing copy and how to make quality advertisements. I didn't finish the book, so I can't be 100% about it, but once I learned that it wasn't really about concision I tuned out.
Rae M.
This is a must read for people interested in language, and of course, writers.

It's really quite brilliant, the author really takes in account the different social aspects--mostly on the web, all the while covering things like the elevator pitch and company names. It really goes into the reasons why we like the simple things we do--like Coca-Cola.
Meeg
I was expecting more practical advice RE crafting brief emails, effective social media messages, etc. But there are some things I learned that I will use in class and keep in mind for my own writing (e.g. sound qualities). A lot about marketing and branding; some good history and linguistics theory explained in a way any layman can understand.
Zoelyn
I got about halfway through before I got distracted by some other books. And then I started reading again yesterday and I JUST DO NOT CARE. I was hoping that it could help me be less wordy in my prose, but a significant portion of the book is about artful misspellings and blah blah blah and product slogans and I JUST DO NOT CARE.
Kathleen
A fun field guide to the snippets of language that make up so much of modern writing. Johnson has a few good points to make about writing, but more importantly he has a fun, informal look at interesting examples in ads, tweets, names, and other linguistic morsels. I recommend it for anyone with even a small web presence.
Greg
very fun book. delves into current trends of branding, online marketing, and linguistics then swirls them all together. covers a wide area of verbal interest and word choice.

favorite part was referencing 30 Rock's "Rural Juror" movie. still unable to stop smiling when I think of it.
Ryan Erickson
If you're looking for some good gouge on how to better you writing on the web- be it Twitter, FB, or blogging- this is a great book... no, not a great book... a great tool. I recommend it to anyone one of my friends who are regular writers in the digital space.
Jennifer
I got this book as a giveaway, it wasn't what I thought it was going to be but it turned out to be an interesting read anyway.
I especially enjoyed the parts of the book that dealt with advertising and social media.
Richard Cytowic
Unable to finish it, not that it was inherently bad, but that it wasn't telling me anything new. The most useful times where when it focused on implied meaning, and how to communicate beyond the word.
Robert
This is a must-read for anyone who cares anything for the English language. Social network users and MAD MEN fans will especially appreciate it. And, of course, people who like hint fiction.
Erasmo Guerra
A quick, fun read about writing short. Perfect for the age of the Tweet and Facebook Update. The prose gets a little tangled when he dips more than a toe into linguistics and other trippy sciences.
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Christopher Johnson, an independent verbal branding consultant, received his PhD in linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked at Lexicon, one of the country's top naming firms. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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