Sunday, August 29, 2021

I've carried these nine books with me from job to job for the last 20 years

It can sound pretentious to call your job a "craft," but I do consider the writing portion of my vocation to be just that.

Whatever your personal craft may be, you should never stop trying to get better at it. I plan to be working toward clearer, more concise writing up until the day I die (well, maybe I'll take that day off...but not the day before).

There was a time when it was imperative for writers to keep a set of reference books at their desk. A dictionary and thesaurus were de rigueur, of course, but depending on the focus of your writing, there were others on the required reading list.

One was a stylebook, such as the Associated Press Stylebook pictured here. Stylebooks tell you everything from whether to hyphenate certain words to how you abbreviate the states to which nouns are capitalized and which are not. And everything in between.

You'll also find a book of quotations on my shelf, as well as Plotnik's "The Elements of Editing" and the densely populated "Macmillan Handbook of English," 1960 edition.

Here's the thing: These books, or at least most of the information they contain, can be found online -- in most cases quite easily. Technically, I don't need the physical books whenever I have easy access to Google.

But I keep them for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I still love the feeling of cracking open a book to get to whatever I'm looking for (just as I still love reading an actual newspaper). They have traveled with me from workplace to workplace over the past two decades, starting at the Cleveland Clinic and moving on to Dix & Eaton, The Cleveland Foundation, OneCommunity, Vitamix, and now Goodyear.

There are memories wrapped up in these books. A few I associate with particular work projects, maybe a script or press release of which I was proud. Others take me back to my newspaper days, when the whole idea of writing for money was new and exciting, and I wanted so badly to be good at it.

There's also this: As much as I love and embrace technology, I also believe books hearken back to a time when the written word was more revered and the library card catalog meant something. They represent a pathway to knowledge and experiences otherwise unattainable for most of us, even online.

Books are, in my mind, the genteel medium. And at age 51, I'm just old enough to appreciate that.

(By the way, the slim brown volume tucked between the AP Stylebook and the Macmillan Handbook is "The Word: An Associated Press Guide to Good News Writing." So good. Oh man, so good.)

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