September 8, 2022
September 8, 2022
My kids and their friends recently taught me an initialism that they're all using: TLDR. It stands for Too long, didn't read. It's used dismissively, as in: Sure, she sent me the directions, but ya know, TLDR.
"Less is more" is a truism in the writing biz, especially for those of us writing for the web. Fewer words, more white space. Your time is limited and valuable, and I know it. Bullet points beat descriptions, and images beat text. Every week, this column starts out three times as long as it needs to be before I pare it to the essentials. Some of you read it, others skip it on their way down to scan the local events.
Think (or maybe don't think) of all of the details that are fighting for a place on your family's radar right now, both yours and your kids'. TLDR is a natural inclination to resist being overwhelmed by it all. I get it! I worry, though, that the excuse of TLDR is going to bite us on our collective behind in the not-too-distant future. Success in life requires skills impossible to learn on TikTok, and I worry about the future for a generation ever more accustomed to skipping steps, where learning is cut down to effortless sound bites. If our kids don't practice focusing—if we always let them get away with TLDR—they won't learn how to do it well. I worry that "didn't want to bother" will regress to "can't," and that future generations will be too intimidated to pick up a novel by Jane Austen or Margaret Mitchell or Toni Morrison or Amy Tan.
Teachers, too, worry about how to cultivate finding joy in the pages of a book; 5th grade teacher Jess Lifshitz has just posted a terrific "How families can foster a love of reading" article for parents and caregivers for the 2022-23 school year, with three pages of advice you can implement immediately. Yes, three whole pages of awesomeness. Don't let TLDR get in your way.