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The Whole Picture

The future of the book is the blurb” - McLuhan


If Marshall McLuhan’s famous book, The Medium is the Massage, were itself a blurb, then it would be easy to find the page where this famous statement appears: “The future of the book is the blurb.” Having no index, the book is not convenient enough for me to verify it as the source. A blurb, of course, does not need an index.


a witty hyperbole

Making its point instantly, McLuhan’s statement was more hyperbole than prediction. Still, its meaning has lasted decades because it states the obvious poignantly: As more and more information becomes available, efficient presentation becomes increasingly important. Concision and convenience really matter, but not so much that they should compromise good reading. The future of the book will always be the blurb.


a simple paradox

Few ideas fit entirely into simple, succinct, statements. Likewise, as Aesop's fables demonstrate, not every pearl of wisdom fits into a neat koan. While efficient writing is not necessarily terse, modern readers tend to dislike wordy writing and extraneous content. Effective writing, therefore, requires knowing the message, the audience, and how to appeal directly to the intended reader.


words to remember

As Professor McLuhan pointed out in his own way, the effective presentation of ideas demands audience-appropriateness. In addition to succinctness, often it requires numbering lists and recasting jargon into plain English. Sometimes, it requires adding a good picture. For book-length writing, I'd suggest an index.

- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.


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