There’s an ‘old’ joke about new media that goes something like this:

“One of the most exciting things about the internet is that it makes everyone an author and publisher.

One of the most frightening things about the internet is that it makes everyone an author and publisher.”

The more time I spend online, the more I believe this to be one of the great truths of our time. The new technologies available bring amazing communication abilities to most citizens in the developed world. As people use these technologies more and more, it is becoming abundently clear that one of the most important new skills required in this new world order is editing. The ability to write clearly, consicely, and to be brief while communicating the key concepts of your message seem to be skills that are far too rare. Having the common sense to refrain from “communicating” when you don’t really have a message seems to be not nearly common enough.

I’d like to see teachers start to focus more one this. Here’s an idea: instead of simple word limits, award bonus points for using fewer words than the limit while still fulfilling the requirements of the assignment. For example, “this paper will contain a maximum of 3000 words. 1 bonus mark will be given for papers of less than 2500 words, and 2 bonus marks for papers of less than 2000 words that fulfill all assignment requirements.”

I’m going to be quiet now.