Not long ago, I was at the mall. I saw a group of young folks clowning around and splashing each other at the fountain, and I thought, “Boy, they should be careful. They could get hurt.” And it suddenly hit me that I’m not 23 anymore. If I were, I would’ve joined them. Or at least made fun of them. But, alas, I’m old and stiff, and wet surfaces frighten me—as do thoughts of inadequate insurance and vitamin deficiency.
But even though I’m at least five years (ahem) removed from those youngsters, I can still write in a way that’ll reach fountain-frolickers everywhere. I just have to remind myself of what I wanted out of reading when I was their age. I wanted information, sure, but I wanted it tempered with a healthy dose of entertainment. I wanted humor and sarcasm and snark and pop culture.
There are some who will say (after yelling at kids to stay off their lawns) that young people don’t read anymore. Well, tell that to Facebook, texting, social bookmarking, Twitter, blogs and the thousand other electro-outlets that provide 20-somethings with instant text-a-licious gratification. These chronologically challenged folks are gobbling up words like Lady GaGa gobbles up thrift stores.
Our job as writers and editors is to speak to them, to engage them, and it’s not always easy. Because we’re pros at custom publishing and custom content development, and we have a tendency when we write to lose the bulk of the fun (and the funny) that we bandy about so easily when we talk. We go lyrical. We show off our chops. We get all thesaurus-y up in here.
Well, it’s hard to pore over James Joyce–style prose when you have Them Crooked Vultures pounding in your earbuds. And it’s hard to care about the technical beauty of a perfect paragraph when your friend’s texting “RU serious?! mayB aaf. lolz!” And it’s nearly impossible to concentrate on a magazine article written for “old” people when your buddies want to play Left 4 Dead online.
So, we should surf their Web and watch their shows and listen to their music. We should write with the same humor we have when we talk—and make them laugh. We should do these things to trick them into reading our stuff.
We should just jump into the fountain with them.