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Book Review: A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide To Language In The BuzzFeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla
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Book Review: A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide To Language In The BuzzFeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla - Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide To Language In The BuzzFeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla

Executive Leadership Articles

Book Review: A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide To Language In The BuzzFeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla

“Communication is an art, not a science or a machine, and artistic license is especially constructive when the internet is the medium,” writes former BuzzFeed Copy Chief Emmy J. Favilla in her 2017 book, A World Without Whom.

The BuzzFeed style guide, created by Favilla, made news when it was posted publicly in 2014 because it seeks to settle issues most prescriptive guides (such as dictionaries or the AP Stylebook) take years to address. It has since become the de facto guide to usage for publishing on the web. “ShondaLand” isn’t included in the AP Stylebook, but it’s there in the BuzzFeed style guide, as are “othering,” “ombré,” and “OG.” If you’re wondering how many Rs to use in “okurrr,” BuzzFeed uses three, but allows its writers to “add more for intensity.”

“A World Without Whom” explains BuzzFeed’s philosophy, sometimes going to great, geeky lengths, and we’re not talking about computer geeky; we’re talking history-of-language geeky. If you have strong opinions about language usage, you’ll find yourself alternately nodding in agreement and fighting the urge to throw your Kindle across the room.

Yet there’s something here for anyone interested in language, including chapters on writing about sensitive topics, how social media is changing the game, regional differences, and the differences between “stuff that matters” and “stuff that kinda-sorta matters.”

Any treatise on prescribed language for publication in this “BuzzFeed age” has to address social media and its effect on our expectations. Informal language it the new formal language, it seems, and trends turn into acceptance “quickly and organically,” says Favilla. “We are no longer slaves to the process of laboriously editing our handwritten letter, report, or memo before setting up shop in front of a rickety old typewriter, yanking out paper in frustration when a typo strikes amids our carefully curated words … it’s made for some really interesting plot twists in the story of our language.”

The author spends considerable time breaking down verb forms of actions taken on specific platforms, such as Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Tinder. By now, we’ve all accepted “I liked that post on FB,” but what to do about the sad, angry, wow, haha, and love reactions on Facebook? “I hahaed that post on FB?” Favilla walks through her rationale for each preference, which of course the reader is free to accept or reject: “...use that instead: What do I care?”

Generally, Favilla opts for elegance and readability, two considerations worthy of high priority in online publication, over tradition and consistency, although she does at least weigh their importance before rendering a recommendation. Readers who studied English formally will still bristle quite a bit, but often we’re placated by the writer’s hat-tip in our direction. Hers is a fair and reasonable approach, and although we disagree on many of her specific prescriptions, we acknowledge there are too many gray areas surrounding these issues to be overly pedantic where new linguistic ground is being broken. It’s definitely worth a read so that wherever your recommendation differs from hers, you’ll at least have some solid places from which to begin your thought process.

Okurrr, I’mma recommend you get this for you, your BFF, or your S.O..

 

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Book Review: A World Without Whom: The Essential Guide To Language In The BuzzFeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla - Executive Leadership Articles

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