Notes From My Journal

A New Word, an Old Peeve

New York City– Sitting on the stoop in front of this brownstone, reading a magazine, I come across a word that’s new to me: glanceable.

This doesn’t happen often. And when it does, it’s usually a neologism built from something foreign or political. (Have you noticed? Recently, most political neologisms seem to be invented to cope with the ever-expanding micro-culture of identity politics.)

Glanceable felt different. Modest. Unpretentious. Easy to interpret. But was it unnecessary? Could it have been just a synonym for scannable?

I looked it up and was happy to discover that, no, it is not a synonym for scannable. There is a subtle but important difference.

Scannable is an adjective that qualifies the readability of text. It means “that which can be scanned,” either with a fast read or electronically with a scanner. (Example: a scannable ID)

Glanceable also refers to the readability of text. But its focus and its requirements are very strict. Glanceable denotes information – usually on a screen – that can be read and understood at a glance.

In other words, it refers to very short lengths of text (headlines, subheads, captions, etc.) or graphic elements (charts, graphs, Illustrations) that can be comprehended in a matter of seconds.

That’s different than readable or scannable. And I like it for that reason. It has a use, a particular use that is much needed in the publishing world.

A pet peeve of mine is the publication of graphics meant to demonstrate concepts that are difficult to grasp. They may convey the information intended. But if it takes the reader minutes to figure them out, what’s the point? It would be better to use words.

If you can elucidate (see “Today’s Word”) complex ideas through graphics, you should do so. Just make sure that they are glanceable – i.e., so crystal clear that the reader can grok them at a glance.

The logic of this rule is so simple that it’s hard for me to understand why so many writers and editors choose to ignore it and continue to put out charts and graphs and illustrations that confound.


From My Works In Progress Basket

A Simple and Realistic Way to Attract Success in Your Life (for People Smart Enough to Smirk at the Law of Attraction)

There’s a way to bring good fortune into your life. It might look, from one angle, like luck (or perhaps some precious “law” of the universe). But it is, in fact, something much more mundane. Something like a recipe for baking bread.

I’m talking about a “recipe” for attracting (yes, attracting) success. For solving problems and opening doors and bringing amazing people into your life.

I discovered the recipe 30 years ago by observing TP, a man that had built one of the largest direct-marketing companies in our industry.

We were competitors. But I was a junior partner in my business – so, in terms of our unofficial ranks, TP was above me. But he never treated me that way. On the contrary, he always took the time at industry events to come over and chat me up. And when he did, he never failed to compliment me on something I had done for my business. Some new marketing campaign or product innovation that he had noticed and admired. Needless to say, I was flattered.

Every once in a while, as we were talking, he would lean into my ear and whisper, as if it were a little joke between us, that I should come to work with him some day. I think we both knew that there was little chance of that happening. I was fiercely loyal to JSN, my senior partner, and believed (correctly, as it turned out) that my future prospects with JSN were unlimited. Nevertheless, TP’s compliments and invitations made me feel validated and desired.

I can only imagine how much “talent” TP had attracted to his business by slowly building potentially rewarding relationships in this way. But I do know that on those rare occasions when, in moments of doubt or frustration, I thought about ending my partnership with JSN, I was very aware that TP was just a phone call away.

Just the other day, I received news of a major deal with a very successful Japanese publisher. This came after we had sent a team of our best international people to meet with him for three days in Tokyo. If you knew nothing more about the situation than that, you’d assume the deal was the result of a prodigious amount of skillful diplomacy and negotiation during those three days.

In fact, it was the end result of a series of little conversations and “jokes” that had been made over the past four or five years. Casual conversations when nothing was at stake. Conversations that set the stage for what would otherwise have been an impossible feat: hammering out a complex international publishing deal in just 36 hours.

As an outside observer, you might see the three days in Tokyo as an amazing event – a combination of pure luck or some sort of mysterious coming together of universal laws of attraction.

But if you knew the actual background, you would realize that it was the result of TP’s very mundane “recipe” for business success.

The recipe is simple:

* One scoop of genuine admiration

* Two scoops of genuine praise

* A dash of a suggestion

Then put it in a warming oven and wait for the bread to rise.


Watch This… Seeing videos of police beating up (or shooting) unresisting people is a scary and revolting experience. But it should not be forgotten that most of the time cops are models of restraint under duress. Here’s an example…

Today’s Word: elucidate (verb) To elucidate (ee-LOO-sih-date) is to clarify or explain. As I used it in my Journal entry today: “If you can elucidate complex ideas through graphics, you should do so. Just make sure that they are glanceable – i.e., so crystal clear that the reader can grok them at a glance.”

Fun Fact: The North Atlantic widens by one inch a year.

Worth Quoting: “A candid admission of a blunder is refreshing and often not heard in human affairs.” – Father Tomas Dubay