Pulitzers Not Awarded

Happy 400th Tip of the Day!
I never dreamed I would have 400 writing tips to  share with my 220+ work colleagues and the vast Peanut Gallery in cyberspace. My  WordPress blog where I store my Tip of the Day archives (https://oilpatchwriting.wordpress.com<Http://oilpatchwriting.wordpress.com>)
has had more than 70,000 hits in only 2.5 years. It seems the most popular search term is “analysis vs. analyses.”

Well, to celebrate this milestone, I thought I’d hop up on my soapbox and opine a bit.

This year, there were no Pulitzer Prizes awarded in the categories of Fiction or Editorial Writing, although there were three finalists in each category. Note that there were no Fiction prizes awarded ten other years since 1917, and there were no Editorial Writing prizes awarded eight other years during that same time.

First, let’s examine the official criteria:
Editorial Writing – “… clearness of style, moral purpose, sound reasoning, and power to influence public opinion in what the writer conceives to be the right direction….”
Fiction – “… distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life….”

I can understand how perhaps the Fiction prize entries may have included novels about Americana, but the writing was not very distinguished, or alternatively, a very distinguished writing style, but the subject was not about American life.

What is the definition of distinguished? Merriam-Webster says: “marked by eminence, distinction, or excellence,” with distinction referring to a different class, special honor, superiority, or having a worthiness that sets one apart.

So what this tells me is that today’s fiction writers have not reached a level of excellence in their writing, nor have they found a way to distinguish their novels from the popular paperback drivel that today’s readers buy and today’s publishers choose to print for profit. I fear that the current publishing market driven by supply and demand is squelching truly distinguished writing – in spite of the fact that anyone with a computer and Wi-Fi can be a fiction writer online. How sad!

But what really disturbs me is the lack of an Editorial Writing prize. The very purpose of an editorial is to make your points clearly and with sound reasoning for the purpose of guiding public opinion. First you think; then you write. Then you fix your writing so the readers think the same thing that you think after they read it. If an Op-Ed columnist can’t do that effectively, better get another job!

Yet, is this not what we do in business writing? We have a purpose, and we clearly make our points so that management approves what we propose. Clarity and sound reasoning win every time – if there’s money in the budget to do it, of course.

What you write and how you write it can result in winning the big prize, whether that’s a Pulitzer, a bigger slice of next year’s budget pie, or the opportunity to bid on blocks in a foreign licensing round.

And I’ll continue to help you craft your winning PetroPulitzer entry. Here’s to the next 400 Writing Style Tips of the Day!

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Profound Quote of the Day:
“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”
– Joseph Pulitzer, American publisher, 1847-1911
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