When I last served as a federal Web manager in 2010, the average time a viewer spent on a page was little more than 30 seconds. (I imagine it is even less today.) It was difficult to impress this on my superiors, much less its import for our practices, as they, as I, yet read. Indeed, we published substantive research, which I was privileged to edit, as well as our academic journal.
But devolution is as exponential as it is inexorable. Its flotsam and jetsam stream across our screens each day. The decimation and impending demise of newspapers is a paradigm of the descent.
In the 20th century, I was often asked to help well-educated individuals craft their correspondence. Is letter-writing a lost art? I mused. In the 21st century, it is the fate of the letter itself that concerns me — as, no doubt, it does the US Postal Service. The pervasiveness of chat and texting and the jettisoning of cursive writing do not augur well for its prospects for survival.
Yet letters are literature, particularly, those penned by the literate. And so, with your kind indulgence, I'm launching a series reviewing Letters From the Lettered. These missives may end up in the dead letter box, but their worth lies in their writing, and that is the legacy I hope to honor by remembrance.