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In preparing copy for publication in Bob Vila's American Home, please note that we seek a unity of style and tone-what we might call "Bob's voice." What follows is a list of Bob's interests, elements of his point of view, and verbal mannerisms that can be used, as appropriate, to shape the text:
·Bob speaks in simple sentences. Most articles will carry the author's byline but should read as if Bob wrote them-if Bob wrote, that is. But Bob doesn't write, he talks. The style and tone of the prose should be conversational. Use simple sentence structure; avoid introductory and parenthetical clauses. Try to limit sentence length to 20 words or less.
·Bob is direct. Introduce an article by stating the information that will be covered and why it will be useful or interesting to the reader. Try to establish a logical, linear sequence for information. Avoid long preambles, overly descriptive language, and complicated explanations.
·Bob is a good interviewer. On television Bob guides the presentation by asking guest experts informed questions, then lets them answer. Bob bridges the exchanges with some narration that adds information (to convey his own expertise) or an observation that clarifies the insight he wants us to take away from the dialogue. Brief narration or a new question can also serve as a transition to the next step in the process or to a new subject. In prose, of course, the organization must be a little different. But note that the use of quotations from experts can substitute for the response in Bob's Q&A format. Liberal use of expert quotes will help to vary the tone and generally improve the sense of authoritativeness.
·Bob knows houses. He trained as an architect and worked as a contractor. This background is the foundation of his point of view and authoritative style. Bob is comfortable with both technical and aesthetic subjects. He's knowledgeable in every aspect concerning, style, construction, heating, cooling, wiring, maintenance, furnishing, and landscaping. Bob is prone to using jargon; it is emblematic of his training and in some ways enhances his authority-but he's aware that his audience may not understand technical terminology, so he succinctly explains unfamiliar terms.
·Bob loves old houses. He's a traditionalist at heart and appreciates authenticity. He likes knowing how to identify houses by period, style, and regional or ethnic influences. Bob often refers to archetypes-the best known examples or designers associated with a particular style.
·Bob believes that to do home-improvements successfully, it's important to respect the context in which the house was originally created. That means learning about its origins, elements of its style, its history, and the intentions of the builder.
·Bob understands that houses and everything in them were made by someone. He knows that houses get to be the way they are because of people's background, needs, tastes, and special skills. This provides opportunities to tell the stories of the owners and tradespeople involved in building, remodeling, and decorating.
·Bob is practical. He seeks the best solution to any problem. For example, he has a healthy respect for the preservationist ethic, but he, himself, wouldn't go beyond reasonable limits of time or expense to complete a restoration project unless the value of the building or furniture warranted it. Along the same lines, he appreciates the old-fashioned charm of traditional houses, but would not neglect energy efficiency or modern conveniences when remodeling. Bob is not cheap, but he will not spend more than he has to to get exactly what he wants.
·Bob is a connoisseur. He knows the distinctions between the good and the bad, the valuable and the ordinary, the hip and the outré. He appreciates superior quality in tools, equipment, and workmanship; and he seeks out the best new things.
·Bob knows the best person to go to for advice on a given subject and the best places to buy things.
·Bob is didactic; he wants to teach us. But he's not heavy-handed. He makes information accessible through visual images; he demystifies procedures, clarifies the fine points, and gives us a solid frame of reference for making decisions and doing things for ourselves.
Bob Vila's American Home
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