Steve Barnes' World of Happiness

The glories of pull quotes.

You know, those large, sophisticated-looking quotes in large text placed off to one side of the text of an article, ostensibly to provide a guided peek into a key sentiment, or to highlight the thought as supremely poignant or summarizing. Even more sophisticated: the pull quote's text is in italics. More sophisticated still: the article's text flows around the pull quote's text. Maximum sophistication: there's a solid horizontal bar situated above or below the entire pull quote. Not above and below: above or below.

As heavenly as that sounds, I suppose the problem is that once I've read the pull quote and the article, I feel like the chosen text is neither poignant nor summarizing. If anything, it feels like the sentence chosen for the pull quote was selected on the basis of its seeming as poignant or summarizing as possible without being either, as though being either would somehow ruin it for the person selecting it. It's not "this pie combines blueberries with orange more deliciously than any recipe I've tried," but "the implications of this pie, when considered in context, may baffle the considered diner," even if the article was written essentially to extol the combination of blueberries and oranges. At least, that's what it feels like.

My instinct is that the relevant question, hyperbolic as it might sound, is "who invented these things?". Relevant, because it seems too believable – a classic swipe of Occam's razor – that one person used these, others thought they looked cool, and everyone started using them. And all the people in that hypothetical scenario worked for publication companies, print or digital. None of them were individuals writing for themselves, because they wouldn't have thought of it, because they didn't work for publication companies.

At least, that's what it feels like.