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Writing For The Blogosphere

Posted by acdtest on August 28, 2003

Writing For The Blogosphere

t’s now been almost a year-and-a-half since I first started writing for the blogosphere, and my experience during that time has confirmed my first thoughts on writing for this new medium. Weblogs are, of course, different things to different people, and range from those given over to the chronicling of the merely quotidian personal to weblogs devoted to writings on matters of universal concern and importance. As with all creative efforts, most weblogs are poorly done and not worth a second look, and only a very few will reward daily visits.

Some time ago, I wrote a short piece largely agreeing with weblogger and journalism professor Brendan O’Neill who wrote in part:

The other grating thing about the Blogosphere is the lack of quality writing. […] …most of the Blogosphere consists of bad, bad writing – not just clumsy sentences and never-ending paragraphs, but also spelling mistakes.

The passage of time since then has not changed my agreement with that assessment.

And what, by far, have I found to be the most egregious fault of serious-minded writing in the blogosphere generally?

Lack of discipline. Or, as Mr. O’Neill put it:

Then there are the over-long posts — 2000 words, when 400 words would have been fine. As Voltaire once wrote: “The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.” Blogging everything that comes into your head is a recipe for revealing nothing of substance about yourself or your views.

Quite right. There’s simply no excuse or justification for a lack of discipline of that sort; unless, of course, one’s an academic where the rule — nay, the imperative — is never let 1000 words do when you can manage 10,000.

There’s precious little appropriate to the weblog format (the print equivalent of which would be the daily or weekly newspaper column) that requires more than 1000 words or so to express more than adequately if one really knows what one is talking about; 1500 words at the outside, but typically that many only when one’s post includes a necessary quoting of others’ text(s), or the inclusion of cast lists and credits, or other such pertinent technical data. A post longer than that and one’s either an inept writer, doesn’t know what one wants to say, doesn’t know how to say what one wants to say, simply loves the sound of one’s own voice, or any combination of two or more of the foregoing. I can’t begin to list the weblogs I no longer read due this single fault alone (well, actually I can, but will here refrain from doing so).

It’s a sobering thought, or should be, that one of the most justifiably lauded and influential writers among American journalists, H. L. Mencken, first made his mark on American letters largely by column-length pieces that averaged some 800 words or so (no, I haven’t word-counted his pieces; I’m taking that word-count figure from other sources). If Mencken required only some 800 words per piece to get his points across and make his mark as a writer, less gifted writers (which I can say without fear of serious contradiction would include all who write for the blogosphere) can be permitted 1000-1500, rarely more. Any more is little more than gross self-indulgence which one ought to feel nothing but shame for inflicting on an innocent public.

And with that, I’ll step down from my soapbox — but not before leaving my fellow webloggers with two final sobering thoughts: The 1953 seminal article by James Watson and Francis Crick in the science journal Nature describing in detail the just-discovered structure of DNA and how that structure was derived was 900 words in length, and Lincoln’s dedicatory address at Gettysburg, all of 267.

If that doesn’t sober y’all up, nothing will.


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