A Slice of Fried Gold


Sunday, July 20, 2008

I am not a great writer.

By no means, am I one.

However, I feel as if I'm the type of person who can recognize high quality writing and moreso, I feel as if I can identify very low quality writing. In my mind, you can treat an average sentence like a mathematical equation. Each word has an intrinsic value based off of two different things: quality of word and quality of fit. When I say quality of fit, I mean "how well does this word fit into the sentence?"

I think the latter quality is even more important than the former, as any person can grab a thesaurus and use large and stuffy sounding words to sound smart, but a person's ability to properly place the correct one makes them sound intelligent. If you don't place the word correctly the sentence is going to be worth less than the sum of its parts. That's where writing goes from good to bad, and that is where you lose readers.

It's ironic really. In a desperate ploy to pass themselves off as writers with high IQ's, the average writer will toss out scrabble worthy words right and left and hope that they stick. This just leads them to sounding fake and like they are trying too hard. It ends up being incredibly frustrating to read and quite often very laughable, and it causes a person to openly wonder "why there is no self-editing in the world today?"

I spent most of my day reading and even though what I read had no issues of this sort (I started rereading Watchmen and Alan Moore isn't exactly the type of guy who does that), I did have other examples that led to this thought process. Blogs are a primary source for this as they are the DIY flagship for aspiring writers these days. Even sources like the Anchorage Daily News and the stellar articles they run these days reek of what I'm speaking of and even more often a complete lack of all things resembling common sense.

There is a commonly said acronym that fits in all facets of life, but it is frustratingly ignored in the world of writing. KISS: keep it simple stupid. Why write with horribly overdramatic flair and maddeningly poor sentence structure by choice, when you could put your thoughts into concise and logical sentences that are pleasing to both you as a writer and your readers. Is that so much to ask really?

Of course, this is all coming from someone who just rambled for five paragraphs needlessly, so make sure you take what I say with a grain of salt. I at least have my fall back argument of "I just woke up from a nap so my brain isn't operating at 100%" to use. What's your excuse?


Troy Olson said...

This spoke to me, since I have the problem of rambling on and on when I write, becoming more and more incoherent as I go -- a slightly different problem than the one you speak of, but one that has a similar solution...don't immediately hit the "publish" button.

The only thing that ever holds me back from my writing tics is copious amounts of rereading and redrafting what I just wrote down. It doesn't always do the trick, in my case, but I think most people don't even take that first step and edit what they write or have someone read it for them and tell them that it's impenetrable or stupid.

David Harper said...

They really don't. Also, I just want to point out that this post had inadvertent irony, as it was pretty damn terribly written. I was crazy tired when I wrote it.

I think the whole blogging phenomenon definitely gives people the license to post without caring whatsoever about sounding intelligent. It's not that you need to sound like some sort of insufferable know-it-all and you definitely should write with personal flair, but some people go too far and ignore proper english.

Even worse, they ignore logic while writing and sentences come out making very, very little sense.

That tends to bother me quite a bit.

Erik said...

I think you're pushing things a little too far. Since when has the internet been about grammar and good writing? I enjoy my frequent visits to incoherent message boards! There is a time and a place for what you speak of, but I don't think most bloggers would agree that their blogs are it, or are even trying to be it.

Genmay is a perfect example. Some posts are articulate while others read like they were written by a 8 year old. Yet both can be equally entertaining. Then if you go this far you can't ignore internet slang. Where does this fit in? I agree with your original post within the confines of real publications, but not the "public" internet.

sheri said...

"erik is a looser"

See.. isn't that annoying to read?

Anyway, I must say I totally agree with David here. I get severely irritated when I read writing with terrible grammar, bad spelling/typos, or excessive "internet speak". Not to say I'm perfect (I'm totally not), but some basic rules need to be adhered to.

And regarding the comparison to forums/messageboards -- they are a completely different medium from blogs. This stuff still bothers me there (which is probably why I don't frequent forums), but it seems slightly more reasonable. It's like the difference between a note passed in class and a letter mailed to a friend.

(end rambly post that was not proof read)

c u l8er.

David Harper said...


And you're stupid and most certainly not right.

3r!k said...

I like the fact people can post whatever they want and sound as stupid or as smart as they want to! You guys are blog elitists! @lert teh intarweb p0lic3!

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