Merecat’s recent posting on grammar mistakes on corporate signage reminded me to dig out this link:
“There’s a case to be made that the internet has actually helped improve the quality of writing in general,” said, well, we’ll call him “Topsy.” I leaned in close to see if any alcohol was present on Topsy’s breath. Detecting nothing beyond the usual halitosis, I surmised that he was being serious.
“Make the case,” I said.
Topsy’s line of reasoning, as best I could follow (for nothing is ever simple in Topsy’s world), is that the easy access and limitless nature of the web allow you to expose yourself to tons of writing, both good and bad. Presumably, the average educated swine will gravitate toward the good writing and, as a result, improve his own skills as he increases his knowledge. I expressed skepticism.
“Because our chief job in life is pattern recognition,” Topsy said, pressing his point, “and the chief job of the internet, through googling, is pattern recognition, what we do by living on the internet is discriminate between good and bad writing. Bad writing is, by its genes, something that doesn’t convey information, whether artful or factual.”
The author of the article remains skeptical for at least one good reason: people aren’t necessarily primarily attracted to good writing. Sure, horrifically bad writing is a turn-off, but merely okay writing is good enough for most. Furthermore Topsy’s argument seems more relevant to a certain kind of writing that communicates in a certain kind of clear, uninhibited way. This may only, however, represent a very small subset of all types of eloquence. I wonder if people will have patience for the next literary genius on the web?
But then the author of this article takes a turn in his argument that strikes me as fallacious:
A lot of people will tell you that blogging is merely journaling online. It is not. Blogging is not private, but very public. And very few blogs involve the kind of introspection that characterizes a serious journal. Most blogging is sheer exhibitionism, either the self-absorbed ramblings of an individual blogger or the corporate site that exists for the sole purpose of making money. (If anyone sees a disturbing parallel between blogging and column writing, kindly keep it to yourself.)
This doesn’t mean blogs have to be badly written. It just means that most are.
Yes, blogs often employ the kind of rambling typical of more introspective literature, but the author makes the point himself that blogs are different: they are public forums. And because of that, I think the author should acknowledge that some limited measure of Topsy’s argument comes into play here.
Can you tell that I’m thinking of ways to use blogging as a pedagogical tool for writing?
blog, writing, style