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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Repost: Thoid Poison

"Saying 'you' is too personal."
"Using 'you' is bad journalism."
"Avoid using 'I.'"

Really? The reader and the writer -- the two most important people in any writing endeavor -- have to be these glossed-over, invisible, faceless entities? They exist, but they have no features beyond that, and we must try to ignore them?


These admonitions to never mention the writer or the reader, I might mention, tend to come from the same people who are loath to endorse a book of five hundred pages if so much as one sentence is written in the passive voice. They leave no choice but for the writing to be its own little self-contained world, with no connection to either the reader or writer.


It is more important that we produce "proper" writing (as defined by some arcane and arbitrary set of nonsensical rules, illogical exceptions to them, and shortsighted fools who will lop off your head if you choose to ignore one of either rather than compromise clarity) than for it to be readable, comprehensible, and enjoyable to its readers -- or, heaven forbid, find some new way of expression. Yes, expression, that thing none of us do because people would rather harp on the technicalities of writing than glance once at its substance and message." - Full page here.

Reminds me of my school days and the stress over "formal writing." My writing felt most soulless back then, yet I'm sure I would get better grades with the old style rather than my current one.

I've seen profound points scoffed at due to grammatical errors, and prosaic writing praised solely for checking off every requirement. It's typical of our over-schooled era, where arguing over technicalities is more important than focusing on the message at hand.

Considering how unbiased journalism is arguably impossible, maybe it would do some good to intentionally make things personal for readers. Saying "people continue to support school as youth depression rises" isn't the same as "I am a child depressed in the schools you continue to support."

Of course, most wouldn't care either way, I'm sure. They'd just tell me to quit getting personal with them, then they'll go into some long rationalities fueled by cognitive dissonance. That's the real reason why journalism favors neutrality: you can't market off both sides when you only pick one and offend the other.*

*Noticed how I used "you" in that sentence? Was it too personal?

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