How (not) to be Ignored on the Internet

Did you know you’re just one of hundreds of millions worldwide who read and comment on the 133 million English language blogs currently being tracked by Technocrati?

While those figures mean there is a huge audience for your opinion, they also mean the competition for that audience is fierce. If you want your thoughts to be read, and – just as important – understood, why not give yourself every chance?

Jesse Hines has some useful tips:

“Whenever you write anything, you have a desired message to communicate to a desired audience, whether it’s writing an ad to persuade a customer to buy your product or writing a recipe so that others can make and enjoy your best dish.

Your goal, then, is to inform your audience, not to impress them. What does it matter if they love the words you use but don’t act on the message those words are intended to convey? That’s all you want–to get your message across as clearly and persuasively as possible. Anything that hinders your goal should be eliminated. Thus, you should just say no to the following three enemies of clear and direct writing: Metadiscourse, redundancy and pretentious words.” (The whole article is worth reading.)

This kind of advice is not new, but, since the explosion of blogs and other social media, clear writing has become relevant to a new class of recreational writer. George Orwell wrote on the topic in 1946, summarizing his thoughts in the following six rules:

1.      Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2.      Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3.      If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4.      Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5.      Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6.     Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Chrissie Maher OBE ‘launched Plain English Campaign in 1979 by shredding hundreds of government forms in Parliament Square , London .’ The Campaign’s website is currently displaying their ‘Gobbledygook of the week’ – an example of the kind of writing we should all avoid if we don’t want our thoughts to be skimmed over or ignored:

By aggregating a range of public and commercial datasets, including global addressing and Directory Enquiries, voter databases, commercial data and documentation including dates of birth, and voice-based verification solutions, 192.com Business Services delivers the most comprehensive global online ID verification solution available.”

Here’s something to try next time you write on a blog: See just how few words can you use to clearly express your point. Who knows – it might be a fun mental exercise and improve your writing.

Here’s a quote (author unknown) to leave you with: ‘Why say something in 300 words when you can say it in three?’

Tony of South Yarra

 

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46 Responses

  1. Tony,

    I find myself in complete agreement.

    Which is why I regularly use terms such as “that’s just f**ked” or you’re talking through “a hole in your arse.”

    Why use more words than is necessary to convey a point?

    I find this particularly relevant to the elderly, who expect to be treated like royalty.

    You know the type.

    Sometimes they just need to be reminded that they’re dinosaurs and that they ought to just “f**k off”

  2. 7. Make sure your topic will not be double posted or not be unnecessarily long in that it requires more than a single standard browser page scroll.

    —————-
    To some extent I agree but if everyone followed those guidelines verbatim the whole blogosphere would be populated by automatons. What makes the blogosphere so great is the large variety of styles that abound, which gives each topic, blogger and poster a personality. Follow the above and the personality would be greatly reduced and the whole would become duller because of it.

  3. 8. Do not attack the messenger…doing such is a debit on the credibility scale.

    Gee, I will continue to write the way I do…it might not be the pearl of eloquence but I seem to get the message across…this is what blogging is about?

  4. Cool post Tony, I’ll read the links thoroughly when I’m able.

    You are, of course, correct….& I am, of course, often guilty of using too many words.
    However… I often type in haste, it’s not meant to be a binding document. I’m not interested in anything but gratifying my selfexpression in this instance (& maybe learning a little at the same time) & am not too concerned if I’m “skimmed over”.
    At the end of the day I don’t feel as though I’m being marked & I see this as a fairly relaxed (trustworthy, if biased) forum for sharing opinions & knowledge.

    I take your point though, concise is best for conveying your message.

    con⋅cise   /kənˈsaɪs/ [kuhn-sahys]
    –adjective expressing or covering much in few words; brief in form but comprehensive in scope; succinct

  5. And dont be an idiot….or try hard at being funny.

    I have nothing to fear. i dont feel guilty of these things…….. (runs!)

  6. And certainly never use little homilies as per Min.

  7. This wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular *winks* and, while these tips will be harder for some to apply than others, recreational writers like us should be prepared to at least give some of these tips a try. After all, who could say George Orwell doesn’t know a bit about writing and the English language?

    (Joni or Reb, the heading seems to have unspelled itself: “Igonored”?)

    P.S. I meant to include this quote as well:

    “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.”
    — George Bernard Shaw

  8. One of the most difficult things I did was criminal law where lecturer David Heilpurn had a strict word limit. This often mean redoing the whole thing to cut out the is’es and thats’es just to make the word limit.

  9. There are two forms of blogging as I see it…the news sites such as Andrew Bolt or say Jack the Insider…which gains more hits in a day than this one in a year.

    Then there are those like Possum and Bill Bowe and this place and many others where the exposure does not draw inane comments as frequently.

    Imagine in there was no moderation on the MSM blogs?

    That would be a pretty awful read I reckon.

  10. A great majority of Bolt’s hits are just inane bloggers blindly agreeing with the article he posted without bothering to really look into the content or the facts of the post, the rest are just free kicks against the left, for the right or a combo thereof. Lucid and meaningful posts for any side or down the middle that convey anything of importance are very few and far between.

  11. Oh and I’ll add (just to be verbose and add lots more unnecessary words) that to exponentially shoot up Bolt’s, Ackerman,s, Blair’s etc. hits in one go just praise something the government does or criticise something the previous government did.

  12. Okay that’s enough, lets move on to another topic (wink)

  13. Adrian, I would have to agree up to a point concerning Bolt’s site…I read some that I’m interesting in and find a wealth of general information on his Forum threads.

    I utilise it to get the message out there with impunity and it has delivered.

    Jack’s site is more to my liking…he gives no quarter to any ideology and his contributors are a great bunch of guys, just like this place.

    George over at Meganomics is a very good read in my opinion.

  14. “Lucid and meaningful posts for any side or down the middle that convey anything of importance are very few and far between.”Adrian

    Ain’t that the truth! I give kudos to the brave, lucid few who raise legitimate counterpoints to Boltmaster. I think that alternate views expressed on this site are granted a little less rabid a reaction as found in the MSM (Jack The Insider notwithstanding). I don’t detect much inanity in most of the verbosity on offer here; a relative observation I suppose.

  15. Tony

    By the way good first effort. Damn the amount of discipline required to get a point across scares the shit out of me (Lol).

    ‘Keep it short’ I wonder what that means?

  16. Scaper knows I frequented Andrew Bolt’s site after Tim pulled the shutter down – that’s where he dragged me back from – but I just didn’t ‘feel it’. That’s not a criticism of Bolt, his site, or his commenters. It’s just a hell of a lot more stimulating when most people don’t necessarily agree with you. There are plenty of ‘echo chambers’ on the left as well: Deltoid is just one that springs to mind.

    To those of you who haven’t tried it, do yourselves a favour: Go to a blog where you know the prevailing philosophy is the direct opposite to yours, and state your case. Not only does it clarify your opinions and hone your arguments – it is intellectually stimulating; even exhilarating at times.

    (I’m sorry. Was I being unnecessarily verbose? 🙂 )

  17. Thanks J Mc.

    (My second effort actually; the first one obviously left you suitably unimpressed. 😉 )

  18. Besuccinctbriefcrispcurt.

  19. I contribute sometimes to a site that imposes a 500-character limit. That really makes you choose each word with discipline, honing your point sharply. No room for any fluff!

  20. Adrian: Not curt, courteously concise.

  21. Sorry Tony, curt was the shortest word I could think of for succinct or concise, you’re still being too verbose.

  22. LOL. Fair enough Adrian.

    The Key to Writing Concisely

  23. I see my pal, Classified has reared his lovely head over at Jack’s…as I linked this thread to Jack’s I will expect his presence here shortly.

    A prime example of the downside of blogging…I wonder who’s IP he will use this time???

  24. Some good stuff in the comments of that link Tony (and funny as well). This one makes one of my points;

    I enjoy Flaubert, who would go into long, detailed accounts that really didn’t bear on his main plot. Concise? No. Enjoyable? Yes.

    I conceptualize if you assimilated the concise acculturation too intimately much personality and style would be lost.

  25. I’m sure Jesse Hines was driven to give us a few tips on writing after reading Uncle Phil over at The Oz. It matters not if Uncle Phil is being prolix or if he is in his reticent mode, his blatherings fail to inform.

  26. Adrian,

    I conceptualize if you assimilated the concise acculturation too intimately much personality and style would be lost.

    Noice!

    The reference to William Strunk Jr who wrote The Elements of Style in 1918 got my attention:

    Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

    That’s the last comment from me on this today, otherwise reb will charge me with ‘labouring the point’. 😉

  27. arggghhh! anybody else having browser problems tonight? My man say’s goolgle or FF is best but I keep getting weirdo formating whenever I look at my wowmail etc. even happened when I came here. I tried FF but had the same probs— anybody having similer probs?

    works fine for SMH but not the “whats on” section. any idea’s????

  28. Reb

    “I find this particularly relevant to the elderly, who expect to be treated like royalty.

    You know the type.

    Sometimes they just need to be reminded that they’re dinosaurs and that they ought to just “f**k off””

    I agree! Anyone over thirty has nothing to offer. Everyone should be a Corey Worthington. Lol.

    Any other mindless generalisations on offer?

  29. Tony@17 I’ll argue poor memory – you’ve always got something interesting to contribute. Keep it up. We’ve got a good thing happening with contributions.

  30. Tony,

    Thanks for all the links. Pretty cool that some of my stuff helped generate a good conversation over here.

    And of course, I agree with your strong post.

  31. “Any other mindless generalisations on offer?”

    Given time, I could think of lots…

    “all dole bludgers whould be shot (or at least made to do compulsory military service or something)”

    “all non-anglos who live in Australia should be sent back to where they came from”

    “the Cronulla riots never happened and were a media frabrication just like the holocaust”

    Help me! I’m turning into Saved / Pilgrim……!!!!!

  32. 300 😉

  33. How about in parts A-D!

  34. What about how EVERYONE languishing at Gitmo are all terrorists.

    Surprisingly a reasonable assessment at The Oz at: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24866330-7583,00.html. Quote: This is ridiculous. The US rounded up these men too casually, failing in the heat of battle to distinguish fighters from bystanders, including those turned in for bounty by their compatriots.

    Should the US be ‘left to clean up it’s own mess’. I’m not sure that I trust them to do so. Plus we, the Australian public were complicit in allowing Gitmo to continue via our failure to protect our own citizens and to lodge any protests viz indefinite detention and the use of torture. We therefore have some responsibility in this matter too.

  35. Min

    In some respects (on taking the Gitmo detainees) I agree that we should shoulder some of the responsibility, but in reality I think the old maxim “All breakages must be paid for”.

    Actually – I think that each of the detainees deserves their day in court to challenge the evidence that was used to detain them, and if that evidence is tainted (by torture) or is non-existent then they should be released with the apologies of the court.

    Either they are POW’s (where they fall under the Geneva conventions) or they are terrorists (criminals who should be treated as such).

  36. Legion at 33

    Your shortest comment ever.

    *applause*

  37. How about in parts A-D!

    Not so short. ;-(

  38. joni.. I am very sceptical that with the exception of very few, that any of the detainees can be convicted of anything. The word that is especially important re habeas corpus is ‘timely’.

    There is an obvious reason for this, the trail runs cold, witnesses are no longer available, evidence disappears, memories are iffy or influenced by external forces.

    And as you note, confessions tainted by illegal methods are non admissible, hence there is no day in court unless you want to change the rules of the court.

    As often stated the detainees of Gitmo could not have been treated as POWs because then they would have come under the Geneva Convention viz torture. And the Americans felt it necessary to use illegal interrogation methods.

    And then, you have the situation of treating terrorists as criminals (which in my opinion they should be)..but then you have habeas corpus and problems with interrogation techniques/timely access to the court/access to a lawyer.

    I believe that the US wanting to fob these people onto other countries is recognition that the US well and truly stuffed it up.

    How many are terrorists? How many were innocent bystanders? We’ll never know due to the above complete stuff up by the US of A.

  39. 39. Min

    This smacks of a partial rehash of the Sri Lankans for ‘Cubans’ deal from last year: Refugee swap to bring Cubans to Australia. It’s being recycled ‘news’ makes me suspect that we’ll be doing it.

  40. Oops, year before last year now that it’s 2009…trigger date appears to be April, 2009.

  41. Hello Legion. I, and I suspect most Australians had almost forgotten about that one.

    Quote (from Legion’s link) ASYLUM-SEEKERS detained on Nauru will be resettled in the US – and Cuban refugees held at Guantanamo Bay brought to Australia – under a “refugee exchange” program unveiled by the Howard Government.

    Just a thought..but who on earth were/are ‘Cuban refugees held at Guantanamo Bay’..

    Umm, trying to sneak detainees under the guise of ‘refugees’ from Cuba held at Gitmo???

    I must admit that this one went completely over the top at the time as I was thinking more about the ‘exchange’ of refugees scenario rather than who the refugees from Cuba might be.

  42. Min, from Legion’s link:

    Every year, the US intercepts thousands of Cuban “rafters” or “balseros” – asylum-seekers fleeing the rule of Fidel Castro by sea on their wooden “balsas” – who are then detained at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

    About 150 Cubans are currently held in Guantanamo Bay. Cuban immigration is a vexed issue for the US as it faces increasing pressure amongst the large Cuban-Latino population in states such as Florida for a relaxation in Cuban immigration. However, foreign policy experts say Washington is constrained from doing this because it would create a flood of refugees.

  43. So that’s it..just a few Cubans claiming refugee status.

    Why doesn’t the US recognise those fleeing the Castro administration as genuine refugees? And why are they detained indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay?

  44. Just a last note as I have promised hubby Sweet & Sour Pork for din-dins. Re topic How to be ignored on the Internet. Just call yourself Min..traaa daa.

  45. 43. Tony of South Yarra

    I took at as testing of the waters at the time to gauge the Australian public’s reaction, and concluded that this bit evidenced that the UKUSA Group intelligence community was in attendance, obscured under ‘and officials’, to push through their intelligence sharing MOU on ‘war criminals’…

    Four Countries Conference” – a meeting of Australian, Canadian, US and British immigration ministers and officials.

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