Trolls aren’t just those abject creatures lurking in the lowest and murkiest levels of social media, they are also those intangible elements, such as fear, uncertainty and doubt, that haunt and taunt you into aborting a venture you so dearly want to bring to life, making you think it’ll be more of a Mini-Frankenstein than a Mini-Me… fear of mockery, uncertainty of your worth, doubt about getting that message across, the one that seemed so clear in your head a few minutes ago.
Still there? Super, because that, in 83 words and 479 characters, was an example of a proverbial long sentence, something you don’t find too much today in the fast paced, lowbrow, short attention span orientated communications we usually get served. Communications have to be short, to the point, above-the-fold, bullet listed and in-your-face if they’re to catch a reader’s interest and don’t bother about Anaphora and her sisters Anadiplosis, Polysyndeton and Hypophora, whoever they may be.
But don’t lose faith because, to paraphrase and abuse of that already much abused quote from Mark Twain, “The reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.” There are still writers who believe that in order to write Buzzfeed-style you first need to master the art of literary writing, writers who still present their work to a publisher knowing there’s a 99,95% chance of it being rejected, writers who strive to do better and are able to harmonize grammatical accuracy with flair and imagination. And the average blogger in all this? It’s important to understand that while grammatical rules can be bent, it’s best to master them first after which, and only then, you can warp them to your heart’s content, write like a little green Jedi and still be credible.
Cudgeling word processing into the 21st century
Continuing on the subject of writing for hard print publishing, purists claim that the best works are produced on an old-fashioned typewriter because it forces perfection. If you have never typed on Remington (my parents had one) you will never have known the joys of ripping out a sheet of paper for one small typo and having to start all over again. Word processing changed all that by removing, not only the need for paper notebooks full of penciled notes but also the mental effort of having to do it right or do it again. Perhaps I am thankful for the evolution. It may look romantic watching a writer in some movie typing away at his or her next bestseller but the image doesn’t always bring across the toil and trouble word processing has taken out of writing.
When IBM first came up with the maxim “Machines should work. People should think” they were responding to a growing business need of the time: Replace physical paperwork with an electronic alternative and when word processing went mainstream in the 1970s little thought was given as to how word processing would shape up 40 years on. Fast forward to today and a new, perhaps foreseeable debate is forming: If typewriting was to be eclipsed by word processing, then what next for word processing*? If typewriters were associated with ribbons and blue carbon paper, then word processing as we know it today, is undoubtedly linked to printers. So the question is, can word processing adapt to modern-day cross-device writing requirements, i.e. for the Web and mobile devices, or, if not, will it get substituted, like the typewriter, by cross-platform technologies such as the deep learning startup Anyline?
* One idea for a next step could be to make the word processing tools talk to each other and to other platforms. This post was written using MS Word but it needed reworking once in my blog site (WordPress), same thing if I transfer it to OpenOffice or Polaris.
Murder, he wrote
I was going to call this post something like “The precipitous extinction of the long sentence in writing” but those who know better suggested it would kill the post stone dead before it even got read. It seems a title like that doesn’t quite, and I quote, “trigger a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand” and that if it got the reader nodding his or her head it would be from weariness rather than interest. In other words, the title has to light a fire, preferably in the reader’s brain, as should the sub headline, then hit the reader with all you’ve got. Wordsmithing is an art but writing can also be fun so if you ever feel the troll in you taking control a) read through someone else’s blog to see how they’re doing and take a leaf out of their book and b) take advice from sympathetic professionals.
Acknowledgements to the following, among others, for inspiration and a lot of research material: