Category Archives: Writing Styles

The Issue of Text Speak

When I taught high school, I heard quite a few teachers say that texting is killing the English language.  They blame texting and emailing for the slow decline of proper writing and speaking skills.  “The kids write like they talk, and they write incorrectly.”  Funny thing is, the kids know what they’re saying to each other.  And this text speak shows no signs of slowing.

Everywhere I go, people are walking around texting. They text in line, they text while shopping, driving, dining out, and they even text while attending classes and meeting.  People are absolutely glued to their phones, and they are in a constant state of texting.  What’s interesting, though, is that the hurried nature of texting makes it difficult to pay attention to grammar, so what we get is a new sort of shorthand that makes texting more efficient.

Whenever I receive a text, an email, or a Facebook message, many of the messages are riddled with “LOLs” and “jks” and “how r us”.  It used to bother me, but now I find myself relenting and participating.  But that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of switching on the “proper” writing rules.

I’m not as much of a stickler as some of my colleagues.  I’ve been known to use a “2″ instead of a “to” or “two” on Twitter to make a sentence work, but that’s very rare. I feel the constant use of text speak is a sign of laziness, but also a sign of hurriedness.  We’re giving up accuracy for efficiency, which has ups and downs.



Blogging Purpose

As a blogger, I think one of the necessary discussions for digital writing is how to go about creating a meaningful blog. It seems a trend that people who think they should get into blogging assume their blog must be about themselves.  I myself started blogging as a sort of diary or journal merely for my own purposes.  But this brings up an interesting set of questions.  Do people really want read about my life, and if I’m going to write about myself, how do I do it in a way to engage readers?

There are a great many ideas worth blogging about. There are so many different kinds of blogs that blogging itself hardly has a definition.  At some point, a blogger must locate a theme, style, genre, or purpose and then write to the audience she wants to engage.  This is self-promotion, to some degree.  And when it comes to blog promotion, harnessing an understanding of your audience and knowing what the best blogs look like will help promote your blog.

Now, first of all, your blog must have a theme and recurring content of its own. Simply starting a blog account just so you can have arguments with people isn’t good blogging — it’s antisocial behavior and, frankly, a possible sign of a personality disorder. Negativity doesn’t translate well online. Then, what you need to do is a pick a theme that interests you, preferably one you’re fairly knowledgeable about already. Then work on providing good content in line with the suggestions provided by any reputable blogging advice site. Update regularly, frequently and with good material.

Honestly, the only way to grasp what is good material, you have to read. Read other blogs, preferably within your chosen theme, of course. Choose people whose work you agree with, some whose work you disagree with and, for flavor, a few people who are back and forth on your radar — neither just right nor entirely wrong all the time.

Reading will give you insight into what’s going on with your chosen topic. It’s the same as all types of writing — to be a good writer you must be a reader.  Being well read will give you more to say to your own readers, because you’ll be well-informed and up-to-date on all the hot topics. Also, it’s a good establishment of your ethos to participate in the commenter communities of these blogs, establishing a reputation for yourself as someone who provides insightful commentary and polite participation.

All the best blogs keep their readers coming back because they keep to their themes and they update material frequently.  Blogs left untouched for too long don’t maintain audiences.

For more tips on beginning blogging, check this article:


Active or Passive?

When writing teachers talk about “active v passive” we are really talking about verbs.  Active voice in writing places the subject of the sentence as doing the action, while passive voice places the subject as receiving the action.

For example:

Active : Bob feeds his cat.  Passive : The cat is fed by Bob.

English teachers like myself love to warn new writers against the evils of passive voice, although there are times when passive voice is warranted and times when it is not.  Verbs in the passive voice have “to be” verbs helping them.   A writer may choose to use the passive voice in order to emphasize one thing over another. In the second example, the cat (rather than Bob) becomes the most important component of the sentence.  This example simply reflects the importance of varying sentence structures in complex writing scenarios.

According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lag (OWL), “Active voice is used for most non-scientific writing. Using active voice for the majority of your sentences makes your meaning clear for readers, and keeps the sentences from becoming too complicated or wordy. Even in scientific writing, too much use of passive voice can cloud the meaning of your sentences.”  This simply means that every time you write, there is a distinct purpose and audience, and every sentence’s structure should be considered in the composition process.  After some practice, verb use and subject-object placement becomes essential to establishing the desired message.

My advice? Always consider the forum.  Are you writing news? Narrative? A report? Certain genres require certain styles of writing, and whenever you go to write something you haven’t before, make sure you look at examples and seek out writing guides.