The greatest crime in blogging isn’t bad writing. If it were, yikes! Many of us (me included!) would be locked up with the key thrown away. No, the greatest crimes in blogging are much more annoying and sometimes dangerous. Here are some offenses I’ve chronically seen (and unfortunately participated in)
1. TMI – too much information! There is a peculiar tension at play here. The best writers are those who are honest. As a spiritual writer, this is my bread and butter, channeling my inner angst in the hopes of connecting with those who can’t quite put words to their similar circumstances. Yet there is a line out there, crossing from honest expression to sharing publicly what belongs in private. And unfortunately, we usually only find it by stepping over it. Please remember, the blogosphere isn’t Vegas. What you write here doesn’t stay here. It goes out there forever! So if you are tempted to share how much you drank, details of your last sexual dalliance, your divorce, job loss, bodily functions, details of someone else’s issue or the depths of your anger or pain, please remember, we are all sitting right here. So is your future employer. Since you can’t take it back once you put it out there, be sure you will be ok with it when you come to your senses next week or next year.
2. Going On and On And On – This one is related to tmi. There are some bloggers who have no restraint and no discipline when writing. When they go to tell a story, my goodness…the agonizing detail…the endless play by play…the mind-numbing, endurance-testing numbers of words…I recognize that as many writers as there are, there are twice as many writing styles out there. Some folks may need lots of words speak their hearts and truth. If your writing forms are longer, by all means, knock yourself out. I’m not telling anyone how to write. However, I heard a public speaking teacher say once, “If you can’t say it in 20 minutes, go away and write a book.” I would suggest that blogging follows similar rules. Ours is a brief medium. And the reality of modern reading is that it is done with lots of skimming. (This is why I write in series – to allow enough space to cover my thoughts, but to package it in accessible bites.) I would suggest that as you write, ask yourself, “Is there a way to edit this down?” The longer your writing, the less people are willing to invest time in following you.
3. Destroying without building – One of the chief criticisms of the blogosphere is that it is a bunch of crybabies who criticize just about everything out there, without taking the chance of doing anything potentially criticize-worthy themselves. Unfortunately, this is a well-earned reputation. There are indeed writers whose primary mission is to tear down others work. I recognize that many blogs offer reviews of something. Others specialize in critical analysis and constructive criticism. There is most definitely a place for people to offer their personal opinions – this is the blogosphere. It all goes. But I think you know this line I am talking about and most of us recognize it when it is crossed. When someone’s rants are nothing more than the literary equivalent of someone putting on a striped shirt and blowing a whistle like a referee, when no one asked them to take on the role. Sure, we need referees to keep things in line, but the athletes who actually play should get the glory. These types of blogs might get a visit from me once. And rarely again. It is why I have chosen with my blog to be a builder – a creator of ideas, content, words – and not a destroyer.
4. Writing Like You Talk – I know in a previous entry in this series I said that I think some great writers manage to write exactly like they talk. Let me clarify… Writing with a recognizable style that mimics spoken rhythms is great – and very fun to read. (See The Very Worst Missionary, link on the right, for a classic example.) Writing with ,”Um…yeah…so…you know what I mean?…Dude…” or lazy grammar, haphazard sentence construction or thought progression…please…You can cover many mistakes when speaking with someone face to face through enthusiasm, emotion, facial expressions, hand motions, eye contact, tonal intent and emphasis, body contact, trying again and again in different ways to make your point, etc. None of those are available through the written medium. You get one shot to state or to mis-state what you mean. Writers should learn to be precise and tighten up the edges. Dude, well, it may seem sort of cool and all, to, you know, write kind of sort of like you were sitting in the same room with me and all… know what I mean? But really, the rest of us sort of, you know, have a hard time taking you seriously when you do that.
5. Not Blogging At All – Pr. 22:13 states, “The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!”
This describes what I think is the greatest crime in blogging. The verse says that lazy people give excuses for why they don’t get out and do something. “I can’t start a blog! What if no one reads? What if it isn’t very good? I don’t really know how to do this. A lion might eat me!” I feel most sorry for those people who think they might want to blog, who might want to create a body of work… and instead listen to voices of fear, or get too busy piddling away their time – consuming rather than creating something. I know I am repeating myself here, but the greatest crime in blogging isn’t tmi, going on and on, writing poorly or begin too critical. (People can learn to correct all of these things.) The greatest crime is in not attempting at all something you are capable of.
So if you are thinking about blogging – get out there and do it! The rest of us await your contribution!!!