5 things I hate about online writing

1. List articles. Does everything have to be reduced to a shopping list? What happened to the narrative; the creation of ambience; the set-up; the logic of a well rounded argument? It’s easy in list articles to cover superficiality with a veneer of thoroughness because the list doesn’t require the use of balancing arguments , contrary evidence or logical conjunctions to stimulate the reader into making up their own mind.

2. Overuse of hyperlinks. In theory the hyperlink should be the condiment of the internet buffet – used sparingly it can enhance the reading experience by providing background, expansion or evidence in a way that the old dashes or parentheses never quite managed. In practice hyperlinks are often used for irrelevant self-promotion or to explain terms that shouldn’t need explaining, such as blog. After all, if you were writing offline you wouldn’t feel compelled to type: “I saw a dog (The domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris, is a subspecies of the gray wolf, Canis lupus, a member of the Canidae family of the mammalian order) today”. So as a rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t need to explain it offline, don’t hyperlink it online.

The constant interruptions of hyperlinks destroys the flow of the story and brings to mind the annoying Yellow Pages ad where the little man keeps jumping up and down shouting “look at me, look at me!”. And yes, that link is irony in action.

3. Inappropriate ads. Like this one which was awarded Mumbrella’s Unfortunate contextual ad buy of the day
Chicken ad

I know people have to make a living in the online world, but the driver for click through traffic and revenue shouldn’t be allowed to run roughshod over style.

4. Immediacy. The adage that “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish’n’chips wrapper” has become a quaint anachronism in our 24 hour news cycle, but the pressure to meet instant deadlines for ephemeral stories has created a slapdashery among writers whose focus is on posting not polishing. Of course if you are the webmaster, or have admin access, then the ability to tweak a rushed story can save a few red faces. Sometimes frequent updates of a breaking story can be an exciting process for both readers and writer, but often it is frustrating for both as “new” stories are created by cut and pasted with minimal fresh content.

5. That it’s so easy for anyone to publish their own stories. There! I’ve admitted it, my angst is probably motivated by jealousy and insecurity. The online world might have created a more interesting, democratic public sphere where anyone can write about anything they like and give themselves a byline, but it has also taken away much of the kudos of journalism.


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