Friday, April 1, 2011

Writing Styles

I have a historically wired brain. I am always thinking about where words derive from, the historical context of nursery rhymes, how cities evolved, or the course a gadget or business has taken to be what it is today. Lately I think about words and phrases we use everday and their roots. I love that EVERYTHING has a historical context. If you knew the history behind "ring-around-the-rosies" you would never sing it again with a smile on your face!! Maybe it is better that you don't know. My mind goes and goes and goes all day long.

Usually something triggers my train of thoughts. This particular one was triggered by my sweet little brother.

My little brother is serving a mission in Argentina and wrote an email that was passed on to the other siblings. My dad headed the forward with something to the effect of "I suppose this is texting format." He was right, it was. There was only one period in the entire paragraph. I almost passed out reading it because there was no pause in the writing to breath! Unfortunately, he is a victim to being raised in the texting generation. Fortunately he is a good kid and serving the Lord on a mission and will continue his college education when he returns to hopefully improve those writing skills!

That email triggered a series of thoughts. I started thinking about the evolution of correspondence in written form and different writing styles. We have advanced from telegraphs delivered by the Pony Express to ground mail and air mail to instant emails and to twitters.

Many different writing styles have emerged as of late. It is almost comical.

I have written two books (well I consider them books -- 25 page paper. That is enough to consider it a book for me! I digress, they really aren't books.) and 20-30 10-15 page papers. My "books" are entitled, "An Intellectual Pilgrimage: The Civil Rights Movement and the Underlying Impact of Education." and my favorite of the two, "Preparations of Nonviolence: Training, Organization, and Discipline." Didn't know that about me did you!

Moving on, I was trained in a style of historical research and writing. A degree in history is not about facts and dates it is all about writing about facts and dates. Understanding people and cultures and governments and choices they make and why they make them and what brought about different events in history and how we can learn from them.

So, my trained style of writing is normal paragraphs with limited commas (people WAY over use commas). Paragraphs begin with a topic sentence and stick to that topic sentence. New topics merit a new paragraph. This writing includes varying lengths of sentences to create a nice rhythm. Sentences never begin with "So" (see first sentence in this paragraph.) And the entire paper is organized around a thesis statement with everything tying back to that point.

Then I graduated college and sometime later was asked to edit a newspaper. The newspaper style of writing is far from how I was raised. And although I grew up around newspapers and we still get the newspaper because D loves to hold news in his hands rather than resort to the internet (old timers not interested in saving the planet by ending our newspaper subscription) it drove me nuts!!

One line paragraphs and WAAAAAYYY too many commas switching up subjects and predicates to make things sound more interesting (my professors drilled that habit out of me). Flowery words galore. In high school I loved adding lots of adjectives to my papers in an attempt to stretch a small amount material into the required number of pages. Big no-no. But newspaper writers love this.

Then there are bloggers, like myself. Blogging is a form all on its own. I write on the blog the way I think, Which can be scattered. I interject parenthesis for thoughts on my thoughts (that sounds cool (see here I go again)). I formulate and edit my research papers into sense, blogging on the other hand is like brain vomit. Lots of single line statements. Blogging some how gives the liberty to write words with periods after them claiming to be sentences. Improper sentence structure, etc (please tell me you saw what I just did there.) I notice different trends through blogging style writing. The trends usually follow the latest phrases in our vocabulary, lately I have noticed, "Run don't walk," "I'm just sayin'," etc.

THEN there is text. Which is the saddest form of writing there is. It really is not a form of writing, but has become so. Thx LOL TTYL 2day 2u 4u2b b/c. Which is all great for texting on a little phone, but unfortunately is translating into our everyday speech and writing skills.

I am sure Twitter and Facebook could be added to this list in some fashion, but I don't know those two well enough to make a judgement.

Just a light hearted observation.


SarahLynn said...

I have noticed this a lot lately too. I have never been much for the text speech it gets really confusing really quick for me. I have a Facebook friend that only does text language for her status updates and I don't usually understand them. I remember that I went several years of thinking that brb was short for someone burping (I know silly really). I think the text and e-mail language got beat out of me by one of my professors, he said that he and most of his fellow professors would simply delete anything that didn't actually use words, capitalization or punctuation. He said that it only took writing e-mails using bad English to make habits of bad writing for the rest of your life, and I strongly believe that.

Danielle said...

K, I'm not a history major, but I share your frustration with nonsense writing. And lack of order. And lack of correct spelling and grammar.

I was raised by a mother who LOVES commas and I've been working to break myself of them.

The texting thing really makes me sad. If my kids ever EVER start writing the way they text, I'll take their phones away.

p.s. I just got home from my mission reunion and it's late, but I got on to see who had updated their blogs. Among 6-8 updated posts, yours is the only one I chose to read. You're that good =0) I love you, and your thoughts, and your writing, and your mothering, and your ideas, and your humor, and your....and your...and your......


whit939watts said...

tiff, i love this -- because i somewhat love writing and understand what you're saying. i was trained my whole life to write like your first example, but then i became a journalism major and now have AP style (news-writing) in my brain. luckily, i sometimes don't get too confused on what kind of article i'm working on (or so i hope).
and i like to not capitalize when i don't have to - obviously!
hope you're having a good day!