I’ve started this little experiment of a blog called “The Bad Writing Blog”, a blog dedicated to what I think is a unique view of good business writing. Check it out at thebadwritingblog.wordpress.com. Here is today’s post:
I’ve noticed a trend in how I react to certain media habits. For example:
- I hated the old Jay Leno Tonight Show bit “Jaywalking”. Why? The idea — find ignorant people, ask them questions and make fun of them — was, at its core, simply mean. It’s funny because…why? They are stupid and I am not?
- Certain NPR programs, particularly On the Media and Marketplace, deliver news and comment with a kind of smug, cringe-worthy, in-the-know condescension. For an example, try Bob Garfield’s On the Media interview with Barry Levine of the National Enquirer. Listen for yourself. I can’t describe it any better than commenter Thomas Sizgorich on the show page: “The tone taken by Bob Garfield in this interview with Barry Levine was, as one other poster has noted in brief, condescending, arrogant and even by the standards of a graceless profession, rude.”
- Any use of the phrases “as everyone knows”, “we all know”, or “unless you’ve been living on Jupiter for the past three months, you know…”, or their ilk. In a media environment that combines micro-communities of interest with search-based accessibility of any post and any article to anyone, there is little that ‘everyone knows’.I do not suggest that we write only for the widest audience…quite the opposite. But as a writer, what are you adding with this tired trope? If I, the reader did “know”, like everyone else, what does it add to tell me that I know? Why not just get on to whatever you’re going to add to the story? And if I, the reader, did not “know”, you’ve made me feel foolish.
Let’s call this Principle #4: Don’t be a snob. Let us use language that treats our audiences as trusted, intelligent confidantes and colleagues. Let us drop tired, word-wasting habits that insult even our own readers.