The 10 "Webtext-ments"

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Kilian presents a colorful display of rules for writing webtext in Chapter 4. I found this chapter to be very understandable and to the point. I liked it a lot. It seemed to me like a list of the "10 Commandments" to follow in order to be an effective writer. However, I'm not sure that I totally agree with all of them.

1. Thou shalt activate the passive:
This I could understand. In most styles of writing, active is usually better than passive. Even though I don't know why passive makes you sound more professional?

2. Thou shalt choose concrete Anglo-Saxon Words:
This I'm a little more skeptical of. Who is to say that using an Anglo-Saxon word is better than a Greco-Latin word? And where is this dictionary to tell us which is which. In honesty, I'd rather use "people" (Latin) than "folks" (Anglo) anyday, whether writing online or in another form.

3. Thou shalt only use simple sentences:
Agreed. The less there is to think about, the easier to understand.

4. Thou shalt avoid cliches:
Please! I know, I've used them too. But cliches are such a turn-off to me now that I've been writing in college for four years. This was a great tip. We've got to be original and not rely on cliches to help us be creative. Maybe every once in a while, but only if the situation lends itself.

5. Thou shalt choose strong verbs over weak ones:
I agree with Kilian; there is nothing like choosing a strong verb over a weak one. I feel like this goes along with the rule of using simple sentences becuase the basic idea to make things less wordy and more to-the-point. In these examples it's a lot clearer for the reader if the unecessary words are cut out.

Decide instead of "Make a decision"
Use instead of "Make use of"

6. Thou shalt be aware of dialect variations:
Being from such a "dialectically distinct" place like southwest PA, I have to agree with this one. There must be NO use of "yins" or "youns." We've got use universal language in our webtext.

7. Thou shalt be precise:
I agree, and this one may be tricky. I think the key is to look over what you've written a couple days later. That's when you might catch something like using the word "weather" instead of "climate."

8. There shall be no use of extended metaphors:
I kind of have a problem with this one. Why not use extended metaphors? I mean I'm doing it right now in this blog entry with the "10 Commandments" theme. Maybe there's a good reason not to use them, but I don't feel like Kilian supplied it. Though it may be a little confusing for the reader who is just glancing at your site, I feel that it brings a level of creativity to your work that would make it more interesting and lively.

9, Thou shalt use clear antecedants:
This is a big one, and probably one of my pet-peeves. I hate when I don't know who "he" is or why "he" is doing what "he's" doing. Isn't that frustrating?

10. Thou shalt use proper grammar:
Of course! We always have to make sure our grammar makes it easy for our readers to follow along. Anything that distracts them, or makes them stop and re-read something gives them a better chance to click that back button right away.

So there you have it: the "10 Webtext-ments." Follow them and you will succeed.
Do you agree or disagree?

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4 Comments

I'm going to admit that I wasn't all that clear on the distinction between passive and past tense until I took newswriting last fall. (I never found out how I did on that "active versus passive" quiz). I understand the distinction between the three tenses, but I'm not all that clear on why passive sounds more profesional-I've just accepted it as a rule.

Cliches aren't creative-they're as stale as the smiley. Maybe in a few more generations, people will be able to use them anew. Can cliches be recycled?

Ah, the dialect issue. I admit I still use Jerseyspeak in conversation (youse guys), and still pronounce some words funny (water, coffee, dog, last). Dialect differences should remain in speech only-that is where they formed. I've had people from foregin countries comment on my blog (even though I don't know who they are...creepers). Can you imagine how hard it would be for a foreigner to read a blog not only in a different language, but one with intranslatable slang? I don't think freetranslation.com would accept "youse."

Andy, your extended metaphor is effective. Some, however, may be not. I think it's a pick-and-choose issue.

That was a good idea, using a parallel to the Ten Commandments.
To follow up what you said of cliches, I think that they give the sense that you tried to be creative, but settled on a phrase that has been drilled into your head a million times.
I also agree with you on the metaphors. I think it gives a whimsical aspect to a webpage, and holds the reader's attention better. The only downside to this is that it makes you look more like a comedian on a professional website, but who needs professional sites anyway.

This blog was well thought out or very well thrown together if that's how you approached it =] Congratulations.

My junior and senior English teacher was very adamant when she told us not to use cliches. I liked the point you made that we cannot rely on cliches to make our writing interesting. I still use cliches sometimes out of desperation or without even noticing. It's something I hope to eliminate.

Dani, you may be right. I think that some extended metaphors may be overdone or can make a site appear cheesy or beat-to-death.

The cliche issue always brings up a lot of discussion in classes I've had like writing of Poetry and Publication Workshop. Jed is right; cliches are a way for people to try to sound witty or interesting when in fact they make people sound "normal." Cliches take away from that "jolt" that Kilian was talking about, unless of course it really works. But in most cases, they are old and overdone and webwriters should try to steer clear of them.

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This page contains a single entry by Andy published on September 25, 2008 8:13 AM.

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