Readers or scanners ?

I came across a Tweet yesterday that said something like “how to increase your blog traffic by 8 times” so, as a blogger always interested in increasing my readership, I duly followed the link and found a neat article about the approach to modern blogging that frankly worried me so much I thought that I had to put metaphorical pen to paper or in reality start hitting the keyboard of my laptop in anger!

Now, if I were to have followed the rules of the article I have just lost you from reading down to this second paragraph. Why? Because the rule is a snappy title (sort of did that.. I think) preferably with a number in it…. “5 Ways That We Are Selling Good Writing Down the River If We Teach Blogwrite!” (Didn’t do that.. sorry).

I have to have short snappy paragraphs and I should work out the sub-titles first. Why? Because the modern blog “reader” is actually a scanner (thanks for “scanning this far down) they don’t want a carefully argued discussion.. they want:

  • Bold pithy titles
  • Bullet points
  • Short sentences
  • To  know the conclusion first
  • To have as many diagrams or pictures as possible
  • To have a piece that they can scan and not have to READ!!!

Now I don’t know about you but when I look at other people’s blogs I actually want to read an article. In a previous post I referred to a wonderful piece of writing (that, by the way, would be my nomination for blog-post of the year if I were to be involved with the current round of nominations and awards) called “I Need You” by Sarah Edson from her excellent Blog “Learning Off The Beaten Path”. This is a beautiful, personal piece of writing in which she tells how her mother, lying very ill and unable to communicate except for sign language that she had taught her children as a communication skill when they were young, needed her at that moment in her life and how she was using her mother’s legacy of communication, love and understanding to try and help her students who also (in a different way) “needed her”.

Now this piece was not bullet pointed, there were no bits in bold and she didn’t end by telling us her conclusion. It was a joy to read from beginning to end and it is the type of blog post that I personally find inspiring.

My point from all of this is the dangers that I see in promoting  this “Blogwrite” as a technique to be taught and learned from. What does it say about the reading stamina of the modern student? What does it say about our future as humans in having the chance to enjoy a piece of writing that uses words in a beautiful, moving way as the great authors of books have always used them.

I have been saying to anyone who will listen that it is posts such as Sarah’s that convince me that great writing is not dead or dying and that the people who fear that the demise of books will lead to an age of robotic list-like writing are wrong. Well the article I read yesterday made me re-think my position. Maybe we need to take stock and consider the situation. What do we want to see and read in the future? What do we want our children and their children to write?

I hope that we will understand that there is something really special in writing at length and exploring words and phrases for their own sake. That there is a joy in reading really good writing and that we are immeasurably poorer if we go down the lines of lists and numbering.

I will end with one, bold, bullet point, in Capitals, which maybe I should have begin with….. if you have shown the reading stamina and got down to here… may I just say a great big thank you for READING this post!

  • WE WANT READERS NOT SCANNERS
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4 Responses

  1. So timely! I was reading through my latest blog entry and wondering if anyone reads things that have a bit of detail and work TOWARDS a point rather than jumping right to it. You give me hope!

  2. Malcolm, a terrific blog post about a terrific blog post. People will skim across hundreds of articles and never fully appreciate any one of them, the way you did the magnificent post by Sarah. What a shame.

    • Hi Mark.

      Many thanks for taking the time and trouble to comment on my post. I am honoured that you said it was a terrific post… it says what I wanted to say about an important subject and I have been delighted with the response so far in just a day or so. It has obviously touched a nerve and hopefully opened a discussion.
      As for Sarah’s post..well it is great writing whatever way you define that as… it happened to be in a blog and it certainly deserved a very wide audience that would fully read and appreciate it.
      Thank you, by the way, for the really good posts in your “Finding Dulcinea” blog I try to keep up with them all and read them thoroughly as they deserve to be read.

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