Is It Dangerous to Relax Our Writing Standards When Blogging?

Discussion Post Stars

As bloggers we generally do not hold ourselves to the same writing standards we would if we were writing for school or work.  Blogging is a hobby, a way to relax, so doing rigorous research before posting, providing a Works Cited with at least ten sources all in meticulously correct MLA, and revising the post several times to ensure that the structure is the most effective one we can think of are not expected.  Likewise, we can usually scrape by with providing much less evidence for an argument than we would if we thought the stakes were higher.

However, when we adopt this approach we also lose sight of why we learn to do what we do in school or at work.  That is, we aren’t trained to conceive of an original argument, make sure our sources are credible and objective, and provide sufficient evidence just so we can get an “A” on the paper at the end of the term.  Rather, we are trained to do this because being able to evaluate an argument, to use rhetoric effectively, and to evaluate the arguments and rhetoric of others are important skills that affect our daily lives, even if that just means we can recognize a bad financial decision or a manipulative junk food ad when we see one.  And, of course, the American school system has always been conceived of a way to make individuals into informed and responsible citizens.  Learning to argue, learning how to assess the arguments of others is political.

To tell ourselves that we are able to, in a sense, switch off our brains we are done with the day, home from school or home from work, places us at the mercy of all the messages around us.  Advertisements, Facebook posts, memes, Twitter arguments, and the news media are consistently using rhetoric in service of an agenda.  If we aren’t savvy, we’re likely to buy into whatever we read because it seems, at face value, to be correct (especially if we already agree with the sentiment behind it).  However, not everyone writing on the Internet has researched the topics they are speaking about.  Sometimes people writing on the Internet do appear to have done research–but a closer look reveals the research is dated, from a biased or non-credible  source, or somehow skewed to give a false perception.  As we find ourselves launched into a world of “alternative facts,” it’s important to remember that we are responsible for becoming aware of the rhetoric being used to move us and of learning how to research the facts.  Consistently using the critical thinking skills we have been trained in is how we can effect real change in the world.

We should be bringing our critical thinking skills to blogging and encouraging others to engage with us in lively dialogues about the issues we discuss and the ways we discuss them.  We should be wary about reading posts that make claims that are not true or cannot be backed up by evidence.  We should be careful ourselves to do research so we can prevent ourselves from making false claims.  Likewise, we should be wary of individuals who encourage us to not read, to not assess things from ourselves, to just take the word of the semi-anonymous individual on Twitter.  Blindly accepting claims without asking for evidence, without doing the research ourselves, is dangerous.

We should also be encouraging each other to assess our arguments fairly and to interact with them in critical and productive ways.  We need to be careful about letting our emotions guide our reception of an argument.  It’s possible to support a position and still recognize that some arguments in favor of that position are weak or not based on credible evidence.  Pointing out a flawed argument does not make anyone a bad person or an opponent of the cause.  Rather, recognizing that an argument is flawed can only help strengthen your position.  You cannot convince others to accept your position if it seems to be built on outdated research or biased sources.  You can convince skeptics by piling the evidence on them.

Book bloggers don’t need to all turn into semi-professional researchers overnight. However, we should be encouraging a culture that seeks the truth and that is willing to question, to debate, and to learn–and, yes, to do our own research whenever we see a sketchy claim and before we write any claims ourselves.  We need to be practicing our ability to make an argument and to assess evidence every day.  The skills we need at school and at work are the skills that are going to allow us to make a difference in our communities and in our politics.

Krysta 64

Advertisements

34 thoughts on “Is It Dangerous to Relax Our Writing Standards When Blogging?

  1. Briana says:

    I’m not sure I’ve ever consciously thought of it this way, so I like your point that the purpose of learning skills in school is actually so that you can use them in other activities that matter more to you. Why not take what you’ve learned about good writing and convincing arguments in an academic setting and apply it to the things you really enjoy, your hobby blogging? These skills may have more meaning in blogging, in the arguments you present to the public, than in the 15th paper you’re submitting for a history class, that no one besides your instructor will ever read.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Right. We often don’t think of writing skills as transferrable and separate what we do in school from what we do out of school. But, of course, most instructors realize that most students will not need to write a literary analysis or a history paper down the road. Most probably don’t conceive of themselves as trying to make everyone into literary analysts or historians, but rather as trying to provide students with a set of skills they can adapt to the areas that they care about.

      Like

  2. Cara Sue Achterberg says:

    I absolutely agree that writers should be able to back up what they write with evidence and explanation, or in the case of opinion – logic, analogy, experience. That said, I do think that blogging allows us a more relaxed style. We can write more colloquially (sp?) and make our message more inviting. I tend to shy away from blog posts that are too textbookish because I read blogs for enjoyment, not work. Still, writing informally isn’t an excuse for bad writing or bad thinking. Thanks for the reminder!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I think style is a separate issue from fact checking. Blogging reaches a different audience than academic papers and it would arguably be inappropriate to write with a voice that appealed to experts in literary studies rather than to blogging audiences. Still, there’s nothing wrote with making sure we’re quoting credible sources, reading books ourselves before we make statements about them, rereading parts to make sure we didn’t misinterpret the book or remember it incorrectly, etc.

      Like

  3. xtine says:

    Wonderful discussion, as always. This is extremely important in our current political climate, especially as more and more people are getting their news online rather than from print sources. It’s too easy to take things at face value – especially from Twitter, where everything is condensed into bite-sized arguments. Too often I see people jumping onto an argument because they like the way it sounds without recognizing the lack of research or the flawed logic. It’s hard to resist the urge to react emotionally, but it’s necessary. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, Twitter can be conducive to a mob mentality, which is especially unfortunate since it can be difficult to explore a topic with nuance in 140 characters or fewer. But once someone sees a few people believing a Tweet, they often assume those people have vetted the Tweet–which is not always the case.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. ikramreads says:

    I’ve never really thought about it like this, but it is really important and a discussion people need to be having, especially with everything happening today!! 🙂

    Like

  5. jpschaper says:

    I agree. If you are going to state something as fact, then you need to back it up with data that supports it. Even if it’s just your opinion, you should state that and then explain why you feel that way. It’s especially important when discussing something controversial. For example, all the indie vs. traditional publishing debates… A lot of the claims I have seen are not grounded in anything that can be substantiated.
    I think your points also relate to why I dislike positive-only or vague book reviews. If a person just says, “This book sucks,” but doesn’t explain why, I doubt the validity of their claims. I need for people to support their arguments, even if it’s only with their own opinions and examples from the book. What’s worse to me, though, is when reviewers say books are great, then take off stars without explaining why. If a book is so great, why wouldn’t it get all five stars? Maybe I’m weird, but that really upsets me.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      You make a great point. Often we associate providing evidence with writing discussion posts or academic works, but evidence comes in all types of forms. For reviews, that evidence can be a quote or example from the text. If someone says a book is good or bad, I want to know WHY!

      The star ratings seem so arbitrary sometimes. I’ve read two-star reviews that had nothing bad to say about the text. So confusing!

      Like

  6. Ravenclaw Book Club says:

    Another amazing post! I seriously love your blog. 😃
    I think how much research you have to do depends a lot on what your post is about. If you’re doing a book review and just talking about what’s in the book and what your opinion on that content is, there might be research you should do, but it’s not a lot, and even if you get a character’s age wrong, I don’t think it’s tragic. If you have a politics or news blog, you have to be much more careful!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Aw, thank you! We like your blog, too!

      That’s true. Research varies by the project. Though I will say that I once saw a book that had the wrong date on the cover and I was suspicious of the entire content and of how much fact checking had gone on. Sometimes small inaccuracies can have larger, unintended repercussions. But, of course, we all are only human! Mistakes do happen! (Someone definitely just pointed out to me that I wrote an entire review and called the protagonist by the wrong name. Awkward!)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    You’re right that our current political environment makes this more critical. I think that we’re starting to learn that we can’t take information from the internet at face value, and we have to be more careful, both about what we believe and about what we write.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, what we write can have unintended consequences. It would be awkward to jump on a bandwagon condemning another person, for instance, only to realize that this person was innocent of the accusations leveled at them. I think we need to be savvy about checking what is true and what is false because we can end up hurting someone else.

      Like

  8. Kelly in Hali says:

    I think if there’s anything blogging has taught me, it’s to fact-check. I remember when the whole Kony 2012 movement happened – I jumped right on that train without looking back. It was only after it had blown up, and people started pointing out some of the holes in their pitch that I stopped and did my own research into their claims. I’ve never posted anything without doing my homework first, since.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Somehow I missed Kony 2012 and I had to look it up. However, I am not surprised that successful social media marketing led to such big results for them. I think we can see even now how when something becomes popular on social media, it’s easy for others to assume that the people talking about it must have done their research–so no one else has to. However, it’s quite possible that no one’s done the research at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. marymtf says:

    Hi Krista, I think that how you present yourself on your blog has to do with the audience you want to attract. Having said that, I’m all over the place these days. I began by aiming my pieces at other grannies, now (although I’ve slowed right down) I write what suits my fancy.

    Even if I was capable of academic speak I wouldn’t want to limit myself to one type of reader. Just because you are not handing in your pieces to be graded, I don’t think you should relax your personal standards. It’s taken me fifteen minutes to set this comment down. No doubt, once I’ve clicked the ‘post comment’ button I will want to recall my comment and revise.

    If you were paying big bucks for your blog would you still consider it a hobby? 🙂

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I see the tools of academia as teaching more than the stylistic features of certain genres. So I don’t think we need to write more formally or with bigger words when we blog. That would indeed be poor writing since effective writing takes audience into account and most audiences who read blogs aren’t intending to read an academic essay. I am arguing instead that schooling teaches us to research our claims, provide evidence for our claims, and assess the credibility of what we read on the Internet. I think these skills are important so we aren’t mistakenly propagating false or partial or skewed information.

      I think that paying to blog doesn’t preclude it from being a hobby. Many hobbies do necessitate some sort of financial investment on the part of the individual, whether it’s buying yarn for knitting, taking painting courses and buying paint and canvases to paint, or paying admission at the ice rink. Many bloggers do spend a lot of money on their work, which might include paying to self-host, paying for people to provide graphics or web design services, or paying for books so they can host giveaways. We might also include paying to buy books so book bloggers can review them. A hobby is, simply defined, an activity one does for pleasure and I think that blogging is a pleasurable activity for many!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Trelane says:

    Good read. I think there is no way to eradicate all of the false information on the internet. It would be an impossible task. That being said we can strive to proliferate factual information hopefully even the playing field.

    Like

  11. Miguel Table says:

    I’ve just started blogging, and honestly I can’t get over this mild guilt I feel for thinking that I could get away with sloppy or poor writing. It’s more than likely because of my old writing background in Journalism. So I totally agree with what you’re saying. There are tons of topics I want to talk about but I’m not going to state an opinion without some knowledge.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I don’t think you should feel guilty! I think just being aware of the need to do research when appropriate and to provide evidence where appropriate is a good place for bloggers to start. Perhaps we don’t need a Works Cited with 30 peer-reviewed sources, but just doing a Google search to check on a statistic or a fact can do wonders! Or reading the book before saying what it’s about! I have read analyses where the writer talks about literally the opposite of what happens in the book. I can only assume it has been some time since they read the book or they were relying on secondary sources to get the gist of the plot (and didn’t quite succeed). But these types of situations are easily fixed!

      Like

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s