More thoughts on modern informal writing

Rosefolly

A friend recently sent me this link from the NY Times and I must admit it has me thinking. I'm one who is concerned that the current generation doesn't know how to express itself in formal business writing, or formal writing of any sort, or even know that it is needed.


I'm still convinced that this is a necessary skill. But perhaps there is justifiable room for other methods of expression in our lives.


https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgxwGCbCPbqnHBhHQFFJsDZLdmbbb?compose=new&projector=1&messagePartId=0.1

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colleenoz

Sorry, this appears to be a link to gmail.

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colleenoz

I have no issue with the less formal style in the correct context and think it's (as the author of the article posits) a good way of conveying deeper meaning in writing. But there will always be some situations where a formal tone is the better choice (job applications, for instance).

We once saw a film with subtitles where occasionally a word in the subtitles would better reflect its meaning- "blood" turned red, for instance, and other words detached themselves from the sentence and flew away or disappeared; and we thought that was pretty cool.

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friedag

Most interesting! Thank you, Rosefolly, for the link to Gretchen McCulloch's piece. Thought provoking, it is.

I agree that there are times and places where only formal writing is appropriate -- such as in legal documents, in academic dissertations, and in most business correspondence -- but there are also situations where informal writing is sometimes better. Informal internet forums are some of those places, as are creative ways of telling stories in novels and even in nonfiction genres of books where relating to the readers is probably more important than dry exposition. The trick is being able to discern which is appropriate. Like you, Rosefolly, I am not always sure if some writers know which to use.

From Ms McCulloch, I like this bit particularly:

Writing, by contrast [to conversing], is something we learn primarily from an educational authority, rather than a layered social context. This authority teaches us a single way of spelling and punctuating and choosing words, a formal style that aims to remove the author as much as possible from the text. Just as news anchors are trained to report the news, not be the news, young essay writers are told not to begin their book reports with “I really liked (or hated) this book.”

A formal, disembodied style does have a place in the pantheon of linguistic genres. But the problem with this tradition is that it’s a jealous god — rather than say, “Here is a style that’s useful sometimes,” it says, “Here is the only correct way to write, and any variation from it is Bad and Wrong.”

I have ordered Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language because I want to read more of McCulloch's ideas -- since she's said to be "the internet's favorite linguist."

I tend to think of internet language as a developing dialect. <smile>


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