Kevin Kelleher over at GigaOm has an interesting look at how the Internet has changed the way we write.
With so much discussion about how the Internet is changing journalism and media, there’s surprisingly little said about how writing itself has transformed. But it has changed in a dramatic if subtle way.
Nine years ago, I remember being one of 100 or so journalists gathered to listen to a veteran writer speak. I don’t remember the topic, just that when he asked how many of us enjoy writing, I was surprised that only a few hands went up. Today, so much of the typical day is taken up with writing emails, tweets, updates, text messages, chat sessions, blog posts and the occasional longer form writing. And few complain how onerous it all is.
On balance, all of that practice is making online writing better. Which is not to say that all online writing is good. Much of it’s terrible — see the average YouTube comment for an example of how bad it can be. But it’s been said that excellent writing is a matter of good thinking — if you’ve got the thinking part down, that’s most of the battle. And many of the thoughtful people I know are producing some great stuff on the web.
The Internet isn’t just prompting us to write more, its open structure pressures us to write in a way that’s at once more concise and flexible. One problem newspapers and magazines never could fix is that articles are assigned arbitrary lengths. Pay writers per word and they’ll write as many as they can. Assign a 12,000-word story and you’ll get just that, even if 1,000 are all that’s necessary.
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