These past six weeks have been nothing short of a learning experience. I began ICM 506 expecting to strengthen my skills and attract audiences to my work, via the web. So far, I successfully achieved the two – and perceived web writing in a new light. I believe that every writer continuously develops his/her work, whether it is Hunter Thompson or a college graduate. The learning process never ceases, but every writer needs a starting point. I needed to find mine.
I began writing at a very young age and have desired to become a journalist ever since. Still on this journey, I have practiced writing both creatively and academically. Prior to this class, however, I was unaware of one area in need of improvement: editing. I have a keen eye for grammar and AP style and I cannot help but pick apart written work, looking for mishaps. But I was unaware that editing often requires reconstructing and even rewriting entire passages, something that is meticulous but much-needed.
I suffered from what Zinsser would refer to as “pleasing-the-professor” syndrome. When writing a research paper – or any work in general – rarely did I consider my voice, instead focusing on whether the vocabulary signified intelligence. And, it worked. The essays stuffed with useless nouns, verbs and adjectives were highly scored. Why would I change my style if it proved successful? Even in a creative writing class, not one criticism about wordiness was mentioned. This class, ICM 506, was my first encounter with eliminating superfluous words.
I always felt my writing was wordy, but overlooked this hunch. One of my first lessons learned in this class, however, was to condense sentences from lengthy to short. The first blog post asked students to upload an excerpt of something they were proud of: an essay from a prior class, creative writing, etc. I posted an excerpt from my ICM 501 final paper concerning texting and relationships. Having won first place for a Quinnipiac writing contest, I was confident in the paper’s structure. However, after Professor Kalm’s criticism about eliminating words and phrases, along with critique from students, I was confused. Was I writing too much? I discovered that I was.
An excerpt from the original copy reads:
“Mobile technologies have begun to dominate the American youth culture, particularly in the area of social interaction. Rather than resort to old-fashioned outreach methods, such as using a land-line phone or sending a handwritten letter, Americans are able to communicate with one another through the convenience of a mobile device, no bigger than the average hand.”
An excerpt from the rewritten version reads:
“Mobile technologies have begun governing how Americans interact. Rather than simply use a land-line phone or send handwritten letters, we communicate using devices no bigger than our hands.”
There is still more work to be done, but the improvement is noteworthy.
As is apparent with the original, I also struggled with my voice. When writing essays, my tone was naturally robotic. In my perspective, sounding robotic meant using a wide vocabulary, citing research and offering explanation. But, writing for the web is different. People busy at work or stressed moms watching children don’t want to read scientific annotations on their lunch breaks. This is the reason why the Huffington Post is successful. Their articles are short, easy-to-read, but informative. This is the sort of writing style I aim to accomplish.
I first learned it was acceptable to sound non-robotic in this class, but that’s the fault of undergraduate writing. As Zinsser so wonderfully explains, students strive to impress their professors and other students, never considering that a personal voice is possible. This class changed my perspective entirely.
A blog post written a week after the rewrite above is titled, “When to Use an Emoticon in Text Messages.” Striving toward developing a light, amusing read, I needed to avoid “the robot.” The first paragraph reads;
“At some point, we’ve all sent or received an awkward with text, which is usually due to miscommunication. A sarcastic joke can easily appear harsh, especially when body language and tone of voice are absent. I can’t even begin to list the number of time I argued via text due to confusion over a text’s meaning.”
I’m not suggesting this post was perfect, but I’m proud of the way it was structured. I sound conversational, I’m addressing a topic and I’m relating to the reader – which is another important lesson learned. When writing, I always tried to avoid attracting attention to myself and my experiences, as I felt readers were uninterested. But now I feel this conversational vibe is what interests the reader in one’s work. I enjoy including tidbits from personal experiences because I’m writing about what I know, rather than something I think I know.
My entire ICM 506 blog experience began with the pseudonym “Escapist Theory,” which will lead my journey through this class. I chose this pseudonym because of my personality, which is constantly philosophizing, daydreaming and envisioning the world as an unraveling story rather than monotonous reality. I’m a dreamer and always have been. Although “Escapist Theory” doesn’t relate directly to my topic, which is the connection between technology and relationships, I don’t wish to change it. I could select something such as “__textingfrenzy” or “textingmakestheworldgoround” but I feel this is too constricting. I also enjoy that my personality is conveyed subtly through the pseudonym. It is not advertising my written work, but it is communicating my persona, which is sufficient for me. My byline, “__Exploring the impact of technology & social media on close relationships” conveys my blog’s focus directly, despite the unfocused pseudonym.
While writing under “Escapist Theory,” I will use the rest of this course to strengthen my work in new ways. Improving my editing skills is a change that will take time and close consideration, but I’m looking forward to it. I also hope to strengthen my voice as a writer. My goal is to communicate as I do in person: knowledgeable but slightly humorous and sarcastic. I also enjoy writing in a non-academic way, relating to the reader conversationally and through “understandable” language. I want to build my online persona as an individual who is well-informed in their area of study, but open to new interpretations from readers. This open-minded perspective is imperative to me as a writer, as I believe we learn most from those surrounding us, rather than ourselves.