One handed writing – the blog

Recently @mishdalton pointed me at an article about writing op-eds for the New York Times. I was immediately struck by how applicable much of what was said was to blog writing.

The advice is pragmatic and not surprising: get to the point quickly, have an opinion, be direct and avoid padding, anticipate and counter potential objections to your argument, avoid clichés, and so on.

Older readers may remember when I blogged more frequently. Heck, there is even a book [ALA][free PDF].

Clearly, times have changed since the peak of personal blogging. This is certainly the case in the library community. Personal blogging now sits in a diverse ecosystem of commentary, news and opinion.

I liked this paragraph in the NYT piece:

The purpose of an op-ed is to offer an opinion. It is not a news analysis or a weighing up of alternative views. It requires a clear thesis, backed by rigorously marshaled evidence, in the service of a persuasive argument. Harry Truman once quipped that he wished he could hire only one-handed economists — just to get away from their “on the one hand, on the other” advice. Op-ed pages are for one-handed writers.

I think this is often true of good blog entries also.

Because I don’t blog all that often any more, I find that when I sit down to do an entry I have too much stuff to say. I end up writing a short article rather than a blog entry. Indeed, I have a couple of pieces that are lying around and have grown to several thousand words. One is on the evolving research support environment, and how the larger publishers are developing workflow services (“workflow is the new content”). One is on how scaling learning and innovation is an important part of the “soft power” of consortial activity.

Now these longer pieces may have an argument. For example, I think that library focus on the institutional repository may have delayed recognition of the broader changes in workflow support and publisher direction. However, the argument may be submerged in the two-handed comprehensiveness of the longer piece. Rather than being underlined in the one-handed directness of a blog entry on a single topic.

Anyway, this is all by way of saying that I plan to blog a little more frequently. I miss the direct connection it gives you with people. I liked it when people I had not met before would engage me at events about something I had recently written. Now I just have to make some time …

p.s. Incidentally, I liked how the piece called out cliches. People who say that they want to think outside the box, don’t.