Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh, the Humanity

Good. I did get the pop culture reference in, though I’m not sure it really counts, as it’s nearly 100-year-old pop culture. Did they even have pop culture back then?

Still, The Onion’s article on “panicked Americans” freaking out over having to read 500 words of English uninterrupted by a YouTube video, bulleted list, hyperlink or any other interruption is pretty funny, right down to the quotes from people who can’t figure out that it used to be words that conveyed ideas, rather than symbols and catchphrases and such:
“It demands so much of my time and concentration," said Chicago resident Dale Huza, who was confronted by the confusing mound of words early Monday afternoon. "This large block of text, it expects me to figure everything out on my own, and I hate it."
And one more:
“I'm sure if it's important enough, they'll let us know some other way," Detroit local Janet Landsman said. "After all, it can't be that serious. If there were anything worthwhile buried deep in that block of impenetrable English, it would at least have an accompanying photo of a celebrity or a large humorous title containing a pop culture reference."

Added Landsman, "Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure it doesn't even have a point."
I know I find myself falling into these kinds of traps on this blog, although I hope that most of the folderol that accompanies the blocks of text I produce add to the comprehension and understanding, rather than act as placeholders or shorthand cribbing for those who can’t gain comprehension unless the text is accompanied by a SpongeBob Square Pants video.

There are some foolish notions out there about reading, especially on the Internet. I’ve never bought into the fad that Internet texts should be short and peppy simply because long blocks of text don’t hold peoples’ attention. If that’s true on the Web, why not true in books? I think there’s a lot more to do with subject matter, style and quality of writing, the need/necessity for the reader to read and many other factors that play into text getting read, aside from length. Yes, there should be minimal formatting; margins, et cetera, to make the text legible and orderly (this includes commas, other punctuation and proper capitalization, folks, it’s not just for English majors or Grammar Nazis).

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