The world is flooded with cheap writing by cheap writers. Is that bad?

Bruce WilsonGreg Sterling over at his Screenwerk blog recently posted an entry entitled “Is Crap the Future of Online Content?

I’m not a big fan of sloppy grammar and punctuation, bloated writing, or “junk” blog content targeting search engines.

But now that publishing is inexpensive, it isn’t controlled by a limited number of publishers (newspapers, magazines, broadcasters). Barriers to entry are lower and competition higher. We are closer than ever to experiencing a free and competitive market for writing, including both “reporting” and “editorial” content.

And while professional journalists may have been better writers on the whole, besides being relatively few in number they were largely bound by their publishers’ economic and political agendas, and their biases and lapses (as occasionally must arise) were largely hidden from our view under a veneer of ‘neutrality’ or authority.

If it’s true that an open market for writing now exists, then we might conclude that grammar and style aren’t as important to us readers as search engine optimization, “viral” taglines/ graphics, and distinct topical niches curated by energetic subject matter experts, a.k.a. bloggers — at least for now.

2 Replies to “The world is flooded with cheap writing by cheap writers. Is that bad?”

  1. The days of the copy editor are more than likely gone. At one time there was one person or several at a publication whose job it was to proofread everything for grammar and style. Publications developed their own style books that were unique to their sensibilities. This has all disappeared to some degree. What happens in the future with regard to content creation remains to be seen. But language is malleable it bends with the times and the culture. Perhaps we are seeing a new “fold” develop whereby the influences are dictated by technology–that has always been the case to some degree and the stressors technology place on the human being–such as not having time to go back and edit content. The big influence at schools across the country has been to teach multimedia skills to budding journalists and writers or content producers blending audio, visual and writing. While the focus is on these new skills there are still requirements for grammar and style. Perhaps we will see a rise in these academies and better content in the free market?

  2. Paul: thanks for your insights about this. If I understand you correctly, the “overhead” of traditional journalism — not just good writers, but editorial work — is a key component of that level of writing quality. It makes sense, as you say, that there may be increased demand for people trained to write well without editorial support.

    By extension I can see how writing skills might become more valuable in all job categories as organizations that embrace social media reassign traditional writing / marketing responsibilities to operations people. Tomorrow’s corporate marketing department may wind up standing in the bullseye that today’s newspaper editorial staff now stands in.

    The move towards completely unedited messaging is a little mind boggling. Increasingly, our personal lives are opened to our business colleagues via Facebook; our Twitter streams publicly publish our personal and professional conversations as transmitted during impromptu moments with tiny keyboards; and the latest and greatest innovation, Google Wave, allows everyone to see the characters we type — and any edits we make for content or grammar — letter by letter as we type. Can we also connect this cultural trend to the reality TV craze, where everyone is an actor and scripts take a backseat to scenarios?

    In any event I predict we will see more and more meta-conversations about how well people communicate, both in writing and in person — not just conversations about the facts and opinions ostensibly being conveyed — as people struggle to clean up the noise in their information streams.

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