Web Editors: Does the Rush for Quantity Risk Writing Quality?

Do you agree as a web editor – or as a reader – that “the blogosphere has killed good writing”? In a recent opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Kinsley (founding editor of Slate and now editor at Bloomberg View) reviews a blog article by Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon, who suggests that in a bid for quantity over quality, the Web is killing off good writing. Part of his evidence is some institutions letting go of their blog editors. Another is the sloppy prose and lax fact-checking evident in some blog articles.

How often do you find typos, misspellings, inflated wording, passive voice, poor logic, noun-verb disagreement, other grammatical errors, and even erroneous math evident in articles? What about word flow and writing that is pleasing or even fun to read rather than ragged and jagged and much like nail-scraping on a chalkboard?

Does this overflow from blogs to other Web writing?

What do errors on the page say about author and site credibility?

Web editing is about a lot of things, including taming technology to make content appear online. However, at the heart of good web editing is good writing – making the content readable, understandable, and factual. Is that at risk in the rush for quantity?

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5 thoughts on “Web Editors: Does the Rush for Quantity Risk Writing Quality?

  1. I think in some ways, yes, the blogosphere is killing good writing, but it’s not alone. Twitter and Facebook and the others are all contributing. With the sheer numer of words being churned out in blogs and status updates all over the world, it’s unsurprising that good grammar and pleasing prose are hard to find on the net.

    Having said that, I think few people truly entertain the idea that their blog will get them a book deal, so perhaps it’s okay for posts to be unpolished and imperfect. I know a lot of writers use blogs as a public form of journaling; a way to warm up for their ‘real’ work. If that’s the case then it’s obvious what they post online isn’t going to be their best writing, but if the act of posting it and interacting with othes who read it helps them polish what they eventually go on to publish, then perhaps the blogosphere is enabling good writing.

    What I find more worrying is the frequency with which you find mistakes in the web content of news organisations. Because we expect instant updates all day every day, it seems even reputable web journalists operate a “post now, edit later” policy.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful response. There probably needs to be a cleaner delineation between blogs and website content, and then between journaling and news content. I agree that we look to news organizations to be more accurate and to more closely “watch their p’s and q’s” so to speak, and there is a lot of gray area between what is a legitimate news function requiring factual accuracy and opinion requiring – what? At least a recitation of facts if we can’t all agree on opinion. What I worry about as an editor is that if a reader can’t count on me to get the spelling and grammar right, how can she count on me to get the facts and opinions right? That’s true whether it’s a news site or a blog.

    Your point about authors using blogs to loosely journal ideas for their projects is an interesting one. I wonder how prevalent that is. Thanks for sharing that.
    Alan

  3. Alan, I loved this post. It highlights one of the hazards of our profession – Since writing is our bread and butter, we have to constantly battle with ourselves to accept only a certain number of projects so that we don’t sacrifice quality over quantity.

    I’ve noticed this habit even with prominent writers who blog. Your post inspired me to come up with one of my own on essential tasks we need to perform before we publish. Thanks for the idea and your thoughts. It made me stop and reflect on my own writing habits!

  4. Pingback: Resources for Web Editors – What’s YOUR Favorite? | Web Editors

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