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Confession: Maybe there's no such thing as a blog style


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April 26, 2005

Confession: Maybe there's no such thing as a blog style

Stephen Baker

Ok, Ok, we took a new tack and tried to write our story in the style of a blog. Not everyone is thrilled. Nicholas Carr writes, "Is that really the style of a blog? I'm so ashamed."

His point, while snide, raises an question we wrestled with throughout the whole process. What is the style of a blog? My belief is that there is no such thing--or at least there shouldn't be. After all, styles are constraints. That's something we know all about in the weekly magazine biz. Blog writing, by contrast, should be unfettered.

Of course, it's widely believed that blogs have a style: relaxed, edgy, irreverent. You know the drill.

So while we were writing the story, we kept getting feedback from editors: This paragraph is too BusinessWeeky!

We adjusted. Why? We were writing a magazine piece, albeit one dressed loosely as a blog. We were still operating in a world of magazine constraints, including the new one: that it had to be bloggy. (By the way, I'm not blaming anyone for this. Writing it in this style was my idea...)

But I predict that as blogs grow and diversify, people will realize that a blog style is simply anyone writing (or speaking) freely.

The paradox: Heather and I, now that we've finished writing the magazine piece in a "bloggy style," may have the freedom as bloggers to write in a style that comes more naturally to us. We may end up sounding like BusinessWeek.

One more document: Just got this e-mail from Peter Galuszka, a former BW bureau chief who clearly had some issues with the 'bloggy' style:

3:47 A.M. Dammit, it's my fifth cup of coffee tonight and I still can't get through this piece. It keeps on saying " Continued tomorrow" How can that be if it's a printed weekly magazine? When is tomorrow?

5:55 A.M. A wasted night.A wasted morning. I'm getting little nibs and nabs about blog stats. WHERE IS THE BLEEPING NUT GRAPH?!!!!

7:33 A.M. Time to get started on my real job. But my nerves are shot. My hands are shaking from a tough night trying to get through the BW cover.

9:11 A.M. ARRRGGGH! Baker, don't ever do this again!

09:19 AM

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Tracked on April 27, 2005 03:22 AM

Ah, welcome to the beauty of blogging -- As in any medium, it's absolutely impossible to please everyone. But with blogging, you'll hear about it from everyone! (or so it seems). Dontcha just love interactivity?

- Chin up,

Amy Gahran

Editor, CONTENTIOUS

Posted by: Amy Gahran at April 26, 2005 09:45 AM

Carr's *point* is "snide"?

And the initial article, not to mention the sentence *about* his point, were not?

I haven't seen a clearer case of the pot calling the kettle beige all year.

Posted by: Joe Clark at April 26, 2005 02:17 PM

I think a kind of "blog style" exists, but I think it's a reflection of the copycat nature of the Internet (if not business itself). Someone sees something successful, and starts to emulate it -- often unintentionally, but still noticeably enough that suddenly have a clearly deliniated "style." The same is true visually -- there's a kind of "blog design style."

That having been said, there are always people pushing boundaries. A writer's personal style will always shine through even an emulated work, and visual designers are always looking for new and effective ways to display information. There are a large mass of works that could be lumped into "blog style" -- but at the same time, there are individuals creating great work that might end up being emulated as the blog style of tomorrow.

Andrew

Posted by: Andrew Kaufmann at April 26, 2005 04:07 PM

I don't believe there is a blog "style." Good blogs are well written and to-the-point. They have individual styles just as authors have individual styles. Hemingway had a different style than Faulkner, and they contributed to 20th Century American literature.

No offense, but I found your article hard to follow at least partially because you ignored the value of subject lines in your "entries" or "posts." One of the signatures, and really most useful tools, of a good blogger is meaningful titles reflecting a focus or theme. In that regard blogging is like writing almost anything else.

I have no doubt that you will adjust to this new medium and contribute your professional -- and individual -- journalistic and writing talents, developing your own style along the way. Welcome to the blogosphere.

Posted by: Linda Abraham at April 26, 2005 08:24 PM

The blog-like article in BusinessWeek was more interesting than the other articles this week, at least the ones I read. I like the style. This is only the second blog I have read in my life.

I'm thinking that blogs are a lot of people talking, few people listening. I'd say that Stephen Baker and Heather Green did a great job. I'd like to see more articles on blogs, because I really don't understand quite yet exactly what they are or where they are.

Posted by: stephen clifford at April 27, 2005 01:53 AM

With 10 million blogs in existence, how can you even argue that there is one "style" to fit them all? Some are legitimate news sites written by professional journalists; some are written by suburban housewives keeping track of their diets; some are barely more than stream-of-consciousness rants from alienated high-schoolers quietly collecting guns. Are you really going to argue that there's one writing style that covers all of them? A blog is a piece of technology, not a literary genre; it'd be like purchasing a new typewriter and then saying, "Okay, now how do I write in the style of other people who own typewriters?" Both this entry and the paper-based article you recently published show how little most formally-trained journalists understand even this basic fact, much less the nuances of why certain blogs have become so popular.

Posted by: Jason Pettus at April 27, 2005 09:14 AM

What I've found so interesting about reading blogs as well as writing them, is that you get to read thousands of different writing styles! Even more so when it is used in education where students of a foreign language could get a public voice, proud enough to be willing to show their work online, and bold enough not to care too much about correctness!

Posted by: Susanne Nyrop at April 28, 2005 05:31 AM

yes, there is a blog style. and it's born out of the core feature of blogishing; ease of publishing. when something is easy to do, a casual style emerges for it to be done. the blog style is this style; as opposed to a media website style. a more complex operation will have a less formal style. a blog has a stylee and it's called 'newstyle casual'.

Posted by: avi at April 30, 2005 12:23 AM


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