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Blog corrections: A new literary style?


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August 08, 2005

Blog corrections: A new literary style?

Stephen Baker

I found something on one of the new Microsoft blogs that raised a question. This what I read: Pitchfork is looking for some new lackeys interns. Was that a real correction? Or was the blogger sharing a little joke, telling us that he considers interns to be lackeys, even though it's not right to call them that? It's like the teenager who says: "Hi loser, um, I mean, Dad."

If strike-throughs aren't already being used for these attitude injections, I'm guessing that it's just a matter of time before they are. They're a handy literary device for people who want to share a conspiratorial wink with their readers.

This should be resisted. The strike-throughs are one area where blogs are earnest. We live in a society that tells us in so many ways that to be earnest is not cool. But in this case, I think, it is.

10:24 AM

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yes, strike throughs are used quite often in blogs to indicate attitude or sarcastic comments. it has been prevalent for as long as i have read blogs - since 2004. resisting is futile - the blorg will assimilate you.=]

Posted by: jbr at August 8, 2005 11:47 AM

I've noticed that strike-throughs are used a lot in personal blogs for the very reason your example displayed: sarcasm.

I haven't seen this in any of the "corporate blogs" that I generally read, but I wouldn't be surprised if this started happening more.

Posted by: Liz Erk at August 8, 2005 12:00 PM

this is nothing new, you'll often find between unix people they'll write something like this:

"some new lackeys^H^H^H^H^H^H^H interns"

Here the ^H's would be as if the person has a miss-configured backspace key - which would do ^H instead of a backspace.

It is very popular on some mailing lists and IRC groups, I think using the strikethrough is just an evolution of the same to the web.

Posted by: R.I.Pienaar at August 8, 2005 12:19 PM

I plead guilty. I've been using strike-throughs for years to "wink." I guess I should put a little parenthetical note at the end of such posts with the message (note: that was just a sarcastic, ironic, snarkish, moronic attempt at humor on my part.) Please, let's resist from making blogging rules. We live in a society that tells us what we should and should not do. Let's adhere to common sense and (for actual "journalist" bloggers) the rules and standards that already govern our profession.

Posted by: Rex Hammock at August 8, 2005 12:25 PM

I think this blog is interesting but it often reads as very blogstruck to me and comments like "This should be resisted" make me feel like you're picking up on the blog thing but just not quite getting it yet. Kudos for making the effort though. Please keep at it. But roll with it ;-)

Posted by: craig at August 8, 2005 12:29 PM

Stephen, the flagrant correction as comment has been around since well before personal computers. It was a staple (pun not intended) in mimeographed fanzines and APAs in the '50s and '60s, and seemed to migrate first to the BBS's and then to newsgroups and finally the web.

After 50 years of a convention, it's probably a little late to resist it....

G

Posted by: Greg Burton at August 8, 2005 01:08 PM

It would be nice if you used the correct element, del.

I suppose it could be worse: You could be using strike or strikethrough as claimed HTML. Cf. http://blog.fawny.org/2005/05/19/strike/

Posted by: Joe Clark at August 8, 2005 01:34 PM

I've seen and used strikethroughs and their equivalents (including the previously mentioned ^H and ^W marks) as sarcasm on BBS forums and Usenet since for at least twenty years now. It's carried over into my blogs. Some blogs are earnest, but there are plenty that are tongue-in-cheek.

Posted by: Fritz at August 8, 2005 01:54 PM

OK, I'm taking some hits on this one. Let's leave it at this: When you see me strike through something, it's because I'm correcting it. And if I read a strike-through on someone else's blog and can't figure out whether it's a joke or a correction, I don't know whether to laugh or grumble.

Posted by: steve baker at August 8, 2005 02:06 PM

Out of curiosity, does BW in fact have a style guide convention for true corrections for blog posts, as well as a convention for the use of literary devices?

Is it necesary to issue a formal correction post for spelling and simple grammatical errors, or only when there is an issue of fact or content? Of course, even an ommitted or extra "no" or "not" or comma can dramatically change the meaning of a post.

As far as strikeouts, aren't they more of a pre-production editorial device, so using them in a post-editorial sense is beyond the realm of their original intent, and hence beyond the reach of the traditional rules?

Maybe the blogosphere has two distinct sides: the silly side and the serious side. So-called literary devices are quite welcome and encouraged on the silly side, but distinctly discouraged on the serious side. I would suggest that your blog is on the serious side (and that's a *good* thing, and that you should eschew literary devices.

-- Jack Krupansky

Posted by: Jack Krupansky at August 8, 2005 02:08 PM

As said author/editor for the Music Filter page, I am appreciative of Stephen's post and the issues he raises though I have to join the chorus within the comments section to say that the explanation here is far more simple.

I was poking fun. Not at Pitchfork in a malicious sort of way but anyone who's ever worked as an intern in practically any setting knows that the work you're often tasked with can be grudge-esque.

The use of the strikethrough is a convention I've seen used throughout the blogosphere and elsewhere - it's not just a correction (though it certainly can be used for that function) but it also functions as a paranthetical, a way of inserting a brief aside. It's not a way of avoiding earnestness - if anything, I was being earnestly playful (if that's not a contradiction in terms).

Posted by: Oliver Wang at August 8, 2005 04:56 PM

Most blogging publishing platforms have this feature right along side of the other features such as italics, bold, etc. If I make a mistake, I usually just use my delete button.

Posted by: Jim Turner at August 8, 2005 05:02 PM

Oliver, thanks very much for your comment.

Jack, generally speaking we correct facts, not grammar. But I'd say that if we put in an extra "no" that changes the meaning of the sentence, we should correct it.

Speaking of grammar, here's one thing that I'm seeing more and more in the press, and it bugs me every time. Instead of writing, "He said he would," many now write, "He said he will." And instead of "He said he was committed to etc. etc.," we read, "He said he is committed..."

Posted by: steve baker at August 8, 2005 05:55 PM

my pet peeve among common errors:

Using "Myself" when it should be "me"; "yourself" when it should be "you."

ie, "Yes, it's myself." instead of "yes, it's me."

And don't get me started about dangling participles...

Posted by: B.L. Ochman at August 8, 2005 11:42 PM

I adore strikeouts. It really allows people to have an inside laugh, to follow along with your thought process. I use it on my blogs (My Urban Kvetch and JDatersAnonymous) as well as on another blog I write for, Jewlicious.com. It's an easy way to bring in the snark...

Posted by: Esther Kustanowitz at August 9, 2005 01:46 PM


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