“Peril”

I felt like I found “the One” moments ago.

Reading through a slew of blog posts I overwhelmed my browser with, I came upon a word that caused whiplash in my eye sockets. Well, almost that dramatic. Once I read the word “peril”, my mind’s eye created a quick crack of close thunder in a very dark, scary place. That place was probably my own head, but I digress.

goldfinch

Sometimes a tiny word in the right place can provide very enjoyable communication for the reader. I wish there was a database containing all of these words, but alas, these word preferences really vary from person to person.

Asking one of my sisters what word gave her the “chills”, she told me, “clock”, an everyday noun.

“Clock” is indeed a satisfying word. It really perfectly captures the staccato of the ticking hand. It doesn’t do me any favors when I’m reading, but that’s the ol’ variation from person to person at play.

Dear “peril”…where will you be next? Part of the excitement for me is not seeing you too often. While I hope to be at peace tonight, maybe you will pop up in a future blog post and perfectly convey the dangers of abusing SEO tactics once more.

 

Do you Want Your Work Skipped Over or Read?

Would you rather eat dirt or a sandwich?

This post concerns the marketing world, the field I spend the most time in. If you’re looking for a path or are just curious, then come on with me and learn about “readability”, something useful for mostly web material. Novelists, poets and academic writers might scoff at it.

What is Readability?

It is how easily the message of your text is understood. Things like long words and long sentences can deter the average Internet user. This is not because the average user is incapable of understanding your brilliance. It just jogs their brains a bit. Anything that slows down reading also tests patience.

If someone is snuggled up with a cup of tea ready to delve into a story, they want to savor the artistry of writing. If someone is navigating web pages, they want a quick dump of information. And that’s just the way we are.

seedy_bird

How Simple?

If your article/blog post can be easily read by a 7th or 8th grader, you have good readability. The Flesch Reading Ease Test measures several factors to determine this. Generally the more you can chop up a sentence, a paragraph or phrase, the better your score.

The Price of Ignoring It

Does Google look for readability when selecting search results? How big a factor is it? We just don’t know. Google likes to be mysterious. It is unrivaled, though many hardcore technology geeks use other search engines along with their Linux setup. And their Tor browsers. (We love you).

What to Choose

I am not a stickler on readability for this blog. For one, it’s actually about writing, and most people reading it are at least college-aged. This post in particular measures on an 8th grade level. My main concern is paragraphs. No one likes a text block.

Writing for other websites is a different story. Web writers need to dice up their material before submitting. Add subheadings. Throw out the passive voice. Stir in a few connector words. Make sure you don’t sprinkle in too much of the keyword. Viola, an omelette. Um, article.

Test your readability: 1

If you want to learn more: 2

The BuzzFeed Writing Evolution

Depending on how old you are, the website “Buzzfeed” may bring a different collection of thoughts and feelings  to mind. There is sort of a trichotomy among millennials. Different people of slightly different age groups remember this website in different ways.

Stage One

BuzzFeed.com first emerged in 2006. The site was a different animal back in the day. It has remained basically the same idea, but, um…Check the archives if you would like a better idea. There’s even a disclaimer in these baby articles: “This is class post from BuzzFeed’s earlier days and may not represent BuzzFeed’s current editorial standards.” I’ll say!

A basic frame of there “articles” was a linked a list of articles from various sources related to a certain viral topic with a couple of introductory sentences. Humble beginnings.

Stage Two

By 2010, Buzzfeed had grown in popularity and was known as junk “journalism”. It had earned a reputation for plagiarizing, though at the time, no lawsuits were made. The difference in this stage was that there was more content, and articles, even though they were based on other content, were a little more substantial. It was, however, still a mishmash of photos and quotes and explanations, with a very similar creativity level of gluing a precut wooden bird to a premade wooden birdhouse.

glue

Stage Three

Someone was finally sued for plagiarism. BuzzFeed exploded into more diverse content. Not only were original articles written, but original videos were made as well. The site still caters to a younger crowd and “clickbait” titles are reigning freely.

So do you want to write for BuzzFeed? Is it “real” journalism? In stage three, why not? In several years, maybe everyone will have forgotten its early Internet days anyway. And maybe the Reddit/BuzzFeed conflict will be resolved. (I will save the details for another day). There are still many websites that operate at stage one or two, and I have written for one. Just make sure that if you do write for a viral website, you can cite sources.

How do you define “real” journalism, and do you think the distinction is necessary?